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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

How I Met Your Mother – “Bad News”

I’m not ready for this.”

When last we last this show, Ted was sorting everyone’s life out but his own and then went to watch It’s A Wonderful Life while the episode failed to really follow through with any reflections on Ted’s own inability to get his life in order. Needless to say, the show really only follows through with the Marshall and Lily baby plot.

But that’s not really what matters, is it? The episode is very unimpresisve, with very little of the inspired humor that could come from the premises (lasertag tournament, SANDY RIVERS!) but that button. Man, that button grabbed what’s left of my cold, bitter, cynical heart.

That is, if I still had one.

So let’s just get it out of the way: Jason Segel sells the hell out of an incredibly unearned moment. That Marshall’s dad has died of an unexpected heart attack comes out of left field  and the episode never makes a narrative space for this possibility  (though Mr. Ericksen has been featured in a number of jokes this season, perhaps that was the build up (plus the countdown, of course)?).  Sure, thematically, we can tie the unexpected news of his death (nobody calls Marshall?!) to Marshall expecting bad news during the whole episode, but the episode essentially throws itself on a sword for this moment to happen.

Because my reaction to the episode ends up working from the end and going back the beginning: this episode didn’t deserve this moment. The masturbation jokes are dull, Sandy Rivers appearing is a wasted opportunity for Robin to have something happen to her beside reliving past horrors (again), Barney’s lasertag tournament with Marshall could’ve been an inspired subplot in another episode, and, well, I suppose the writers really have no idea what to do with Ted if he’s not with a love interest (which is painfully frustrating given the show’s narrative conceit). The sum of these parts end up not adding up to that moment.

Instead, the episode’s final scene magnifies just how bad the rest of the episode is. And, that, I think, is worse than anything the episode actually has in it. It calls attention to the fact that show can remarkably strong, have genuine emotional moments in it, and that the episode failed to deliver those goods. And that’s just frustrating.

Some things worked. I enjoyed Marshall and Lily’s unwillingness to believe that Dr. Stangle isn’t a Barney scam, even going so far as to have the deprivation goggles Ted made back in season 2 to avoid Super Bowl scores make a come back. Indeed, the bits of business with Stangle actually were funny, with the last bit of Barney posing as Stangle as a nice way of having the joke come full circle.

But “Bad News” simply can’t live and die off that single emotionally strong moment and a quietly funny bit. The rest just reminds me of a show that fades in and out of existence, hidden in a fog of missed opportunities and aimless subplots.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • We all knew Sandy was bald already. (How could he not be?) But leave to Alexis Denisof to still make a skullcap look cool.
  • “Leave the model of the vagina.”
  • “And she asked me if I lost height.”
  • “This is like a black cat walked through my uterus.”
  • How did the show know what I’ve named my fists?


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