How I Met Your Mother: “Sorry, Bro”
B+

How I Met Your Mother: “Sorry, Bro”

Editing.  We watch Oscar-telecast montages about it.  We clumsily practice it by hacking up videos of our children at birthday parties.  But do we ever think about how essential it is to a show like this one?  Probably not until we see a show like this one, which reaches a pinnacle of comic editing as Marshall approaches the first punchline of the pants story.  Maybe it's not surprising that the show as a whole couldn't measure up to those heights.  But let's pause for a moment and enjoy the brilliance.

See, the gang meets Robin at the bar in the wee hours as she's starting her day, heading for a 4 am morning show.  (Who watches a morning show at 4 am?  "People getting up to host a show at 5 am?" Lily suggests.)  And Barney urges Marshall to tell the story of the unbelievably funny thing that happened to him -- funnier than the funniest thing Robin can think of, which is a chimpanzee wearing two tuxedos.  ("What, he forgot that he put the first one on?" she chortles, trying to picture the scenario.)  So Marshall relates how he's getting dressed for work after hoops at the company gym, only to find out -- "Wait, let me say it," Barney interrupts.  Back to our flashback, music restarts, Marshall reaches for gym bag as Barney narrates -- "No, you tell it," Barney decides.  And back and forth, shorter, longer, until finally -- "Same time," Barney demands.  And then blurts out before Marshall can begin: "Marshall forgot his pants!"

Now, it's a well-known comedy rule that pants are funny.  The word is funny, the item is funny.  You can't go wrong with pants.  Barney really takes this to heart.  At any likely juncture of our A-story -- Ted's re-hookup with a pretentious, promiscuous college girlfriend who just moved to the city -- Barney begins chanting the word pants.  When it turns out that the supposedly devastating punchline of the whole tale involves Barney cutting the legs off the pants then making fun of ragged-shorts Marshall in a meeting by begging "Please sir, I want some more -- pants!", he falls out of the booth laughing at himself.

So the episode hinges on a funny treatment of a story that's not as funny as the characters themselves promise.  What about Karen, the douchey girlfriend ("She was the heiress to the Massengill fortune," Marshall declares) whom Ted foolishly calls?  And invites to lunch?  And has lunch, and kisses, and has sex with several times?  She's actually a little laid back for this crowd, although her first line in the first college flashback ("It's like, let's all eat baloney sandwiches and be racist") was laugh-out-loud funny.  And I do like pretentious Ted ordering "off menu" at the restaurant ("Can we have some bruschett' with fresh mozzarell'? Grazie!").  But if you follow the show's news, you know that Laura Prepon has signed on to appear in a couple of episodes, so we knew this wasn't a one-off.  Nope, she's Ted's guest-star girlfriend until further notice.  I don't think she quite fits in, myself, but I'm willing to wait and see.

Actually, the whole of-course-I'd-never-except-I-did structure of Ted's narrative, while not nearly as inventive as the sparkling first-act writing and editing, fit his character nicely.  Unlike many, I don't think he's an empty haircut at the center of far more interesting eccentrics.  He holds his own here without ever appearing outmatched, and I even smiled at the rushed wrap-up: "She's my girlfriend now so don't say anything and here she is!"  In many ways, this is a far better example of the kind of structure the show's been perfecting over the past couple of seasons than last week's "The Stinsons."  My preference for the former arises simply out of its showcase sitcom joyousness; it's like a revue jam-packed with all the hits.  If "Sorry, Bro" had been able to sustain its energy through the second and third acts, it might have been legendary of its kind.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:


- Is there anything more annoying than someone pointedly declaring, "I don't watch TV"?  All the accents and literature and gluten-free lifestyle aside, that's the detail that nailed Karen's character right there.

- The four worst things that could happen (plus one): (1) Supervolcano.  (2) Asteroid hits the earth.  (3) All footage of Evel Knievel is lost.  (4) Ted calls Karen.  (5) Lily gets eaten by a shark.

- Cobie/Alyson enceinte strategy update: sitting motionless in bar booth, sitting behind broadcast table, standing behind huge globe, carrying folded coat and enormous purse.

- Was that Comcast commercial national?  Because until the word "Comcast" appeared, it was all kinds of awesome.

- Why was Marshall eating fruit when Ted and Karen came in and dissed the TV?  So Lily could report years later that she was painting Marshall in the nude "because he ate my bowl of fruit."

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