"I've got this killer up inside of me... I can't talk to my mother, (friends, women, coworkers, associates, affiliates, city council, the internets, the homeless or even your mother) so I talk to my diary."

-that Scarface song from Office Space

How I Met Your Ostensible Appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator:

When doing a google search of “How I Met Your Mother sucks,” I found the first page of results consisting of essentially journal entries written by ex-hardcore fans who now think the show went to shit, having already implied that it was at one point “the tits.” The first of these, from breathingbasketball.blogspot.com, actually begins it’s thesis by musing the (seemingly inconceivable) notion that a network sitcom which has been on for seven American Television seasons (the supposition being that each year beyond the first will most likely include at least twenty episodes) somehow becoming “painfully boring,” is unexpected. If you’re a person who is beyond convinced that a favorite TV show of yours is written and directed by magical fairies who consistently feel the same enthusiasm for the characters they’ve created as you do, despite having written thousands of lines of dialogue for them in eventually what comes at the behest of them wanting to remain consistently employed, then you need to stop having an opinion on anything that you aren’t professionally involved in because that breadth of a lack in scope is typically considered noise pollution before it gets itself jotted down into one of millions of blogs that generally obfuscate simple information searches.

One of the negatively opinionated articles I used to gauge the online opinion of this show is from toomuchfire.com. Though the article is biased against people watching “crappy” television without ever explaining what makes a television show other than this particular one “crappy” and is biased towards people reading, seeming as if the author would think more highly of an adult reading a book with Fabio on the cover than one watching a “crappy” sitcom, I do have to quote a sentence that I found humorous and arguably true, despite the authors argument for it being lax:

“Most importantly, all HIMYM requires of you is to sit on the couch next to your significant other while you don’t say a word to eachother (sic) and stare blankly at the television screen as you eat your healthy home-cooked meal on another, (sic) repetitive, soulless Monday night.”

I concur, even if the blogger doesn’t proofread and has a hate-on for television with a reasoning that isn’t clearly explained in any part of the article. So I’ll do the authors’ work for ’em.

After having watched an episode specifically endorsed by a close friend who is a fan of the show, I came away feeling the aforementioned blogger’s sentiment, even though I hadn’t read that sentence yet. The show didn’t inspire afterward discussion seeing as nothing during the episode was conducive to active thought, as well as presenting the viewer no real incentive to not talk over it while it is on in the background. I spent this twenty minutes distracted by my own internal criticism of it’s banality.

Since the cable connecting my rabbit-ears doesn’t reach the coaxial on my plasma TV, I haven’t watched anything as it aired on network television in close to ten years and I had figured from loosely collected evidence that the Disney Channel for a long while has held a monopoly on laugh-tracked, formulaic, mawkish, ’90’s style sitcoms. Watching even a minute of one of those shows around my six-year-old niece reminds me of the prime-time “family” sitcoms that I grew up with: Full House, Home Improvement, everything on TGIF, and it was here, on the Disney Channel that those shows belonged, albeit with scripts targeting pre-teens and post-toddlers in whose lazy, unimaginative parental figure finds solace from the event that this mindless garbage gets their child to shut up for half of an hour at a time. The simple difference is that this show hand-crafts itself a PG-13 edge which, I figure, escalates it towards an attempt at adult audiences.

Barney Stinson (played by NPH) is a character which is oriented towards superficial sexual-relationships, debuted a decade and a half after Seinfeld had already mastered that particular situation, and is used to give the impression that the writers are weighing their dialogue and character development on a triple-beam scale. This description at best serves to behoove him the greatest dynamic of all the show’s characters, but he is all too obviously scripted just to give the show a semblance of balance and beyond that, identity. He’s written too tame to be in an a R rated film or cable show yet not set in a world dynamic enough to showcase him as an actual satire of the relationships he’s busy skirting like Jerry or Elaine. Seinfeld also has the boon of never during an episode having betrayed it’s comedy with a shallow regrouping towards morality play which even the iconoclastic Barney finds himself a party to. Neil Patrick Harris, who everyone by now knows found renascence with his self parody in “Harold & Kumar” by proving that he was more than just a burnt-out child actor, definitely creates a funny character; but as in a discussion I’ve had about the show, one of my main points was that he is only seemingly so by proxy of the other characters being decidedly without luster.

Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel, who I find to be more than competent when directed, scripted or both by Judd Apatow) is the character that counters Barney’s “irreverent” one-liners since he is the only other character that doesn’t seem to be fully tied down by a plot device pilfered directly from “Friends.” Which seems to have the stems of an interesting character… until one considers his role as the fallible, yet well-meaning boyfriend, taken from countless “silly, dumb husband opposite good-looking, confident wife” sitcoms.

This brings us to the female leads; the only other male character is there to make it a five-piece and balance out one of the two females as Barney is a “ladies-man” who has no interest beyond being friends with either and is otherwise unremarkable except in that he looks far too much like Jimmy Fallon. He has as much charisma as an early ’90’s, mute SNES RPG hero and could be named as such: “_____” (the number of characters being X+(Y-X) when X equals the number of characters available for naming in Chrono Trigger and Y equals the number of characters available for naming in your own personal favorite RPG.) I had wanted to make a far more ridiculous equation here, but after so much editing elsewhere, I came to the conclusion that the specific point an equation here would be making is worth < or perhaps at best is = 0. Words, not numbers are my ammo, here.

Alyson Hannigan is a sentient Joss Wheadon fetish that plays Lily Aldrin, who’s character single-handedly proves that Joss Wheadon, if anything, is able to create characters that are memorable and survive beyond their medium. Assuming the idea is that her charm and persona are supposed to shine through Lily’s humorless, buzz-killing dialogue, I can attest that they do not. I watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer as a teenager but didn’t like it enough to rewatch it in my adulthood to verify it’s competence, therefore the “but it’s Willow,” aesthetic doesn’t hold up with me. For viewers that don’t find her character compelling being that it’s a composition of the obnoxious human traits that make friendships tiresome, yet as well aren’t simply Whedonites experiencing a prism of bliss from seeing Hannigan in something mainstream again, there is somewhat of an aside in the barely remarkable attempt at eye-candy featuring the other female lead.

Reading from fans and critics alike I note that they have stated that this character is there just to provide sexual tension with the other unmentioned male lead, read as: Ross and Rachael “Friends” recap. I would add to my previous assessment that her role is to distract anyone not getting any visual satisfaction from seeing Alyson Hannigan once a week and to be a vehicle for dialogue written just poorly enough to make Barney’s “witticisms” seem outlandishly hilarious.

Although I haven’t researched the phenomenon, there is an obvious paradigm insisting that American television shows must air episodes until the writers are bled dry, and left pale next to a nightstand displaying all of their collected blood inside of hospital piss-cups. This is in stark contrast to British television (aside from Doctor Who, obviously, and others, no doubt) where even vastly popular shows prove to have a controlled number of episodes. Two of my modern favorites, The Office and The Inbetweeners both ended with fewer than twenty. It’s as if instead of basing a program’s philosophy on content, portrayal of ideas or conceptual story arcing, American television begins with the premise: “Let’s entertain people forever by ingraining this single, effectively safe setup into the viewers.” When a single program somehow becomes a a hit, the dollar signs get chopped up and snorted by the execs and an addiction surmounts all plausible reason. The American adaptation of The Inbetweeners will no doubt follow this exact course if it actually happens to find an audience outside of those who are spiteful of their adored English comedy being localized, and the critical who find that our culture already has enough instances of it’s own youth dramatized.

In stark preparation for this thesis, I viewed a recently aired episode of The Big Bang Theory (my first), another show that people I share a workplace with mention every now and then as if it were original enough to fully represent some non existent sub-culture of intelligent young people that actually waste their time watching CBS. Experiencing a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory, which from what I read, actually rates higher than How I Met Your Mother, evinced one thing right after having watched a recent episode of both: that the writers of the two shows could be swapped with not a beat missed on either. The characters of both shows are two-dimensional, one-note stand-up comedians used to deliver what I do believe the writers think to be the most clever of lines which, without the laugh track to con the viewer into thinking that someone else find funny, aren’t.

These shows are written and produced for intellectually lazy, vapid viewers that have nothing better to do with their time than pretend that they aren’t actually existing. A show like The Big Bang Theory seems to go one step further and attempt with unusual language to usher the viewer into believing that they are actually intelligent for choosing to watch it, however the results are the same: giving a bored, lazy human animal something to help them pretend that they aren’t just simply zonking out and staring at an electronic wall. These shows exemplify stereotypes without adding a new layer to any of them; they showcase set-up/punchline comedy in an attempt to crudely downplay an absence of character development, a lack of any attempt at story progression and the acknowledgment of acting quality as a driving force in visual media.

Lastly, the type of person that spends years in a sexual relationship with someone and can identify with the “love” represented in these types of shows is the unthinking, rock-breaking cretin that still, in all that time, hasn’t gotten past the wide-eyed, public-affection displaying, saying “I love you” as a self-assurance-ritual that an honest friendship (read: a relationship without the pretense that it’s “higher level” just because the two people involved enjoy burying their mouths in one another’s genitals) grows out of in span of months and that, tellingly enough, teenagers can rarely do because they have no perspective. As for the “tribulations” that the relationships in these shows experience, I can only say that if one can actually identify with such scenarios as the acceptance of a girlfriend and eventual wife who wants to throw your Star Wars “shit” in the closet, or a boyfriend and possible husband who doesn’t take your side when you’re making a poor, emotionally driven argument, then you are still in that adolescent phase which disallows you from having any real-world perspective on how eclectic people can be, which eternally locks one into the idea that no other person could ever “get you” better than this; let alone expressing an obvious lack of perspective on yourself, ie: the relationship you have which happens to relate to this is going to eventually erode into disillusionment.

These shows glory in this staple of the common man, that, because of the nature of the thing, most people do not choose to come to terms with the premise of their own relationships and they are from them fed back reassurance that it is acceptable, if not necessary; and the shows that are “edgy” besides, (How I Met Your Mother, Two-and-a-half Men) have a character that is simply just a stereotypical polar opposite of sexual relationship seekers and offers no honest challenge to the status quo: the womanizing, “douche-bag individualist”, written for bachelors to relate for demographics sake.

The crux for me becomes abundantly hefty here. If the sole reason anyone does anything is strictly to stop themselves from thinking, then they have a psychological disorder that probably doesn’t have a name yet. Drug addicts get a bad rap because of not only the potential for erratic behavior, but for what I think is the typical view of them as wastrels who contribute nothing and scrounge for hand-outs; but there are apparently ten million people a week distracting themselves at least with these shows and I say that their motivation is the same as the drug addict: to dilute their own minds. Human beings think, that’s what they do and on this planet they do it best; if this is a bane in your existence, kill yourself so, as Bill Hicks once said, I can be one car length ahead in traffic tomorrow.

Art exists as what I think to be an accidental appeal of one mind to another; a human composes a song, paints or writes a play out of some un-tameable internal drive that perhaps someone else happens upon and derives some kind of vicarious pleasure from. When corporatist mentality forces an “artist’s” goal to be the inuring of other human beings into the acceptance of unquestioning banality, then their argument for your time is no better than the commercials that insulate it happen it to be a television show, and otherwise cobweb every area of our modern lives. These two shows as well as much of TV (especially sitcoms) are advertisements for a way of life; the selling point is in making the viewer feel that their own life is less interesting than the ones being portrayed.

One point that I am not implying is that watching this kind of programming in an ubiquitously lackadaisical manner is to automatically identify with it, but some level of self-identifying is necessary to find the situations in these torpid comedies “funny” or “interesting,” because they aren’t being honestly satirical in any fashion. Despising the characters for their white-washed values instead of refusing to challenge them at all would give them a semblance of depth that would make the writing more hard-pressed to be less lazy. The overly self-indulgent Sheldon Cooper is clearly not a satire because his name-dropping references are a key to the chastity belts of a specific, untapped demographic of uber-nerds who are on the fence of finally seeing their virginity loosed in the purview of society’s mirror. The two sides of that fence, from what I gather about The Big Bang Theory, are on one side, those already self-identified uber-nerds who revile the show as being a generic portrayal of things the they feel have actual heart and substance to be used as hollow punchlines; the other, greener side, is of those who watch the show in a generic fashion and find vicarious humor in personally knowing at least one individual who would get all of the show’s hollow punchlines and obscure episode titles even though they, while still enjoying it, sometimes or perhaps mostly, don’t.

I don’t think anyone is going to proffer the argument that How I Met Your Mother was ever intended to make anyone reevaluate their premises; but that makes and secures my point: if you’re stupid enough to not be insulted by this crap then you’re just smart enough to keep this economy running like a wheel-worn hamster who’s only reprieve from the senselessness of existence is watching insipid television.

-BrianshipPotemkin

As an addendum, I’ll mention that it was brought to my attention that anyone who does find shows like this entertaining is most likely below the reading level required to understand, refute, accept or even be piqued to the point of finishing this thesis and given my argument, that statement actually sums it all up. Well… fuck me all to hell.

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