It’s always a little unfortunate to watch a fan-favorite go downhill — unfortunately, it’s the fate of many TV shows that airs too long. CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” certainly seems to have reached this point, and perhaps even passed it a few completely un-funny episodes ago.
Nearly all semblance of likeability has disappeared from the characters — in fact, in the most recent episode they were all out-acted by an adorable dog. At this point, it seems like the show is begging for its fans to give up on it.
This episode, titled “The Autumn of Break-Ups,” focuses largely on the issues of Ted (Josh Radnor) and Victoria (Ashley Williams), though there was an almost interesting subplot about Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) adopting a dog named Brover. Quite frankly, the chemistry between Radnor and Williams, which was so extraordinary six years ago when Victoria was first introduced, is now almost painful to watch. There seems to be no reason for these characters to be together — Ted is so oblivious to Victoria’s “subtle” hints of dissatisfaction that, in order for the episode to be believable, the audience must assume that he’s been subjected to some kind of brain injury. He’s painfully unaware of almost everything happening in his relationship until it’s explicitly spelled out for him, and even then he doesn’t believe the issues are real until it’s proven by Victoria herself.
Victoria, on the other hand, has transformed from a cute, girl-next-door love interest into an obnoxious, manipulative nag. Her little “hints” at her unhappiness at still being unwed go from blatant pokes at Ted about the fact that she left a man at an altar for him to her dramatically pulling out her wedding gown and asking if she’ll ever get to use it again. Maybe it was supposed to be funny — it wasn’t. It was sad and pathetic. Victoria was always one of the more likeable of Ted’s love interests, but all her appeal has disappeared with her blonde hair.
It’s impossible to feel either sympathy for the couple or regret at their anti-climactic break-up. Victoria tells Ted she’ll marry him if he’s no longer friends with Robin, a storyline that smacks of not only past “HIMYM” storylines, but also TV clichés in general.
Along the theme of break-ups, Robin (Colbie Smulders) is shown fighting with her current love interest, Nick (Michael Trucco), who is so unforgettable it’s virtually impossible to remember his role in the episode. He is frustrated that Robin is so devoted to her male friends, but he might have made for a more sympathetic character than the others if he wasn’t so lacking in personality. As it is, one can only hope Robin/Nick is the next victim of the “Autumn of Break-Ups,” so that viewers will no longer be tormented by trying to remember who he is.
Meanwhile, Barney has adopted Brover and made him his wing-dog. This dog was the most entertaining aspect of the whole episode, despite the absurd amount of dog puns Barney uses. If they were ever entertaining, they decidedly stop being so about five minutes into the episode. Eventually they become so loathsome that it is impossible not to hope the dog would disappear soon if only to end the incessant jokes. However, it did provide the best moment of the night, the goodbye between Brover and Barney. Harris played it perfectly, being just ridiculous enough to entertain without being unbearable. This moment was far more emotional than either the Ted/Victoria break-up or the Robin/Nick fight, perhaps because the dog was actually enjoyable to watch.
The last part of this episode dealt with what can only be dubbed “Sassy Marshall.” Lily (Alyson Hannigan) has been training her husband to give advice so she won’t have to. While he’s connecting with his “inner goddess,” Marshall (Jason Segal) transforms into a sassy southern woman, desperately waiting for someone to respond with a “testify” to his proclamations. Overall, this felt like a last-minute addition — a way to add the married couple into the episode without having to do a rewrite. In general, it wasn’t that funny, although it was better than most of the other attempts at humor in the episode, and the flashback of Marshall “going rogue” and giving terrible advice, including “look, if you really want to have a baby, stop taking the pill!”, “you guys slept together three years ago on spring break: that means something!” and “loves showtunes, total shopaholic, not always pestering you for sex — um, Clifford sounds like a keeper!” is perhaps the only sequence that has induced a laugh-out-loud moment this season.
There are rumors that this is the last season of “How I Met Your Mother,” despite attempted negotiations for a season nine. Considering the direction the show has been taking this season, perhaps it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. After all, Ted’s been telling this story for eight years now — maybe it’s time to wrap it up and move on.
Howard is a member of the class of 2013.