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December 19, 2014

Is 'HIMYM' In a Creative Slump? Yes and No

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 15th 2010 5:01PM
'HIMYM' - 'Girls Vs. Suits'For a show that's been on the air for a number of years and has received a modest amount of attention from those who are obsessed with the minutiae of pop culture, 'How I Met Your Mother' hasn't suffered from a lot of backlash.

But budding signs of one are starting to appear. All season, John Swansburg of Slate has been recapping the show under a column called "The 'How I Met Your Mother' Shame Index," chronicling what was good about an episode and what has made him ashamed to admit he was a fan. Lately, he's been giving more examples under the heading of "Shameful" than "Awesome."

And now there's an article by Tom Jicha, critic from the South Florida Sun Senitnel, bemoaning how the episodes this season have been moving away from Ted's search for the Mother and focusing more and more on Barney's tomcatting antics.

But are they right? Is the show sliding towards a creative abyss? In some respects, yes. But there seems to be a method behind this shift.

Between the interviews with Carter Bays and Craig Thomas that I've read, and the talks I've had with them myself, I could sense a weariness with how silly the "mythology" of the Mother had become. Even at the beginning of season four, when the episodes started getting less serialistic and more stand-alone, Bays was providing reasons why they didn't want every episode to be serial-heavy.

"We've been looking forward to having a little brief period on the show where we can take a breather and actually do the fun little stand alone episodes that we've been wanting to do for a while," he told me in 2008. He went on to assure me that the serialized stories were still going to be told. "I certainly don't want people to think this is like a weather change of the show and that we're going a totally new direction with it. It's just kind of where our heads are at but we still love all that (serialized) stuff."

But at that time, the series was going into its fourth season, and was close to getting its cable syndication rights sold to Lifetime. Because of the show's rising ratings at the time, a fifth season -- and the bonanza of broadcast syndication -- was not out of the realm of possibility.

While Bays and Thomas never said the desire to do standalone stories came from any network pressure, perhaps they applied internal pressure, figuring the standalones will play better in syndication. One of the bigger reasons they decided to start doing standalones, according to Bays, was how he noticed people experiencing the show on airplanes, where he realized "that some of our best shows have been the ones where you can come into it not knowing anything about the characters and enjoy them," he said.

Since that interview, the show has gone even further away from the search for the Mother, veering more towards silly plots like the "monkey mugging" plot of last week's show, or Barney-centric episodes like 'The Perfect Week.' And there's likely another internal reason for that: the writing staff is sick of being hemmed in by the show's title and initial conceit. It was cute in 2005, but with a sixth and maybe seventh season ahead of it, that constraint was bound to make the writers chafe.

But even though this season has been silly, there have been more funny, strong episodes this season than there were last year, with 'Hooked,' 'Girls Vs. Suits,' 'The Sexless Innkeeper' and 'Robin 101' being especially good. It just hasn't been as consistent as it was in its first three seasons. But there aren't many shows that are as good in season five as they are in season two ('The Office,' anyone?). I'm just happy that things haven't slipped to the point that I'm just watching the show out of habit.

In his piece, Jicha speculates that CBS might move the show to Wednesdays because its ratings have taken a hit. Maybe, but, even with its ratings off, 'HIMYM' still makes a good anchor for Monday nights. After all, the network is going to have its hands full if Charlie Sheen really decides that he's not coming back to 'Two and a Half Men.'

So, folks... is this the start of 'HIMYM's' slide to mediocrity? Or does it have a lot of life left?

[via Pop Candy]

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JimmyJ

Hey, Joel Keller and AOL:

Way to correct your spelling errors when people comment on them, and then remove said comments.

April 27 2010 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LDG

Sorry to say but the sillyness drove me away I haven't watched for several weeks. I don't know if I will return to watching or not.

April 18 2010 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cynthia421

I have found this past season they are always going over the deep end and it's past silly. I refuse to watch it and watch satellite instead then flip it back for Big Bang. There is only so many conquests Barney can have without it being just plain overdone. It's like they can't decide on a storyline and just going all over the place with each character. Maybe it's time to find the Mother and end it.

April 18 2010 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Turner

I have never found this show relevant, or any thing but a mundane attempt at adolescent humor with the use of innuendo and foul language.

Go back and watch "Friends" to see how its done. Also , isnt' the guy who plays the obsessed sexophile actually gay in real life. Whatever--never liked him , even as Doogie Howser (sp?)

April 18 2010 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
grembros

POS show.

April 18 2010 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Red

I quit watching the show because it has gotten boring and stupid and the characters are getting weaker and more like each other.

April 18 2010 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin

HIMYM = JTS

April 18 2010 at 11:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lynne Lupton

I stopped taping and watching it several years ago because it got embarrassingly silly, and the Barney jokes are so NOT funny. It's just become a stupid parody of itself.

April 18 2010 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeannie Walter

I personally gave up on the show because there was too much Ted, and not enough Barney. No offense to the other actors, but they simply don't inspire me to want to watch. My daughter still watches, but she admits that she's watching for Barney, not the others. It's not the first time a show starts out with a star, and that star's character's plot, as the basis for the show only to have us love a supporting character(s) and their plot lines more than the supposed star of the show. But what can I say...Barney is just (wait for it) AWEsome! :)

April 18 2010 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teltech54

At the rate they were going to see the mother, the kids would be married. I stopped watching because it was just getting boring.

April 18 2010 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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