Static: Random TV Patterns
Even for fans like me, How I Met Your Mother can feel like an update of Friends: You've got your Manhattan hangout, two geek males plus one womanizer, and the unsettling sensation that all that warm likability could curdle with a few bad episodes. I do like the show much better than Friends: stronger friendship chemistry, for one thing. Friends was fun, but HIMYM is witty, structurally sophisticated and genuinely New Yorkish. Plus, Barney.
That said, last night freaked me out when I realized man-child Marshall was Phoebe, with his silly songs and photo montages, climaxing in an actual song about a cat, à la "Smelly Cat." (Marshall's song was "Cat Funeral," but still.) I'm sure online fan groups have seen this through many times, but all of a sudden, Barney was Joey, Lily was Monica, Ted was Ross (complete with professorial shoulder patches), and Robin (okay, this is a major stretch) was intimacy-impaired Chandler. And that "All By Myself" montage (albeit genuinely funny) was a perfect parallel to the Chandler-Joey breakup-parody montage — which also culminated in them gazing through the rain.
I admit the maître d' sneering, "Is it only you two?" made me laugh out loud. The eighteenth-century–poetry thing really didn't work, though. There's such a thin line between "frat-boy" humor and frat-boy humor.
[BTW, I wrote this comment before I'd read Amos's lovely recap, but commenter Julieandthecity and I are clearly twins — and she makes an excellent point about how much the couple-dating plotline contradicts a very funny earlier episode ... ]
Following up on my Asperger's post from last week, I've noticed two more examples: Brennan and Zach on Bones and the quirky youngest kid on The Middle (who doesn't have Asperger's, but seems to be potentially on the spectrum). While Googling to confirm that the writers do indeed intend Brennan to be mildly Aspie, I came across Aspies on TV, an interesting blog by Sarah Abrahamson. Abrahamson notes that Aspies are natural comic foils, given that "much of comedy is based on social interaction and the errors in interaction."
Her examples include folks I hadn't considered, including Dwight Schrute on The Office, Anya on Buffy, Molly Shannon's Mary Patrick Gallagher, and Basil Fawlty — not to mention, hilariously, Rachel's bitchy sister Amy on Friends (Christina Applegate), based in part on her inability to recognize Ross's face no matter how many times she meets him.
Apropos of nothing, this is the Most Strangely Entertaining Fictional-Character Twitter Feed I've Come Across: twitter.com/HalfPintIngalls. Today's entry: "Tip for the day: If you get a pet suckling pig, be sure your home is suckleproofed."
I love Bones, don't get me wrong. But that Arab-accent plot made zero sense to me: He fakes an accent so no one will question him for being Muslim? Really? Because an immigrant Jordanian or Iranian scientist will get treated better? Plus, I don't buy that a bunch of sophisticated scientists (not to mention world traveler crunchy hippie Angela) are that unfamiliar with Islam in the first place — not to mention willing to hassle a new colleague with religious gibes without considering that he might, say, sue them.
Yay for Dollhouse airing throughout the season! That's therapeutic news for this ambivalent viewer (I haven't had a chance to watch Friday's ep yet, but I'll watch it today ... ), and it was fascinating to confirm how sensitive network execs have become to the rage of online nerds, something that's increasingly true for TV writers as well.
I'll never forget visiting Mutant Enemy shortly after the Rage of the Kittens, when a bunch of impassioned-verging-on-insane online activists protested a plotline they found (incorrectly! sez me) homophobic. As comfortable as the ME staff was with online intensity, they were clearly unnerved by how hard these particular viewers' buttons had been pushed. (Here's an explanation of the Kittens' POV, if you're interested.) I'd love to read a first-person essay by a longtime television writer about what this push-me-pull-you phenomenon does to the creative process.
This morning, I caught up with Desperate Housewives, the original cougar-flavored TV hit, and was horrified to find Felicity Huffman's character pregnant with twins again: It's like the Duggars of Wisteria Lane. I did laugh when her husband, Matt from Melrose Place (sorry, this is a problem for me, I can't think of his real name even after watching several seasons), recalled that the last time she swelled up all over with twins "it was like sleeping next to a dead body that had been pulled out of a river."
Here's my column about meta-comedies, from Monty Python through 30 Rock.
And finally, God bless Jon Stewart for his ongoing comic-furious fact-checking of "real news." Keep watching for the brilliantly enraging "let's leave it there" montage: