Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Place Called Hope

Future Ted (Bob Saget): I didn't give up on my dream house because that's the thing about stupid decisions; we all make them, but time is funny and sometimes a little magical. It can take a stupid decision and turn it into something else entirely. Because, kids, as you know, that house ... is this house.

How I Met Your Mother was one of those TV shows that I got in on late — very late.

It premiered in 2005, but I didn't watch it until five years ago tonight, when the episode "Home Wreckers" first aired. Not watching it until the fifth season was a mistake. Anyway, I started watching it, occasionally at first, then more regularly. And, thanks to syndication and Netflix, I have managed to see most of the episodes I missed the first time around — but there are still some episodes I haven't seen yet.

In hindsight, I guess it's amazing that I ever watched another episode after watching the one that was on five years ago tonight. It wasn't a bad episode; I just don't think it was anything really special. Certainly, I have seen better episodes of How I Met Your Mother. But you gotta start somewhere.

The best episodes of any sitcom — at least as far as I am concerned — are the ones that deal with relationships, and the episode of How I Met Your Mother took on several kinds of relationships, a tall order for a half–hour program. Yes, it was an ambitious undertaking, but How I Met Your Mother managed to pull it off — satisfactorily if not spectacularly.

Things began with Ted (Josh Radnor) learning that his mother (Cristine Rose) had accepted a marriage proposal from her slacker boyfriend Clint (Harry Groener), who seemed to have no problem telling Ted what an erotic mother he had.

"Please don't," Ted would say when Clint started to relate such tales to him. I thought it was funny. The eccentric sense of humor of the series appealed to me.

I haven't seen the episodes often enough now to put them into context. I'm not sure if Clint was a character in episodes prior to this one. I guess he must have been because the next thing I knew, Clint and Ted's mother were getting married, and Clint was singing some godawful song he had composed for the occasion.

It really was terrible, with some kind of closing refrain about Mahatma Gandhi and pancakes and a dragon — which fueled a subplot in which either Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) or Robin (Cobie Smulders) had been moved to tears by it. I say either because it was increasingly unclear which one had been crying.

Ted, however, was unable to take any more of the wedding so he left without offering a toast to the newlyweds. He didn't resurface for three days, which had everyone worried about his whereabouts. When he did, he told his friends he was "on top of the world" and wanted to show them something. So they all got in his car and drove to see his "dream house," on which he had just closed the deal.

His mother's wedding, you see, had been something of a wakeup call for him. He realized that all the things he had thought he would have — like a wife and children and a home — he didn't have.

Lily (Alyson Hannigan), ever the voice of reason in the group, observed that it would take years "and a small fortune" to restore the house, but Ted was undeterred. The wife and kids part was taking longer than he expected, but he could take care of the house part. That was something he could control.

"I'm an architect," he protested. "I'll find a way. And if I start right now, hopefully it'll be ready by the time me and the wifey are ready to move in."

"Is she in the room with us right now, Ted?" Barney asked.

The general consensus of the group was that Ted had done a stupid thing, but Marshall (Jason Segel) defended him — opening up yet another subplot. We've all done stupid things, Marshall contended, offering himself as an example. There was a time, he said, when he dropped some bottle rockets in the toilet and then tried to dry them out in the microwave.

Robin thought Marshall must have been drunk when he did that, but Barney said he had to have been a kid, which inspired Marshall to create a new game in which he related stupid things he had done throughout his life, and his friends had to guess whether he had been drunk or a kid when he did them. It was the kind of free association that I liked about the series. But there was much more to it than that.

At that point, Ted showed the gang the back porch, where he planned to have cookouts every weekend.

Turned out there were a lot of problems with the house. It had structural issues not to mention a variety of creatures who had found shelter under the house's roof.

And Ted conceded there were problems with the house, but he insisted that "I see this house for what it can be."

Eventually, Ted concluded that "Sometimes our best decisions are the ones that don't make any sense at all." He returned to his new house and found Marshall cooking some hot dogs on the back porch — and Marshall offered a keen observation about Ted. "Your heart is both drunk and a kid," he said.

Ted showed Marshall the ideas he had for the house as the sound of "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young played in the background. And the audience learned that the house had, indeed, been the future home for Ted and the mother of his children.

I don't remember now why I decided to watch it, but there were enough things about it that I found intriguing that I felt compelled to watch it again and again. I'm glad I did. I thought it was a rewarding series — excellent writing, great acting, superb entertainment — and the best part, for me, is that, because I didn't see many of the episodes when they first aired, it is a series that continues to be new for me. The stories behind mysterious references to things that the audience already knew are revealed to me whenever I see an episode I have never seen before. And then I want to see other episodes again, armed with the knowledge of what those mysterious references meant.

It's the kind of quality television that one doesn't see very often.