I liked it well enough, but the fifth season of How I Met Your Mother faced accusations of a decline in quality in some critical circles. Creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, refreshingly, kept their fingers out of their ears. They acknowledged the show is better served when they don’t hit the reset button at the close of each segment, and keep their eyes to the end of the series.
Nice thought, but the step between the promise and the execution is a difficult one. My review of “Big Days,” the first episode of season six, after the jump.
When we left off, Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) had decided to start a family together. Robin (Cobie Smulders) broke up with boyfriend Don, leaving her open to shared moments with Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) that wink to the audience, “We’ll get these two back together eventually.” And Ted (Josh Radnor) didn’t seem to be particularly closer to meeting the woman who is the impetus of the show.
In the aforementioned interview, Thomas and Bays expressed a desire to make season six less “sitcommy.” Goal accomplished. “Big Days” is packed with narrative flourishes that set it apart from, say, a Two and a Half Men. There are flashbacks, flashforwards, imaginative dramatizations, and even a brief super-flashback to 1652, when Sir Walter Dibs invented the “dibs” as the SS Dibs was lost at sea.
The most important of these is a glimpse into the future (“a little ways down the road…”) of Ted, tuxedoed up, nervous at a wedding. I’ll leave the nature of the ceremony for your own viewing, but I was satisfied with its purpose, and it looks to be a setting we’ll revisit in future episodes.
Rachel Bilson guest stars, and while she’s game for whatever they throw her (very game, you’ll find), she’s slightly wasted. I am offended that her resume over the last three years is basically made up of Jumper. Smulders is similarly bound by a really broad plot in “Bad Days,” but she had me cracking up with a celebration of her ability to attract a suitor in McClaren’s. (“Some ding dong is stepping up thinking he can get some of this broke off. Hooooo!”)
Harris continues to put forth great work, balancing over-the-top humor with a nice emotional moment opposite Hannigan. Segel, likewise, nails his own sweetly humorous scene with Hannigan with just the right catch in his throat.
Such moments suggest Bays and Thomas are on the right track to achieve what they set out to do with season six. Community may overtake it in the next season or two, but HIMYM still holds the title of “Brendan’s Favorite Sitcom.” A sentimental award more than anything else, but I like to think I have taste.
The sixth season of How I Met Your Mother premieres Monday, September 20th at 8/7c on CBS.