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How I Met Your Mother SEASON WRAP-UP (6.20-6.24)

For most of the season, I wrote up reviews of each episode of How I Met Your Mother as they aired. That stopped with 6.19. In the past few days, I blitzed through the remaining episodes, and here are my thoughts…

How this show has fallen.

Reaching the finale of this season is actually more disheartening than last year, even with the uptick in quality. Last year, the edict to make every episode a standalone was a happy scapegoat for the downturn in quality. Without their ability to play with long-term arcs or be serialised, I decided, they ‘d lost the creative control that would make the show great. I reasoned that the restrictions, which I’d bet were network-originated, had pulled down a great show.

Now, though, I have to consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, the show is just not that great any more.

As a test, I decided to look over previous seasons and see how many elicited a smile when I read the episode name. Essentially, if I were having a bad day, how many from that season would I pop on and watch to feel better.

The first season contained eighteen such episodes.

The second season contained sixteen such episodes.

The third season contained ten such episodes.

The fourth season contained ten such episodes.

The fifth season contained zero such episodes.

And the sixth season contained one: “Natural History” (6.08). That is an increase of one from last year, but a fall of seventeen from the show’s first season. That is… that’s telling. That’s one episode, over the course of the forty-eight of the previous two seasons, that I would smile, sit down and re-watch. That’s abysmal.

How I Met Your Mother still performs its function: while the show has decreased significantly in quality, I enjoy it to different degrees watching it fresh. Every episode from this season elicited at least one laugh or smile, because I enjoy spending time with these characters. That’s why, in this overview that seems to be trashing the show, isn’t necessarily contradicting the positive reviews I gave, say, “Baby Talk” (6.06) earlier this season. In the moment, I enjoyed the episode, as I have most episodes from the past two seasons.

But look closely at my praise:

And, out of nowhere, “Baby Talk” was the first episode in two years to feel like vintage How I Met Your Mother.

At no point do I talk about how great the episode was, or how much I enjoyed it; the joy wasn’t from the episode itself, though it easily outranked anything from season five. It was that it resembled the show I fell in love with. But even though it felt like season two, it was like one of the six episodes that season that didn’t make my list. Good, but not good enough. It reached baseline. That’s all.

And it’s overwhelmingly sad to look at this show and think that I’m lowering my standards, as I almost did when making the above list to boost the numbers for seasons five and six, for this show. In contrast to the above, I’d like to reference my closing line from my last review of the season, “Legendaddy” (6.19):

I don’t know whether I can sit through another bland, unmemorable and laughless B plot featuring the jokes the writing staff didn’t use three years ago.

The show feels tired. Even episode concepts that might have been great years ago feel like the staff has been lazy putting them together, without the wit or the smarts of previous years. I could keep smashing my head into this wall, hoping that the show would be once again worthy of the love it earned with ifs first few years… Or I could let it go, and consign it to the list of shows I watch ‘if I have time, if ever, maybe not’. The place where it has fallen to.

In a world where network television has so many great comedies in their prime, from Parks and Recreation and Community to Modern Family and The Middle, I can’t really justify spending so much time on a show that is so deeply uninspired. I might be back next year with weekly reviews. We’ll see what 7.01 looks like. Until then…

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