"How I Met Your Mother" has jumped the shark. In truth, it has been ailing for a while - the show depends on not wrapping up its main storyline, but it has now been in a holding pattern for some years; the writers ran out of things to do with Robin about two years ago; and they're now determined to have Barney 'grow up', and given that the best thing about the show was his determination not to do so, that's a big blow.
But the episode that I watched on Saturday (a repeat from the first half of the seventh season, but not one I'd watched previously) was dire, and I think marks the point of no return.
Part of the plot of the episode was another instance of "Ted dates a woman who is not their mother". Or, rather, it was a case of the writers and the cast yet again going through the motions of that storyline. But, while tedious, that was not the worst thing about the episode.
Neither was their use of Robin this episode, who serves solely as a means for them to include their special guest star du jour, Kal Penn. Again, they don't know what to do with the character... so they make use of her to include her boyfriend? Bad stuff...
But the major problem with the show, which has been ongoing for the past season and a quarter, and which is guaranteed to run for at least the rest of the season, is the 'baby' storyline. Which I wouldn't mind so much, except that it's exactly the same as every baby storyline in every other sitcom ever - the parents to be start thinking about having a baby, then they wonder if they're ready, then they decide they're ready but for some reason one of them delays, then they finally go ahead and run into fertility problems. This then leads to the episode where they consult a specialist, and we get to vicariously go through the pain of wondering if they maybe can't hace children (spoiler: they can). A few short episodes later, and the woman is pregnant. Yay!
Then we have the inevitable run of episodes focussing on pregnancy. So, there's the goofy midwife (every time). There's the "shall we find out the sex of the baby" episode (spoiler: they do, and spoiler: it's a boy), then the "what shall we name the baby" episode (spoiler: whatever they choose, that's not the name), then a fairly quiet spell, and then the inevitable "hilarious" episode where one or both parents have to rush to the hospital (spoiler: they make it, just barely in time).
(Occasionally, you also get a subplot where the parents discover there's a chance the baby may inherit some genetic disease, and get all worried about that. Spoiler: the child is perfectly healthy.)
Now, the spoilers above aren't for "How I Met Your Mother" - after all, we're only part way through the baby plot in that show. But they seem to apply incredibly widely to sitcoms (and, indeed, TV in general). Eventually, they all seem to do the 'baby' storyline, and then it's plotting by numbers.
Incidentally, regarding the "spoiler: it's a boy"... You'd think that there should be a roughly equal possibility of either a boy or a girl. But, actually, on any given show you can be reasonably sure that the first child born will be a boy. Then, if there is a second child, she will be a girl. This seems to be an almost universal pattern. (The biggest exception I could think of was "Frasier", where the first child born is Roz's daughter... but that doesn't really count - years before "Cheers" had done the 'baby' storyline, and the child born was Frasier's son.)
I wouldn't mind the 'baby' storyline, if they actually gave us something new. But now that so many shows have done it so many times, and since the storyline plays out in an almost identical manner each time, it's become something I dread. It's repetitive, lazy storytelling - better almost to write the parents out of the show for a while, if only to avoid the same tired jokes being told yet again.
Oh well. It had a good run. But it's now time for "How I Met Your Mother" to wrap up - it's done.
#10: "Pathfinder: The Empty Throne", by Neil Spicer