Reacting to the “How I Met Your Mother” Series Finale

How I Met Your Mother accomplished a great deal over the course of its nine season run.  It honestly depicted the ebbs and flows of friendship, the painful process of adapting to new stages of life, and the generally turbulent time of your late-twenties and early-thirties.  It was never perfect, but it did set incredibly ambitious parameters for a traditional comedy series, unafraid of the dramatic detours that this story yielded.  It assembled a phenomenal gallery of characters and allowed its talented cast to imbue them with a wonderful complexity.  In short, it did a considerable amount right.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that its final episode is one of those things.  Look, let’s be clear right off the bat: I didn’t hate it.  It’s not going to taint my affection for this show.  In fact, moment to moment, I quite liked parts of it.  I laughed.  I choked up.  I reminisced.  In other words, How I Met Your Mother hit the broader notes of any serviceable finale, and I think–truly and deeply–that Thomas and Bays believe they put together a finale they thought their audience wanted to see.  Their intentions were admirable, and that’s got to count for something.

But here’s the thing.  The How I Met Your Mother that debuted in 2005 was not the same How I Met Your Mother that signed off for good on Sunday night.  Like its characters, the damn thing changed.  It evolved.  So, yes, Ted and Robin seemed destined for one another back in the day; but, just last week, Ted admitted that he didn’t love Robin as he once did.  And I bought it.  Ted bought it.  So why did Bays and Thomas force the issue of Robin and Ted together in the end?  Why jam a round peg into a square hole?  The series came full circle when a salt-and-pepper haired Ted raised that blue French horn aloft as Robin peered down from her window, but I’m not sure it should have.

On the one hand, I understand the impulse to address the lingering intimacy between Ted and Robin after all these years.  However, I found myself far more satisfied with Ted’s realization last week that he no longer reciprocated her feelings.  That felt like growth, an acceptance of the fact that he loved and would always love Robin, just not in a romantic sense.  I liked that.  But the implication that he would end up with Robin?  I’m up in the air.  I certainly don’t love it but nor do I vehemently hate it.  Mostly, it feels like Thomas and Bays forcing the issue, hung up on the How I Met Your Mother of old when many of us, including Ted, had moved on.  And who could blame him?  The version of Robin he ostensibly ends up with is very much a self-involved mess.

Unlike some, I’m not angry that the Mother died.  Most of us suspected as much at this point, and her sickness and death did not in any way blunt the connection she shared with Ted.  In a way, it spoke very powerfully on the idea that love can be both all-consuming and terribly brief.  It reminded us how important it is to immerse ourselves in love when we encounter it because, like Tracy, we never know its lifespan.  Cristin Milioti was wonderfully charming, and I wish we’d grown to know her better than we did–there was a sad richness to her character that I feel we only had the opportunity to explore partially–but having her die at least provided a logical framework to the overarching narrative.  Plus, it gave their story a sense of beautiful tragedy.

At this point, you could classify my reaction to the finale as staunchly ambivalent.  However, one thing I strongly disliked (despite its inevitability): the dissolution of Barney’s and Robin’s marriage after a paltry three years.  Look, it makes sense–I suppose–that their relationship could not and would not endure.  We expect as much of the older versions of these two characters.  But, dammit, we had more bizarre character retconning!  This season (this sometimes drawn-out season) worked overtime to convince us again and again that Barney was a changed man.  In fact, more than half of this season’s installments concluded with the sole purpose of reinforcing that idea.  So what the hell, show?  Not only did you undermine your own character development** because you just had to have Robin and Ted end up together, but you also rendered the last season’s containment at the Farhampton Inn virtually moot.  Yeah, yeah.  Ted met Tracy at their wedding.  But if the goal was to split Robin and Barney up anyway, why spend SO LONG on the weekend of their doomed marriage?  Ugh.

**After the wonderfully touching way Barney disposed of the Playbook last year, he makes a second one after his divorce?  That, most of all, felt less like a callback than a slap in the face, a final slap bet of sorts.

Fortunately, Barney’s send-off felt appropriate.  After convincing the gang that he was not the kind of guy to fall in love with a girl and devote his life to her, it felt perfect that he instantly did just that with his newborn daughter.  Sure, he might have wound up an unwitting father after impregnating the thirty-first woman in as many days, but ending Barney Stinson’s womanizing in this way worked very well.  Of course fatherhood would have him reevaluate his treatment of women as mere objects. Plus, the scene of him holding his daughter and vowing his love to her was some of Neil Patrick Harris’s finest work on the show and served to remind how effortless he made it look taking a character that should have been a caricature and transforming him into a lovable goof.  That, at least, the finale did very very right.

That leaves Marshall and Lily.  Over the years, flashforwards provided us with considerable clues about their future lives, and their story very simply filled in those blanks.  So yes, Marshall becomes Judge Fudge and eventually Fudge Supreme.  They have three kids.  Lily sports an unfortunate bangs situation.  Marshall will never relinquish his love for puns and/or Sasquatch.  As the series’ most stable characters, Marshall and Lily neither shocked nor surprised us with where they ended up in the finale.  I’d like to imagine them high-fiving without looking well into their golden years.

I say let’s chalk it up to a mixed bag.  Wrapping up long-running comedy shows is difficult, and Thomas and Bays had their hearts in the right place.  Unfortunately, that also led them to reroute the narrative of How I Met Your Mother rather than to follow it to its more organic conclusion.  And I’ll conclude with this: Ted ending up with Robin is not my favorite, but it does posit an interesting growth for Teddy Westside.  As the man who romanticized love to unattainable heights, it’s sort of neat to see a different Ted by the end, a man who has experienced true, honest love and all of its unromantic and painful facets.  He loved Tracy deeply, and nothing can take away from that; however, he also loves Robin.  There isn’t truly a “one” for Ted as he insisted all along.  In loving both women, the journey of Ted Mosby, Architect proved more grounded, realistic, and–ultimately–sad: love cannot save a life, but it can create a new one.

You know what?  I’ll buy that.

In Memoriam: “Raising Hope”

“Raising Hope”

2010-2014

In the midst of life, we are in death.  After bestowing season renewals to its shows The Mindy ProjectNew Girl, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and thereby extending their lives, Fox put to rest the family comedy after four seasons.  In many ways, we’ve had time to prepare for this passing; the decision to air Raising Hope on Fridays did not bode well for its future health, and the new time slot proved detrimental.  Raising Hope‘s decline had been slow but, unfortunately, steady.

While Raising Hope never achieved must-watch TV status for the public at large, the Chance family (Burt, Virginia, Maw Maw, Jimmy, Sabrina, and–of course–Hope) never failed to brighten our days with their antics.  Who could forget Sabrina donning stockings over her head to keep the spiders way?  Remember Jimmy’s phase as super-goth Drakar Noir?  Or  Virginia’s unintentional mangling of the English language with such gems as “dramastically” and “philostrophical?”  How about Burt kicking a Warner Brothers paige in the crotch after blaming him for Earl‘s cancellation?  And Hope’s stint on the incredibly annoying show Yo Zappa Do?  Even with all these sweet memories, that’s to say nothing of Maw Maw’s trips into and back out of lucidity.  Or Frank being an absolute creeper.

While this show’s madcap comic sensibilities will of course stay in our hearts, Raising Hope also leaves behind a legacy of taking the working-class family and spotlighting them–warts and all–without ever talking down to or mocking the characters.  In fact, wouldn’t we all be a little better off if our families were like the Chances?  Content with what we have in life.  Bonded unconditionally.  Looking for reasons to find life satisfying rather than disappointing even in the face of challenges.  That Raising Hope managed to do all of these things while also parading Cloris Leachman’s Maw Maw in a bra and having Jimmy father Hope in the back of a van with a serial killer (oh, that delightful pilot…) only added to its charm.

You will be missed, Raising Hope.  You’ll be missed dearly.

Public funeral services are scheduled for Friday, April 4th as Fox airs two back-to-back episodes to function as a series finale.  Showrunner Greg Garcia will deliver the eulogy (with added lamentations for his dearly departed former series, the also-four-seasons-long My Name Is Earl). Following the service, please remain for a brief concert: Burt will perform “Rock the Torah” over the show’s closed casket, followed by Jimmy bringing down the house with his rendition of “Hard to Handle.”

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Howdy’s Market.  Barney needs us now more than ever.

Banshee Renewed for a Third Season

Do you love to see intimidating Amish mobsters dump cow viscera into hot tubs?  Or policewomen beating their ex-husbands to the brink of death with a Bible?  Or perhaps you’re more of an old-fashioned gal and just appreciate the simple pleasures of snarky cross-dressing computer hackers blowing up hair salons? If you answered yes to one or all three of these questions (and let’s be honest, you answered yes to all three of these questions because obviously), then you’ll be delighted by Cinemax’s recent announcement that Banshee has been renewed for a third season!

I, for one, find this news incredible, as Banshee is one of the most entertaining shows on television.  Also, unbelievably epic fight scenes!  I’m pretty sure the average run-time of a Banshee fight sequence is longer than a round of “Double Jeopardy” and usually more violent depending on Alex Trebeck’s mood.  Regardless, television became a manlier, more-testosterone fueled medium today; I look forward to the further exploits of Lucas Hood, the best fake sheriff/real criminal in all of the land!

Do yourself a favor and check out this show if you haven’t already.  It’s a blast, and it looks like it’s sticking around for awhile!

In Memoriam: “Family Tree”

“Family Tree”

2013-2013

HBO giveth, and HBO taketh away.  The hilarious and heartfelt (but, admittedly, under-watched) comedy from the mind of Christopher Guest struggled to find an audience from the minute it began airing in the spring of 2013.  But for those who treasured its eight episodes of pleasant quirkiness, Tom Chadwick’s multi-continental genealogical journey to trace the roots of his family tree provided delights in abundance.  But, what’s more, it allowed the likes of Chris O’Dowd to grace our screens each and every week.

It was too young to go, but sometimes the ones that shine brightest are too good for this world and their time spent too short.  So, now, we must say goodbye, part ways like lovers at an airport (seriously, we’re never going to get resolution on that?!).  Let us neither  cry nor mourn its passing but celebrate a life well-lived.  A life of Britcom obsession, Civil War reenactments, owl collections, Abe Lincoln impersonators, insensitive comments about  American Indian culture, disturbing farm work, and Fred Willard’s double entendres.  But, perhaps most important of all, this will be a show remembered for starting the conversation on a hitherto unrecognized brand of hate: mythical racism.

In the face of this tragedy, we must act like the formidable rear of the two-man horse costume: sturdy in the face of unspeakable tribulation.  In short, let’s do what Monkey would: hide behind a wall of biting sarcasm to mask the pain lurking beneath.  Also, ruin children’s birthday parties.  It’s the way “Family Tree” would’ve wanted it.

We’ll miss you, old friend, though we hardly knew ye.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the charity “Unlucky Charms.”  Let’s rein in the hate in honor of our fallen friend.

A Few Thoughts on Golden Globes

I love the Golden Globes. While the Academy Awards certainly draw the most clout, they often feel over-bloated and pretentious. But when it comes to the Globes, with its round family-style seating and open bar full of free-flowing booze**, the celebrities on hand seem more relaxed and willing to have a good time. Even the order of the ceremonies seems abuzz with intoxication, am I right? You never know what’s coming next!

**Was it just me, or did Mr. Ben Affleck appear to have enjoyed the open bar a little too much last night? Watching him stumble on stage and slur his way through the Best Directors category, I half-expected him to rip his suit off and reveal a toga underneath. Get it together, Batman!

What I really appreciate about the Golden Globes is that they are the antithesis of the Emmys. While the latter is so entrenched in tradition (and seems to delight in rewarding the same show or performer year after year), the Globes love to honor the fresh meat. I mean, I love it and all, but is Brooklyn Nine-Nine the Best Comedy on television? Definitely not. But who even cares because you can’t help but get excited for the new guy! Good for you, Brooklyn Nine-Nine!

But this interest in “new and improved” stands in exact contrast to the show’s somewhat archaic categorization. Films are much more complex these days, often spanning diverse genres within a single running time, so attempting to classify them across definitive lines is problematic at best. Last night, American Hustle took home the trophy for Best Film – Musical or Comedy. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great film (and certainly one of the year’s best), but a comedy? I laughed a few times, but the film’s conceit about the atrophy of the American dream was hardly a laugh riot.***

***Though, all things being relative, it is a funnier film than, say, 12 Years a Slave, so there’s that, I suppose.

When it comes to television, the most frustratingly antiquated categories are Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. For an awards ceremony that really distinguishes itself for drawing distinctions between Drama and Comedy (how Musical is lumped in there I’ll never know, but you know what they say about Les Mis: it’s a real pisser), I don’t understand the smorgasbord that makes up these groups of performers. So, while I find myself enjoying the Globes year after year, the outcome of these awards in particular continues to frustrate me, and this year proved no exception.

Best Supporting Actor

Won: Jon Voight, Ray Donavan

Should have won: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad or Josh Charles, The Good Wife

Where to begin? First off, let me admit that I only made it through the first three episodes of Ray Donavan before I bailed. The show felt like that one kid in high school who put on a great show of swagger but cried that one time you flicked him behind the ear in the lunch line. For all its bravado and supposed grittiness, the whole thing felt so false. I didn’t buy it for a second, any of it.

And least of all did I buy Jon Voight’s turn as Ray’s estranged father. When he wasn’t cavorting around in his unmentionables or attempting an unintentionally hilarious Boston accent, I found Voight utterly repugnant. And I don’t mean the character; I mean the actor, the man. There’s no performance here, just unadulterated Jon Voight in all his creepy glory. No thanks.

Meanwhile, Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman underwent an epic redemptive arc in Breaking Bad’s final season. And I’m not sure about you, but for me his meltdown in the car as he watched Todd remove his last thread of humanity (you know what I mean) will haunt me forever.  Award deserved there alone.

Josh Charles is also doing killer work on The Good Wife these days. His desk-clearing explosion at Alicia was one of my favorite scenes of 2013, and the subsequent feelings of betrayal and abandonment have deepened Will Gardner, enriched an already deep character. Charles continues to balance the hurt, anger, and frat-boy pettiness perfectly.

Both of these excellent actors more than deserved it.  But instead, Voight took home the gold, Hollywood’s version of the creepy, leering uncle that keeps showing up to family reunions even though you stopped sending the invite. Ugh.

Best Supporting Actress

Won: Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge

Should have won: Monica Potter, Parenthood

I haven’t seen the miniseries for which Bisset received her nomination and win (has anybody?), so I can’t comment on her performance. Look, she’s been around for ages and has done great work for so long, I can’t slight the woman for winning the prize. But this feels like a token honor rather than a deserved one to me.

What exactly does Monica Potter, or—for that matter—Parenthood itself need to do to get some awards recognition? It’s one of the very best written, acted, and produced shows on television, delving into the complexities of growing up, growing apart, and growing together as a family. It’s about how family defines us and challenges us, how it supports us and tests us. It’s funny, touching, and beautiful. You’re also guaranteed at least one choke-up an episode, money back guarantee.

You’d think that, if nothing else, Potter’s Kristina Braverman battling cancer would attract the interest of voters. But alas, she headed home empty-handed. Perhaps it’s because she handled the plotline so meticulously, without a shred of the maudlin melodrama that typically defines such plot machinations. Her Kristina Braverman was tenacious, terrified, optimistic, defeated, elated, despondent. We felt every iota of emotion. This was a towering, triumphant performance that very easily could have been predictable and bland.  I dare you to watch the video she made for her family and not shed a tear.

My biggest fear? If this didn’t get her props, then nothing will.  And that’s a real shame.

 

Still, not everything was so bad. Amy Poehler won for her turn as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation! Elizabeth Moss won for Top of the Lake! Brian Cranston got some more love for Mr. White, while Breaking Bad also took the trophy for Best Drama!

Plus, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey were adorable and hilarious and everything that is right about the Golden Globes. If keeping them around means wallowing in tradition, then so be it. Until next year!

Welcome to overstuffeddvr.com

I can no longer contain my obsession with television and film.  I’ve loved both for a long time and have utilized Facebook almost exclusively as a platform to talk about both.  But I think it’s time to expand before my friends list collectively rises up in one harmonious mass to strike me down if I post one more aggravated reaction to Homeland.

So this is really a matter of personal safety.

But this still, I know, begs the question: why should you bother reading my ramblings?  Watching TV and movies has become my second job.  You know, the kind of job you put tons of hours into but that doesn’t pay a single cent.  Managing my DVR becomes, in the heyday of the season, an almost Herculean task.  After all, we are positively inundated with outstanding art in both mediums, and I do my best to keep up with as much of it as possible.  But more and more, I’ve become fascinated with reading and writing about what I’ve watched.  I’m no bona fide critic, just a guy with a thought or two on the shows and movies he loves, or hates, or finds meh.

But I suppose the best way for you to get to know me and see if our tastes align at all is to take a look at my Best Shows of 2013 List.  Here ya go:

1. Breaking Bad

2. Game of Thrones

3. The Good Wife

4. Justified

5. The Americans

6. Parks and Recreation

7. Boardwalk Empire

8. Broadchurch

9. Person of Interest

10. Black Mirror

Honorable Mentions: Parenthood, Shameless, Enlightened, Eastbound & Down, Fringe, Treme, Banshee, House of Cards, Veep, Family Tree, Arrested Development, Orange is the New Black, Downton Abbey, American Horror Story: Asylum, Hello Ladies, Nurse Jackie, American Horror Story: Coven, In the Flesh, Strike Back

 

See?  Told you I liked TV.

Another question might be percolating: what will I be able to find on this blog?  You can expect me to post some agglomeration (I also like big words) of news, episodic reviews/recaps, movie reviews, random Netflix recommendations, and other such  nuggets of gold.

I love the idea of TV and film as a social experience, and that’s what I want to cultivate here.  Comment, add, critique.  Just be kind.  I’m very sensitive.  😉 If you’re liking what I’m laying down here, you can also follow me on Twitter, @overstuffeddvr, where I’ll post immediate reactions to my favorite shows.

I hope you stick around and check my blog out.  We can cut through the small talk and just jump into a full-on TV & film conversation, shall we?  What are your favorites on right now?