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How I Met Your Mother and the Rules of Sitcom Musicals

  • 3/9/10 at 10:40 AM

Can we call a moratorium on musical numbers in sitcoms?

Last night's How I Met Your Mother had a very funny riff on Rules-type advice books, with a self-help bestseller called Of Course You're Still Single, Take a Look at Yourself, You Dumb Slut. Say it! It's very funny! It was funny every time they said it.

It also had not one, but two, bad musical segments: the "bang bang bangety bang" running-joke ditty and a truly lame number Ted sang to Barney about "superdates." This song actually managed to rival the lameness of the "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit" production number in the show's 100th episode. It was an un-song.

So let's establish some rules.

• If your non-musical show is going to do a musical number, it has to work like an actual number in a musical, i.e. it has to do something. Ideally, it should feature a powerful exposure of emotions, the way it did in the Buffy musical "Once More With Feeling."

• Or it can be a brilliant satire like The Simpsons' "Oh, Streetcar!"

• Or it can be so over-the-top surreal that it earns its musical stripes, like some satisfyingly ridiculous sequences on Scrubs.

• It can involve Jason Segel noodling around on the piano, in a goofy "Slap Bet" way, where it doesn't pretend to be anything more than a silly throwaway.

• But it has to actually be funny (or poignant, if the show can pull that off).

• Or maybe it's a classic Barbra Streisand number sung by Lea Michelle in full belt mode? That's cool, too.

• But if it isn't, it's a good idea if it's written by a person who writes songs, like the Brothers Whedon.

Just because Glee is a phenomenon and High School Musical made money doesn't mean perfectly clever non-musical sitcoms can go throwing terrible production numbers into the mix. It isn't genre experimentation, it's just annoying. Also, High School Musical was terrible, so no one should use those songs as a role model. (Although Preschool Musical was hilarious.)

The rest of the episode wasn't bad. Here's Alan Sepinwall's wise take on the whole thing. But while I'm going bitchcakes about "Superdate," I also had a separate problem with the number: Why would Robin, in the final sequence, want the "Superdate"? Carriage rides and opera are the opposite of what that character is into (she loves cigar bars, guns, etc.), and I'm bugged by the idea that she'd be won over by this corny gambit. I know her feelings are hurt, but I'd hate for them to kill the character's toughness and idiosyncrasy.

Anyone else feel this way?

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