For a show that was at one point “on the bubble” as to whether or not it would get renewed, it’s pretty remarkable how large the fanbase for How I Met Your Mother has grown over the last few years. Timed with the sixth season’s premiere on television, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has released the complete fifth season on a three-disc DVD set with a few noteworthy bonus features. Although not every episode of season five reached the high standards set by the best of seasons past, it was still another impressive run of episodes backed by the series’ signature writing and solid performances. Hit the jump for my full review.
Told through a series of lengthy flashbacks which comprise each episode, How I Met Your Mother tells the story of five friends living in New York, and how the one named Ted (Josh Radnor) eventually meets his future wife. Since each episode is narrated thirty years from now by “future Ted” (voiced by Bob Saget), scenes occasionally jump around in time and use cutaways to great humorous effect, helping to set this show apart from the myriad of other sitcoms on television. The show also stars Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan as married couple Marshall and Lily, Cobie Smulders as a TV news host and former flame of Ted named Robin, and of course Neil Patrick Harris, who has now been nominated for an Emmy four years in a row for his continuously brilliant performance as the womanizing (but occasionally heartfelt) bachelor, Barney.
The show’s greatest strength continues to be its consistently excellent ensemble cast. With every episode, the writers find interesting ways to pair up the characters, whose well-established personalities play off one another perfectly in both comical and occasionally touching ways. Unlike many other episodic, half-hour shows, the characters of How I Met Your Mother mature over the course of each season, and although it still feels like we’re barely any closer to finding out who the “mother” is going to be, the writers do a good job of keeping our focus on the journey, rather than the destination.
Unfortunately, when taken as a whole, the fifth season feels like it contains a few more “so-so” episodes than usual. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve never seen an episode of HIMYM that I didn’t like, but the majority of these episodes don’t reach the level of comedic genius that seemed to come so easily in the past. Most fans will likely remember this season for what at first seemed like a great idea, but soon took a turn for the mundane: Barney and Robin’s relationship. This could be a classic example of “be careful what you wish for,” because although many fans were disappointed that Barney and Robin’s budding relationship wasn’t addressed before the end of season four, season five addressed it right out of the gate. Sadly, the concept grew tired very quickly. The situations that the writers placed the characters in started feeling less interesting, and as a result, the comedy suffered. Over the course of a few episodes, it felt like the writers started running out of ideas for the couple, and finally reached an essential truth: Barney just isn’t as funny when he’s not single. Thankfully, the writers knew when to cut it off and ended the relationship before it got too stale. Although I don’t agree with many fans who see Barney and Robin’s relationship as some sort of disaster, I will say that I was happy to see it end when it did.
That being said, the majority of season five is still memorable, and there are several great episodes worth mentioning. The show’s 100th episode, “Girls Vs. Suits,” gives us more information about the mother as well as some of the interests she has in common with Ted, but the highlight of the episode comes at the end when the full cast and dozens of extras sing and perform in a huge musical number. The episode “Of Course” has Barney seemingly meet his match, a female author who specializes in dating played by guest star Jennifer Lopez. The episode gives us some surprisingly touching closure to Barney and Robin’s relationship (even though on the surface it had ended several episodes before), and the whole gang contributes to the funny, well-paced story. Finally, “The Wedding Bride” has to be one of my favorite episodes of the entire series thus far. Ted learns that his relationship with Stella has, without his knowledge, been turned into a major Hollywood movie, with a parody of himself as the villain in the film. The episode has several surprise guest stars as well as a hugely emotional payoff that should satisfy any fan of the film Love Actually.
The DVD set contains a rather modest selection of extras. The three audio commentaries for the episodes “Duel Citizenship,” “Girls vs. Suits,” and “The Perfect Week” are interesting and occasionally funny, but for a twenty-four episode set, I was hoping for a few more. There are also three Music Videos, showcasing the complete performances of the songs “Super Date,” “Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit,” and “Best Night Ever,” as well as the complete trailer for the fake movie, “The Wedding Bride.” Each video is a slightly extended version of what was seen on television, and it’s nice to be able to access them directly here.
Also included are two behind-the-scenes segments about the making of the song “Super Date” and the 100th episode musical performance. I really enjoyed watching these, as they showed how much time and coordination went into each sequence. It would be great to see more of this sort of thing in future season sets.
Surprisingly, the included “Bloopers” video is both lengthy and very funny. Most of the time, special features like this end up being kind of boring, given that they jump around and are shown out of context, but this actually made me laugh. It really speaks to how well the whole cast and crew works together, and I think longtime fans of the show will enjoy it. Finally, there is a “Series Recap” video. It does a pretty good job covering the basic strokes of everything that has happened in the series so far, but it also made me want to go back and relive some of my favorite moments by watching the old episodes.
Season five may not go down as one of the show’s best seasons, but it still provided plenty of laughs and memorable moments, especially throughout the latter half. I can’t fault the writers for trying a few new ideas that didn’t quite pan out, because they have been so good at adjusting the show and getting things back on course when necessary. I wish there were a few more extras in this set, but I can still confidently recommend it to any and all fans of the series.