Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How I Met Your Mother: "We're Not From Here"

Illustration for article titled How I Met Your Mother: "We're Not From Here"
Illustration for article titled How I Met Your Mother: "We're Not From Here"

There seems to be some polarization among commenters regarding HIMYM's quality. For the record, I'm a bit of a sitcom junkie. I grew up on Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart (just about the only primetime television my parents let us watch, because my dad thought Bob was a hoot). I regard Newsradio as the pinnacle of twentieth-century comedic broadcasting, but I've developed in my dotage an appreciation for classics like The Honeymooners. And Must See TV was my natural home in the nineties — Mad About You. Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, et al.

2007 may not be the golden age for the traditional sitcom — the genre's taken some serious hits from the innovations of single-camera shows and from the AARP-demo shows cluttering the CBS and ABC schedules — but you gotta give it up for the shows that are still out there walking that beat as if they never read their pink slips. I'd include HIMYM and the egregiously-titled New Adventures of Old Christine in that category, the latter being a show that took half a season to find its voice but now provides reliable delights on a weekly basis. Or would, if CBS hadn't relegated it to a mid-season replacement.

All that said, "We're Not From Here" unfortunately represents a subpar location in the HIMYM franchise. The trouble is signalled early: ol' reliable bar-booth-opening is more plot setup than wowza funnies. Ep rebounds a bit with second bar-booth-opening after credits, but the use-big-words-to-confuse-Enrique-Iglesias joke is funnier in concept than execution. (Points to Ted for understated "I'm just happy that you're happy" variations on a theme, however.) And the titular plotline — Barney and Ted pretend to be out-of-towners in order to score NYC chicks — is laaaame. It brings out the elitist in Ted, which isn't really the character that shows him to best advantage. It requires Ted to give in way too easily to Barney's crazy scheme and to share Barney's hipper-than-thou worldview, which is hard to believe given past evidence.

But in the midst of this confusion, some precious stones glimmer. Let's talk about Robin. What has come over this character? The girl is funny! She's carrying her own scenes! Something about the tension between vacation-Robin, she of the hippy-dippy drum circles ("they're different every time!") and hot Hispanic bedmate, and "old Robin" with the job and the OCD, brings out her untapped potential. I don't believe I've ever looked forward to a Robin-centered scene before this episode, but here I was waiting for the script to dispose of Ted and Barney so I could watch Cobie do her thang. High point: the sharply-edited juxtaposition of things that were sexy on vacation (being fed pineapple by hand) yet not so sexy back in Brooklyn (being fed spaghetti by hand on an easily-stained sofa).

OK, Marshall and Lily speaking in their death letters from beyond the grave — also funny. (As was the newspaper headline in the gotcha epilogue set in Marshall's office in 2029: "NYC LAWYER CAPTURES NESSIE.") But readers, I would be remiss if I didn't reveal why I really come to the three-camera sitcoms: wardrobe and set decoration. The sitcom is planned obsolescence at its best. Nobody really expects them to endure. The look is "immediate" at best and cheap at worst, the jokes are topical, and the art department is motivated by product placement. Nothing captures our aspirational style at a particular moment like a sitcom. So forgive me for being distracted by Lily's weird bustline-fringed red number (ugh), Robin's hot-cha-cha print tunics (vacation Robin, I'll miss your clothes), and finally Lily's chic artiste sleeveless blue rayon top (could never pull it off, but want anyway). Even the preppy green argyle vest looks better on post-vacation Robin, like her new identity has infused her old clothes. This may have been thin gruel given HIMYM's potential, but it showcased continued strength in the Wardrobe Department. Take your bow, Nicole Nagy!

Grade: C

Stray observations:

- I resent the implication that making jewelry is not important. I've never made jewelry, but next thing you know they're going to say knitting is not important, and I want to nip that in the bud.

- Do other fans think of HIMYM as an extremely New York-y show? Because I certainly forget about what city it's set in, until it's rubbed in my face like this episode. I'm not sure you should try to out-New York the other great shows that have been set there when you have, like, zero location shoots.

- Lily subscribes to Vogue. Classy, yet girly. Robin probably reads Lucky. Barney gets Maxim, of course. Marshall, the Daily News. And Ted puts McSweeney's on the coffee table but has a stack of Entertainment Weekly in the bathroom.