TV News

How I Met Your Mother’s Plan for Next Season is Ambitious…and Remarkably Stupid

UPDATE: 5/20/2013 -In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, co-creators of How I Met Your Mother, clarified their concept for the final season.  The post has been edited and re-written in some areas to reflect this new information.

This past Monday, How I Met Your Mother put up the “Mission Accomplished” sign with one achingly gratifying final scene in which we finally, finally, finally after 8 long seasons met the titular mother.  However, have you heard what they are talking about doing with the mother and, indeed, the rest of the cast next season?  We might be in for How I Met Your Mother‘s attempt at a sitcom version of 24.

There were so many theories, but as Noomi Rapace from Prometheus might say with an unintentionally comically anguished tone “we were sooo wrong.”  The mother is not one of Ted’s (Josh Radnor) many prior girlfriends nor is she, most crucially, Robin (Cobie Smulders). Instead, the girl with the yellow umbrella who plays bass guitar is a completely new character who will be played by Cristin Milioti, a lovely actress most known as Girl in the Broadway musical adaptation of the film Once.  So, I guess playing someone who has only officially been credited on HIMYM to this point as “Girl With Yellow Umbrella” is a real step up, character name wise.

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Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard from the film Once in the foreground, Milioti and Steve Kazee from the Broadway musical in the background. Photo credit: NYTimes.com

According to Entertainment Weekly (EW), Milioti is joining the show as a full-time cast member next season, the first actor added in on a full-time basis with Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segal, Cobie Smulders, and Alyson Hannigan in the show’s history.  Just don’t expect her to share a whole lot of screen time with Radnor.  CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler told TVLine.com that season 9’s “entire run will, in fact, span the wedding weekend and just the wedding weekend.”  The idea is that each character will meet the mother during the two days before Ted does.  If the president of CBS isn’t a good enough source for you, show co-creator Craig Thomas confirmed  her statement, telling EW, “The entirety of season 9 will be told in the course of Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend.  It will be 24 episodes over two day.”

Wait, what?  Are they seriously going to set a 24-episode season of television entirely over a 48-hour period culminating in a wedding?  How in the hell is that going to work?

Well, it won’t entirely take place at the wedding.   In the same interview with EW, show co-creator Carter Bays acknowledged, “There will be three episodes that take place entirely in flashbacks.”  Okay.  Good.  That’s much better.  So, it’s only 21 episodes which will be set entirely at a wedding weekend.  I feel so much bett…wait.  That’s actually not much better.

So, they gave us the mother, finally, and are now asking us to wait an entire season to see Ted meet her?  Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but Lily might best vocalize my feelings on the matter:

*DETAILED SPOILERS ABOUT HOW THE MOTHER WAS INTRODUCED ARE DISCUSSED BELOW*

 The manner in which Milioti’s character was introduced in the season finale was genius.  All of the characters are heading toward Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s wedding.  In the course of the episode the characters have been torn apart; they just don’t know it yet.  Ted is secretly moving to Chicago without telling anyone because he can’t stand to stick around and hope that Robin and Barney break up.  Marshall has been offered the job of a lifetime, but how can he tell his wife since they had planned to move to Italy for a year for her to enjoy the job of her lifetime.  Barney remains supremely confident in his forthcoming nuptials, but Robin has doubts as indicated by her actions in the previous episode (“Something Old”) and her the-ending-of-The-Graduate-stare Barney fails to notice.

So, the episode ends with a close-up of each character’s face, with the final close-up being on Ted’s stupid grin because he has concocted one final Hail Mary pass plan to win Robin’s heart.  Appropriately, we cut directly from Ted’s face to a bus terminal where a girl with a yellow umbrella is standing in line.  We’ve seen that damn umbrella already, most recently at the end of the season premiere (“Farhampton”) when we saw that Ted and the mother will be a train station together after Barney and Robin’s wedding.  However, this time was different.  There was no mere hint of the mother.  Nope.  We see and hear her order a ticket to Farhampton where we know she will be playing in Barney and Robin’s wedding band.

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Finally! Photo credit: Glamour.com

*THIS ENDS THE DETAILED SPOILERS ABOUT HOW THE MOTHER WAS INTRODUCED*

Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have consistently argued their intention has always been to end with Ted meeting the future mother of his children, which is exactly the ending you’d expect given the show’s title.  After all, the framing device of a Future Ted telling the story to his children would necessitate a hasty explanation for why he would continue telling them stories once he’d reached the promised “and that’s how I met your mother” moment.  After 8 years of captivity it’s possible the children would revolt if he continued his story any further.  “Get to the point already, old man!  And why couldn’t Robin have been our mother!  She’s so much cooler!”

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A problem, but a good one, with the show from the very beginning has been figuring out what to do with Ted and Robin because Radnor and Smulders are so damn compelling together. Photo credit: buddytv.com

However, over the past couple of seasons this strategy has been called into question with fans seeming to collectively realize how disappointing it would be for us to end with Ted simply meeting the mother and not seeing anything beyond that.  It is kind of like watching Smallville for so long and just wanting him to become Superman already or, at the very least, start flying despite the show’s ironclad rules from Day 1 of “No cape, no flying.”  Can’t we just meet the mother already and maybe end the show with Ted proposing to her, even if that violates what the show creators had originally planned?

The answer, as it turns out, is no.  This is the story Bays and Thomas want to tell, and they should be allowed to finish it on their terms.  Their’s has been a consistently ingeniously written show.  So, of course they would try something incredibly ambitious in their final season.  However, the problem is the same one facing ABC’s new show Mixology which will attempt to set their entire season at  one night at a bar with the big reveal at the end of the story being who goes home with whom – how is this in any way a sustainable concept for a season of television?

I guess Bays/Thomas looked at what appears on paper to be a terrible, terrible idea for a season of television and announced to no one in particular, “Challenge accepted!”  Bays/Thomas have given me little cause to suspect they are not up to the challenge, but, honestly, this sounds like an incredibly ambitious but remarkably stupid idea.  Hopefully, it will be legen…wait for it.

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments.

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