Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why I'm hooked on "How I Met Your Mother"

Goodbye (for now), Golden Girls. We had a long run. Sex and the City, Absolutely Fabulous, Lucille Ball: Thanks for the memories. I'll be back. For sure.

Right now, a new TV obsession has grabbed my undivided attention and refuses let go. I'm not sure what took me so long. It's been on the air forever -- currently in its sixth season -- and my friend Cara has been raving about it for nearly as long. What am I going on and on about? How I Met Your Mother.

Now I'd seen the show before this past weekend. I'd watched several episodes on international flights this year, and I even caught one or two on TV when I was in Melbourne. But since it doesn't air in Buenos Aires -- at least not to my knowledge -- I'd never become a regular viewer. Then a couple of weeks ago, while I was still in Melbourne, I accidentally knocked my laptop to the ground.


Luckily for me, my friend Marcus is an IT god. After I spent a night tossing and turning and worrying about the future of my poor beloved laptop (though not before I'd enjoyed a memorable night out on the town), Marcus came to my rescue. He rebuilt my hard drive, made it better and faster, and also copied seasons 1 to 3 of Mother, along with several other shows (including five seasons of Doctor Who), to my desktop.

I don't know why he thought I might enjoy the show. We talked about a lot of things while I was in Melbourne, but if my memory is serving me well, Mother wasn't one of them. Maybe I said something about how much I love sitcoms that are based in New York City. Or mabye I told him that I'd much rather spend a lazy afternoon watching half-hour sitcom blocks than devote one hour to some high-concept drama with a convoluted plot. Whatever his reason, I'm glad he did it.

The names of the characters still don't roll off my tongue, but they're starting to feel a little bit like family. This weekend, in lieu of going out, I watched season one, episodes 1 to 18, and I sort of can't believe I'm taking a break to write this. You see, Ted just almost slept with Robin, his long-time crush, after lying to her that he'd broken up with Victoria, only to have Victoria call from Germany while he was in the bathroom with Robin's phone. (He had accidentally left his phone in Robin's living room, and Robin answered it). It sounds kind of, um, convoluted, but it was executed smoothly with minimal fuss. And I love a good cliffhanger!

I'll get back to them soon. But first, let me explain why I've fallen so head over heels for Mother.

I don't have to hate the stars because they're too beautiful. Most people knew Neil Patrick Harris (Barney) and Alyson Hannigan (Lily) before How I Met Your Mother, from Doogie Howser, M.D. (Harris), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the American Pie films (Hannigan). The other three leads I'd never seen before Mother. All are solid performers, with good comic timing, and they're all attractive. But not distractingly so, in a way that's likely to make us mortal viewers feel resentful. It's hard to imagine any of them growing up to be Jennifer Aniston.

It's a solid ensemble. That's not to say that everyone in the cast is created equally. There's a concept-dictated focus on Ted. And Harris gets the Emmy nominations and the bulk of the press. But why shouldn't he? He's freaking Doogie Howser! Though Robin occasionally drives me bonkers with her bitchiness (which the actress bravely doesn't always play for laughs), I enjoy watching the show because of all the characters/actors. The show would suffer without any one of them, which is the mark of a great ensemble. With characters/actors this entertaining, I've even stopped wondering about the identity of the titular "mother"?

It's so gay. When did TV comedies become so gay? The easy answer would be Will & Grace, or maybe even Sex and the City, but since the days of Friends and Frasier, sitcoms have been featuring male leads who often skew equally masculine and feminine and just as often find themselves the butt of gay jokes. Consider, for a moment, Two and a Half MenScrubs, The New Adventures of Old Christine. If you're a slouchy guy married to a hot girl, or if you're a straight guy who easily could be mistaken for a gay one, you can be the typical sitcom male.

It's great escapism. Friends, the vintage sitcom that Mother most resembles, never managed to nail single life and dating in New York City, and neither does Mother. The guys and girls that come in and out of the single characters' lives are too attractive, well-groomed, well-dressed and well-educated, and anyone who has lived in the Apple knows that one inevitably kisses as many frogs as princes there. That's just the way it is. And of course, the apartments are too nice and too big. But if I wanted to see people living in shoe boxes and kissing sketchy guys, I'd go back to New York -- or stay right here in BA. When I turn on the TV, I want to see attractive people (but not too attractive -- see No. 1) living in beautiful homes with unrealistically huge bathrooms.

Neil Patrick Harris. I think the guy who plays Marshall is just as deserving of Emmy's attention (for proof, check out his dance routine in the season 1 episode where he jumps out of the bathroom window and goes to the VIP club), but the Mother-launched NPH revival touches me because it proves that 1) Child TV stars can become adult TV stars, and 2) A gay actor can play a metrosexual womanizer as convincingly as a straight actor can sell the sex in homosexual. May his career live long and prosper for totally side-stepping typecasting.

And may Mother, like Friends, survive to its 10th season and some day earn the right to be called, as NPH's Barney would say, "Legendary!"

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