So here we are, four seasons in, and we still don’t know who the mother is. But does that really matter? No. As longtime viewers of the show are aware, “who” the mother turns out to be isn’t really what the show is about – it’s just one of the many devices that this fantastic sitcom uses to separate itself from the myriad of other bland, scripted, comedy fare we see on TV today. Rather, this show is all about the journey. Find out how the latest season of this journey stacks up, after the jump.
For those not in-the-know, the premise simple: thirty years from now, Ted is telling his kids the story of how he met their mom. What we witness are the crazy escapades of Ted (Josh Radnor) and his four friends, all in their early 30’s, trying to balance their careers and relationships in present day New York. This season starts off with three primary storylines: Ted prepares (mostly emotionally) for his wedding with Stella (guest star Sarah Chalke), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) tries to confront his growing feelings for Robin (Cobie Smulders), which threatens his womanizing/bachelor lifestyle, and Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) settle into their still-fresh marriage and all of the problems that come with it, not the least of which is deciding whether or not they’re ready to have kids.
While this is all fine and not exactly “out of the norm” for a sitcom, in this show, the characters actually develop, and each season separates itself from the last by providing a character arc for all five main characters. Where they end up (both physically and relationship-wise) at the end of one episode is not necessarily where they began. Make no mistake, the show is insanely funny, and employs the use of cutaways and flashbacks, converging storylines, and sharp, character-driven dialogue to keep every episode funny throughout. However, it’s the dramatic moments that really set the show apart. As proven by only the smallest number of other modern television comedies, not every minute of every sitcom needs to have fifteen jokes squeezed in; there is room for romance, heartbreak, and drama in comedy, but it takes an adept team of writers to balance this and make sure we still care about each of the characters. And the writers of HIMYM are really at the top of their game in Season 4.
Aside from one or two somewhat forgettable (although still entertaining) episodes, this season does a great job balancing all of the elements the series has become known for – not to mention that, once again, the brilliant cast seems to pull everything off effortlessly. Although the beauty of this show is that any viewer will find different things to connect with in different episodes, several episodes this season in particular standout from the rest, purely on the basis of comedy and character-driven stories. In case you’re wondering, my picks for must-see episodes in this set are: “Intervention,” “Woooo!,” “The Naked Man,” “Little Minnesota,” “The Possimpible,” and “The Front Porch.”
That being said, I do have one major gripe with this season as a whole, and it’s in regards to Barney and Robin’s relationship. See, at the end of last season (Season 3), we were teased just a couple times that Barney may have feelings for Robin, and after a great opening episode of Season 4 which pushes the potential of their relationship even further, we see relatively nothing more about it for the remainder of the season (until the final episode, anyway). What gives? This was a major, potentially character-changing aspect of the show that the writers should have followed up on much sooner than twenty-three episodes later. It was frustrating as a fan to see it get pushed aside episode after episode, wondering when they were going to get to it. Regardless, every episode in this season is enjoyable, and for those who want to know, the season currently airing on television (Season 5) has addressed Barney and Robin’s relationship right from the get go, so perhaps all is forgiven.
The amount of supplemental materials provided on the 3-disc set feels a little underwhelming at first, and won’t take the average viewer a long time to race through. That being said, what is provided is all very enjoyable. The commentary tracks for the episodes “Do I Know You,” “The Best Burger In New York,” “I Love NJ,” and “The Naked Man” prove both insightful as to how the storylines this season were crafted, as well as very funny (particularly “The Naked Man” commentary track). The “Season 3 Recap,” found on Disc 1, not only provides an excellent look at all of the important points from last season, but is also incredibly (and surprisingly) touching. It may just bring a tear to your eye.
On Disc 2, the lengthier-than-normal “Gag Reel” had me laughing out loud several times. This was unexpected, as often a special feature of this sort proves to be nothing more than fluff. The “Barney Stinson: That Guy’s Awesome” music video is truly an “awesome” extended cut of Barney’s video resume from the episode “The Possimpible,” but any fan who’s already been to www.barneysvideoresume.com has already seen it. “Eriksen’s Fight Club” shows an extended cut of Marshall’s brawl with his brothers from the episode “The Fight.” It’s pretty intense, and there’s much more to it than what ended up in the actual episode.
Finally, Disc 3 holds the “A Night With Your Mother” Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Panel Discussion, in which the whole cast, creators, and major members of the crew talk about the series and answer questions. My only problem with this feature is that the entire hour and a half panel has been edited down to just 15 minutes for this feature. I would have much rather been able to see the whole thing. Still, it’s fairly interesting and does have a hilarious ending.
On the whole, Season 4 is another great entry into the incredible series. The creative team behind the show deserves a lot of credit for consistently delivering funny, memorable, and all around high quality episodes, which not only engage us with humor, but also deliver deep, relatable characters and situations.
Show: A (for “Awesome,” obviously)