The online home for Greg Leedberg, since 1995.

Friday, December 16, 2005

TV Show Pick 2005 - How I Met Your Mother

Now here's something for a non-technology post!

Every year I like to try and pick my favorite new TV show, based on a variety of factors. What matters to me most is the intelligence and quality of the writing, the acting ability of the cast, how well matched the cast is with their roles, and lastly, whether or not the show has a sense of why it exists. For example, a show that predominately aspires to be a family comedy will likey have a vastly different style than a show that aspires to be "edgy" -- but frequently shows lack this sense of purpose.

I think I generally make good picks. Which is not to say every show I pick goes on to last 10 seasons. I think it's generally accepted the good shows are not always necessarily successful shows -- which is unfortuate. But I don't care as much about success, I care about quality.

I generally stick to picking comedy-style shows. Some shows I've picked in the past have been Family Guy, Grounded For Life (in its pre-WB life), and Freaks and Geeks. If you give any of those shows a chance, you'd probably see that they're all pretty good based on the virtues I mentioned above.

So what's my pick this year? I was surprised by this pick as I didn't expect much from this show, but I've picked How I Met Your Mother on CBS.

One strong point with this show is that it has an amazing cast, mostly drawn from shows that 20-somethings will remember. Neil Patrick Harris (from Doogie Howser), Alyson Hannigan (from American Pie and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Jason Segel (from the aforementioned Freaks and Geeks) all have starring roles, along with newcomers (to me, at least) Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders, and Bob Saget (of Full House fame) as the narrator. The cast is great, and has had several recognizable cameos, including several from Freaks and Geeks, as well as Winnie from the Wonder Years.

But a good cast doesn't make a good show. The premise of the show is that Bob Saget's character (who, much like in The Wonder Years, we hear but never see) is telling his children the story of how he met their mother, and this story is given to us in the form of extended flashbacks to his post-college but pre-marriage days. The fact that this is a story being told gives the show an interesting air to it, and frequently this plot device is used in quircky and interesting ways.

The stories frame these 5 young people, searching for purpose in their lives and making memories along the way. Three of the characters (played by Harris, Radnor, and Smulders) are single, and searching for their perfect mate. Segel and Hannigan play a very convincing engaged couple, who provide a great contrast to the other characters.

They all fill their roles perfectly. Neil Patrick Harris plays a guy who is just looking for fun and girls and has no desire to settle down. Josh Radnor plays the main character who, like many people in their 20's, is conflicted between wanting a young, wild life and wanting a mature relationship as an adult. Cobie Smulders plays, more or less, the female version of Radnor -- and frequently is aluded to potentially being his ultimate love interest. As mentioned, Segel and Hannigan are engaged, and are just barely over the line in life that their friends are on the verge of crossing. Everyone plays their role great, and the interplay of characters is realistic and engaging.

And they are supported by surprisingly sharp writing this early in the life of the show. The jokes are clever, and stories are interesting and believable, and most of the episodes wrap up in a reflective, yet tongue-in-cheek, ending.

In the end, How I Met Your Mother is an endearing show with lots of potential. It is by no means a perfect show in its current form, but it far outshines most shows in their first season. If it is given the chance to continue and refine, it could be one of the best sitcoms since Friends.