Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Season Stretching It Out: How I Met Your Mother Season Six Lets Jason Segal Shine (But Little Else)!

The Good: Jason Segel’s acting, Moments of humor, Marshall’s character arc
The Bad: Ted’s arc is largely tired, Poor onscreen chemistry between Josh Radnor and Jennifer Morrison
The Basics: In its sixth season, How I Met Your Mother has its moments, but they are fewer and farther between, save a powerful arc for Marshall that allows Jason Segel to truly shine.

Concept television shows have it rough. Concept shows are television series’s where the concept is very simple and might initially seem unique, but the initial idea is largely all there is to the show. So, for example, House, M.D. could pretty much be reduced to the summary “acerbic but brilliant drug-abusing doctor solves medical mysteries while keeping his staff at an arm’s length” or Bones (season one reviewed here!) was initially sold as “an F.B.I. agent and a forensic scientist specializing in skeletal remains follow bone-related clues to solve crimes new and old.” Those types of shows quickly become repetitive or work hard to distance themselves from their original concept. How I Met Your Mother had it tough in that the longer the series progressed, the harder it was to stick to the concept and make viewers actually care. By the time the sixth season aired, the show was so far from its title and concept that the passing mentions of “the mother” illicit groans more than enthusiastic grins.

In the sixth season of How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby gets another girlfriend who is immediately evident as yet another in a long string of women Ted was with who was not, in fact, the mother of the children he is telling the story to. So, the entire relationship between Ted and Zoey is doomed to failure from the beginning and it becomes a far less pleasant waiting game than in prior seasons as the viewer waits for the inevitable implosion of their relationship. Worse than that, the producers and actors aren’t even trying to misdirect at this point; the casting of Jennifer Morrison as Zoey seems to have been done independently of her ability to play off Josh Radnor’s Ted Mosby: onscreen they have less chemistry than . . . well, any two people who have no on-screen chemistry.

The season opens with Robin seriously depressed following the fallout of her relationship with Don. While she is pretty much repugnant to Barney and Ted at that point, largely based on letting herself go (like chips in the hair lack of care for herself), Marshall and Lily begin working to have a child of their own. Marshall’s excitement about trying to have a child leads him to confide in his father, who sends along a crib and embarrasses Lily. As the season develops, so too does the relationship between Ted and the woman protesting his GNB Building, Zoey. As Ted and Zoey actually fall in love - which is hampered by Zoey being married to the eccentric Captain - Marshall's world is rocked by the death of his father. Barney starts dating Nora after dates with people like Zoey’s idiotic cousin.

But, as the fate of the Goliath National Bank Building is decided with Ted having to choose between his love of Zoey (and her love of the dilapidated Arcadian Hotel) and his desire to have an impact on New York City’s skyline, the relationship between Ted and Zoey takes the forefront. And while Marshall and Lily are forced to consider other options than pregnancy, they get a predictable surprise.

The sixth season of How I Met Your Mother includes concept episodes, like a parody of The Amazing Race. In the otherwise pointless episode, the quintet races around New York City trying to prove which mode of transportation and route is the fastest! In another, largely isolated, episode, Barney takes the bet that he can talk like a little boy to get a date. Perhaps the best concept episode involves a guest appearance from Jorge Garcia as a jinx and features a hilarious reference to his character from Lost (reviewed here!).

The characters in How I Met Your Mother are the same quintet that has been around since season one. In the sixth season, the major occurrences for each include:

Barney – He is hurt when, while moving his mother out of his boyhood home, he learns about his brother’s biological father and creates something of a scene when they go to meet him. In the process, he comes to learn just how hard his mother worked to protect and raise him. When Marshall’s father dies, he decides it is time to get in touch with his biological father. When he does that, he finds himself disappointed by a father who is anything but the party animal he remembers his father to be! This season, he is single free and clear until he begins to date Nora . . . though he still harbors some feelings for Robin,

Robin – Dates one of Marshall’s friends who happens to have a small penis. She is completely thrown when Ted reveals that she acts like she does not need her partner in a relationship, which is a characteristic Barney actually likes. Barney reunites her with her Canadian co-star from the children’s television show they starred on when she is concerned that Lily will abandon her when she has a child. She manages to be a good friend to Ted in this season without interfering with his relationship with Zoey,

Lily – She tries to get a girl after she is frustrated with how she and Marshall have had a hard time of conceiving. She goes a bit baby crazy (like working on figuring out baby names already!) and is heartbroken when she and Marshall fail to conceive. She gives Marshall the space he needs after his father dies and calls out Robin when Robin tries to keep secrets from the group,

Marshall – Works to get Lily pregnant with a boy when he starts thinking of how horrible all the guys treat women. His career remains solid until his father dies. When he loses his beloved father, he re-evaluates his life and starts looking into environmental law once again,

and Ted – Is wooed by Barney to act as the architect on the new Goliath National Bank building. Despite loving his teaching job, Ted succumbs to Barney’s pressure and is fine with the project, which will happen when the historic Arcadian Hotel is torn down, until a woman enters the picture. He begins an infatuation with a married woman after she (Zoey) fights to prevent his building from getting made. He briefly dates Robin’s infantile new co-anchor.

On the acting front, the story for the sixth season of How I Met Your Mother is all Jason Segel. Segel reveals a depth of dramatic ability that he ably presents when Marshall’s father dies. Segel plays serious and moody with a realism that is compelling and often heartbreaking to watch. This pushes Segel to present Marshall in a new light and he more than rises to the challenge. For one of the first times in the entire series, Marshall becomes the character to watch when Segel makes his lawyer character vulnerable and fascinating.

Without Segel’s performance and the devastating loss to Marshall’s character that becomes a compelling arc, the sixth season of How I Met Your Mother would largely be a wash. But it becomes a little better than an average sitcom because that arc and the performance ability shine brighter than one might have expected, making it worth watching, if not worth shelling out for the DVD set.

For other works with Jennifer Morrison, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Once Upon A Time - Season 1
Star Trek
House, M.D. - Season 4
House, M.D. - Season 3
House, M.D. - Season 2
House, M.D. - Season 1
Mr. And Mrs. Smith


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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