Thursday, October 16, 2008

How I Met Your Mother: Season Three
TV on DVD review by Sombrero Grande

How I Met Your Mother is one of the absolute funniest shows on TV right now. The show sports a higher laugh-to-minute ratio than just about any other. The cast is top-notch and the writing is consistently smart and clever. But if you're new to the series, the newly-released third season on DVD is not the best place to start.

You see, the show is told as one long story by a character named Ted Mosby (who's voice-over narration is provided by Bob Saget) talking to his kids in the year 2030 about his life back in the late 2000s and how he met their mother. Notice how I said that this was a "long" story because as of the end of the third season, although there is a strong possible lead, we still don't know who the titular "mother" is.

How I Met Your Mother is one of a new generation of TV sitcoms (like My Name Is Earl and Arrested Development) where things don't "reset" at the end of each episode but instead one episode flows the story into the next in a drawn-out, soap opera fashion. Oh sure there have been a lot of sitcoms in the past where not everything "reset" or a few "big" changes (weddings, babies, moving, etc.) carried over, but in these new sitcoms, if you miss out on one episode (just as with a drama like Lost or Heroes), there's a decent chance you missed out on something that's going to be referenced later.

If there's any one thing I can attribute to this narrative change its the boom of TV shows on DVD. Now, if you've missed a few seasons of a show or are, say, new entirely to How I Met Your Mother, you can simply rent or buy an entire season to watch at your leisure to catch up, which perhaps is the reason sitcom writers today feel more comfortable creating season-long story arcs if their shows are going to be seen less for individual episodes and more as whole seasons.

That's why jumping right into season three (even though the first DVD in the set offers up a brief bonus feature that quickly recaps the first two seasons) really isn't a good idea. The uninitiated will do well to start at the beginning of the story and know that all the enjoyment contained in season three will be waiting for them when they come to it.

Season three of How I Met Your Mother is set in the second half of 2007 and first half of 2008 (the dates this season first aired). Ted Mosby (who's "past-self" is played by Josh Radnor) is a 29-year-old architect who has decided that it's time for him to find his soul-mate and settle down. Helping him (or not, in many cases) are his friends, former college roommate turned struggling lawyer Marshall (Jason Segel), Marshall's longtime girlfriend turned wife Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Ted's former girlfriend turned friend Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted's eternally single "wingman" Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). Caught between his two happily married friends and two commitment-phobic ones, Ted's search for the future mother of his children unfolds hilariously, even if his kids in 2030 don't seem to be enjoying it so much.

While, on the whole, the third season of the show doesn't quite match the legen--wait for it--dary heights of the second season, there are still a wealth of laughs to be enjoyed. Plus, there's all the advancements made to the story that fans can't miss.

For those fans who can't recall which key events in the show occurred in season three, here's just a sample: Ted meets Amy (Mandy Moore); Robin meets Gael (Enrique Iglesias); Ted gets an embarrassing tattoo in an awkward place; Ted contemplates "riding the tricycle"; we find out "how Ted met everyone else"; architect Ted Mosby meets porn star Ted Mosby; Marshall and Lily buy their own place, which turns out to be crooked; the gang celebrates "Slapsgiving"; Barney gets "the yips"; Ted finds his future wife's yellow umbrella at a St. Patrick's Day party; Ted meets Stella (Sarah Chalke); Abby (Britney Spears) meets Ted; Barney explains the "Chain of Screaming"; the second "Robin Sparkles" music video is unearthed; Ted turns 30; Lily rescues a goat; Barnibus Stinson writes "The Bro Code" at the urging of Ben Franklin and George Washington; Barney recruits a "Rebound Bro" prone to nosebleeds (Will Forte); and two main characters are involved in separate automobile accidents, prompting both to reassess what's most important to them in life.

Season three also starts addressing some of the questions that may have popped up in viewers' minds over the course of the first two seasons. Questions like, "does all of this really relate to how Ted met his future wife?", "how does Ted remember all these tiny details from over two decades ago" and "why does Ted keep going into such intimate detail talking about his sex life before he met is kids' mother?" get dealt with within the first few episodes of the season.

In addition to all 20 episodes comprising season three of the show and the "Series Retrospective" feature I mentioned earlier, How I Met Your Mother's third DVD set offers up a significant amount of bonus features. The are six episodes that get commentary tracks, three music videos (including the unedited version of "Sandcastles in the Sand"), a "Cast Favorites" feature, Lily and Marshalls' honeymoon videos chronicling Marshall's search for the Loch Ness Monster, Additional--read: "dirtier"--Scenes and a Behind-the-Scenes feature for the episode "We're Not From Around Here." There's also an Unrated--read: there're several f-bombs dropped--Gag Reel with some hilarious outtakes, but then the editors pad it with several minutes of regular clips set to music for no apparent reason.

With its fantastic cast and great writing, season three of How I Met Your Mother is a must-own for fans of the show but newcomers should start at the beginning so they won't be left wondering what the "Slap Countdown" means, or why the first episode begins mid-word.


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