Monday, April 18, 2011

A Magician Never Reveals His Greatest Trick: Recap of HIMYM 6x21 'Hopeless'

Well this season has been quite the emotional roller-coaster for Barney. First the guy finds out he has a dad (who he thought was his uncle mind you) and then he finds out his uncle dad now has a whole separate life…complete with another son. That kind of news would be devastating to anyone, especially someone as emotionally insecure as Barney.

The reason HIMYM is such a success is because it’s simply a show about people. The writers have done a fabulous job developing very real and complex characters. And while all the characters on the show have an interesting story, Barney’s story might just be the most complex.

While we have always gotten hints that there was more to Barney than meets the eye, we didn’t truly see another side to him until season 4, the season where he admitted he was in love with Robin J Let me get this out of the way--YES I do ship Barney & Robin so if that’s going to annoy you I advise you to stop reading now.

Okay, still with me? Let’s continue.

I feel that some of the best episodes of the series have dealt with Barney’s feelings for Robin (i.e. “Benefits”--AWESOME episode). Now I will be the first one to say that the beginning of season 5 was less than stellar. Barney is definitely more fun to watch when he isn’t in a committed relationship, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be happy once the series comes to an end. Actually considering how much he’s emotionally matured throughout the series, it wouldn’t make sense for him to not end up a changed and happy man.  

Tonight’s episode “Hopeless” was filled with tons of emotional growth. It seemed to be a real turning point for the Barnacle. This episode was a direct continuation of “Legendaddy” (which oddly I just realized I never did a review for). “Legendaddy” ended with Barney walking out on his dad, mostly because he couldn’t handle the fact that his father was never there for him. “Hopeless” shows that despite the pain, Barney still wants his father in his life.

Barney invites his dad to go clubbing with the gang. He does this with one goal in mind: to get his dad to realize that the partying life is awesome and to drag him back into it. In order to do this, Barney feels he needs to make the circumstances of his life look perfect (further proof that Barney constantly hides behind a smokescreen of awesome, afraid to come out into the real world). This fake front includes being friends with “awesome people.” Although he already has some top notch friends, he forces the gang to take on different “cooler” personas.  According to Barney: Marshall is now a playwright, Lily is basically Meryl Streep, Lily and Marshall are in an “open marriage,” Robin is a professional scotch drinker, Ted is himself with MANY restrictions…and last but CERTAINLY not least Ted & Robin are dating.   

Now why do Ted & Robin need to be dating to give Barney’s dad the perfect impression? This is Barney’s reasoning:

I can’t have any single female friends lying around. My dad will be all “Why don’t you marry Robin? You guys are cute together. Deep down you know you were never happier than when you were with her.”

When Barney said this line, I literally jumped off of my couch and ran towards the TV. I didn’t even realize what I was doing until I was inches from the screen. I guess I was so excited at the prospect of Barney having feelings for Robin again, that I needed to get as close to the TV as possible to take the whole thing in (yeah it makes no sense, but just go with it). After Barney says that everyone gives him a strange look--especially Robin. This made me smile. I truly feel that this line, along with Robin’s reaction, was put in there to foreshadow things to come. Why else would the writers have Barney say something like that??

Anyway, as planned, the gang goes with Barney’s dad to a club. Long story short, Barney’s dad fakes being drunk to trick his son into bonding with him (an oddly similar tactic used by a certain someone earlier in the episode ;) ), Lily and Marshall have a competition to see who is better at the whole “open marriage” thing, and Ted & Robin are constantly at each other’s throats.

In the club Robin sees a dude who she apparently ran into at a department store a few years back. He is super hot, and she is really excited that she has the chance to talk to him again. However, staying true to “himself,” Ted comes up to her while she’s talking to cute boy and announces that he is her boyfriend. Needless to say this pisses Robin off. She wants Ted to tell the dude (for now I will refer to him as cute boy) that they are broken up to which Ted replies “I would have stolen you a whole orchestra. K, what’s the rest?” This broke my heart. It was the exact exchange that happened when they really did break up, and to me it was so cute (and so sad) that he remembered.

While Robin is trying to convince Ted to go over and talk to cute boy, Ted learns that she got this “crush” while he and Robin were still dating. Angry, instead of telling cute boy they are broken up, Ted announces to the whole bar that he and Robin are engaged. This causes Robin to miss her chance once again (but we do learn from future Ted that cute boy does eventually come back into the picture).

So while Ted & Robin are bickering, Barney leaves the bar with his “drunk” dad and thinks they are having this epic time, because he is too drunk to understand what is really going on. When his dad finally confesses that he’s not drunk, Barney finally gets that he and his dad aren’t so different after all.

In order to get back on time to go fishing with his other son, Barney’s dad cons one of his driver’s ed students into driving him all the way home. After having somewhat of a breakthrough with his dad, and despite not wanting to go fishing, Barney ends up going along for the ride.

During this ride the two of them have a heartfelt conversation. Barney basically admits that he loves his party hardy lifestyle, but he isn’t sure if he likes that he loves it. He starts to make it clear that he wants what his dad has--a stable life, a stable family, the whole enchilada. He also makes it clear that he fears he is too broken to get to that point in his life. In a heartwarming moment his dad reassures him that Barney is nowhere near as broken as he once was. He tells Barney that he can have whatever life he wants. When Barney asks "how" his dad says "a magician never reveals his greatest trick." This is truly touching because when it comes down to it the answer to that question is different for everyone (plus Barney and his dad both love win win).

Finally Barney concludes that maybe his dad is right…maybe he can have a different life, and maybe all he needs to make that happen is the perfect girl. When Barney starts to say his thoughts out loud, the driver tries to tell Barney that he will meet this girl soon…but then Barney throws a bombshell on the audience. He says that he might have already met her.

Okay to be honest, when Barney said that statement I don’t think he was talking about Robin. Barney is so screwed up right now and is just starting to figure things out. Even if he does have feelings for Robin I think they are buried so deep that he isn’t quite sure how to dig them out yet. So who else would Barney have been talking about? Easy--Nora. And although this might seem bad for Barney and Robin, I really feel like it’s a good thing. The two of them still aren’t emotionally ready yet. Maybe by dating other people (i.e. Nora and cute boy) they will finally realize their true feelings .

All in all this episode showed great emotional growth for Barney and in my book was a definite WIN.I am so happy that he is finally allowing himself to be vulnerable again, and I am especially happy that this is occurring because of his father. Barney needs a good father figure in his life, and if he lets his dad in, he might just get that.

What did you guys think of the episode?? Do you think Barney will be closer to his dad now? Do you think his comments about Robin foreshadowed anything?? Chime in below!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why Adults Like iCarly

Through all my research on children’s TV, I have noticed a common thing--adults like iCarly. Not only do they like iCarly, they are ashamed to admit they like it. After all iCarly is on Nick and isn’t exactly aimed at the adult demographic. But despite being a “kids' show” adults seem to really attach themselves to it, and there’s a good reason why.

There are many kids’ shows out there. Most of them are super cheesy...just simple shows that kids can easily understand. Occasionally though, a kids’ show comes along that appeals to adults too, a kids’ show that has phenomenal acting and writing, a kids’ show that well…doesn’t really seem much like a kids’ show at all. Currently I feel like there are two kids’ shows on the air that meet these criteria--Wizards of Waverly Place & iCarly. I’m not going to go into my adoration of Wizards of Waverly Place right now because this post is supposed to be about iCarly. But I do want to give a shout out to the awesome Disney show: Hey Wizards, good work! Keep the 80’s references in your spells! “Please please tell me now, is there something I should know, Duraniam Duraniam” will forever be one of my favorite phrases!

Okay now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about what I originally intended this article to focus on--iCarly. iCarly is one of many shows created by the tween TV king Dan Schneider. Now when I say tween TV king I really do mean it--Mr. Schneider has had many hits over the years (All That, Kenan & Kel, Drake & Josh just to name a few). I grew up with Schneider’s early shows, so I understand that I am a bit biased regarding his work. There are many types of shows/books/movies/etc. that I loved as a child but grew out of as an adult. I always assumed that Schneider’s shows would fit this formula--something to laugh at when I was younger, but then grow apart form. Well long story short, I was wrong. When iCarly premiered I was already an adult. It was definitely not a show geared towards my demographic, but I loved it anyways.

iCarly has always been an extremely funny show. There are always jokes for kids and adults, witty dialogue and relatable plots. While a lot of kids’ shows have these types of traits, iCarly possesses something that catapults it far above other children’s shows--the cast’s chemistry.

I remember reading an article a few years back, about a little TV show called Friends. The creators were saying that they really lucked out in the casting department. Granted the writing for the show was phenomenal, but it was the cast that made the scripts reach their full potential. And why was that? The creators had an easy answer for that question: the cast’s chemistry. Ever since I read that article I’ve paid very close attention to the chemistry between actors. I think as a result I tend to favor shows where the cast really clicks. To me, iCarly is one of those shows. The actors just go together and everything just works perfectly.

What’s interesting about iCarly is the complexity of the show’s characters. Most children’s shows have very flat characters. For instance a kids’ show might have a “good” character, a “funny” character, an “evil” character and so on and so forth. It makes sense that children’s shows would create such flat characters because these types of characters are easier for a child to understand. In iCarly however, the characters are not flat at all. Each character is very multi-dimensional and this is seen through the way they act with one another.

The show centers around four characters: Carly, her older brother Spencer, and her two best friends Sam & Freddie (a fifth main character, Gibby, was added this season, but the main plots don't really center around him). When iCarly first started it was pretty typical as far as kids' shows go. Carly was the lead girl, Freddie was the lead boy, and Sam was the sidekick. Each character had certain quirks that made them entertaining. Carly was typically the moral compass of the show, while her best friend Sam was the complete opposite. Freddie was the “token boy” who was in love with the main character. As the show went on though the characters began to develop more and more and Schneider kept pushing the boundaries of how dramatic he could make his show.

Finally in season 2 there was a pretty emotional episode—“iKiss.” In this episode Carly & Sam discuss their first kisses. While Freddie doesn’t talk about his, he finally opens up to Carly once Sam leaves the room. He explains that he has never kissed a girl before, and while he was comfortable saying this to Carly, he made it very clear that he didn’t want Sam to know. Well like all sitcoms, Sam of course overhears Freddie & Carly’s private conversation. Earlier on in the episode Freddie had pulled a prank on Sam, and she had told him she was going to get him back. This was her golden opportunity, the perfect way to embarrass Freddie. She keeps the info to herself, and then the next week when the gang tapes their next episode of iCarly she shares Freddie’s secret LIVE on iCarly.

Freddie is devastated and stays home from school to avoid being made fun of by the other kids. Eventually Sam realizes how badly she hurt him. Carly freaks out at Sam and tells her that she did something awful and that she went “too far this time.” Now Sam is in no way ever made out to be a vulnerable character, but she does something very interesting in this episode. She tells everyone on the web that actually she has never been kissed either, and that they should leave Freddie alone. She then goes to find Freddie so she can apologize in person.

Had this been any other kids' show, I doubt the writers would have put this much thought into the resolution. On another kids' show Sam would be seen as the “evil character.” Because viewers are not emotionally invested in evil characters, writers are able to use an easy way out of situations like this one. They simply have something bad happen to the evil character, which allows the good character to rise above. However, Schneider did not go this route at all. Instead he gave his viewers a deeper look inside Sam’s character, and in that moment really made Sam a multi-layered person. When Sam apologizes to Freddie he accepts, and after discussing how neither of them had ever kissed anyone, they decided to kiss each other. Again, in a normal kids' show this would have never happened. Why would the “boy with the heart of gold that belongs to the main character” ever kiss the “evil sidekick.” And that is what makes iCarly so special.

As I was saying before, all of this comes back to the cast’s chemistry. Jennette McCurdy plays Sam on the show and Nathan Kress plays Freddie. The two of them are very close in real life, so it’s understandable that they would have great chemistry with one another on set. I really admire that Schneider didn’t ignore this factor. Many creators might have thought “Well yeah Jennette & Nathan have chemistry, but Sam is supposed to be evil. She isn’t supposed to get Freddie. Freddie is a good boy and deserves to end up with Carly. That’s just the way these shows work.” Rather than taking the easy way out, Schneider decided to make the most out of Nathan & Jennette’s chemistry and went for it. He began to have episodes where the audience was able to see Sam in a different light (“iKiss” being one of them). And through all of this he was able to produce very three dimensional characters, which for him has really paid off.

“iKiss” aired 2 years ago, and since then the characters of Carly, Freddie and Sam have really evolved. There have been other emotional episodes that have focused on relationships and character development (in fact the most recent episode, "iOMG", really showcases just how much the characters have changed). Because of this even adults have become invested in iCarly. iCarly isn’t just a silly kids' show; it genuinely tells a good story and has an awesome creator and cast to back this story up.

Recently iCarly won the Kid’s Choice Award for best TV Show. This was their third consecutive win. It is easy to understand why this show has such a following and garners so much praise. With all of Schneider and the cast’s hard work, this show has evolved into a truly a great TV program. iCarly is the real deal, and they recently just got renewed for a 5th season (something very unheard of with kids' shows). Hopefully with even more episodes coming, iCarly will continue to be given the credit it deserves and adults won’t be ashamed to say they like a kids' show--because when it comes down to it, it’s really much more than that.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Supportive or Challenging Relationship? : Recap of HIMYM 6X20 'The Exploding Meatball Sub'

As has been the case this entire season, tonight’s episode of How I Met Your Mother was great. Tonight’s episode looked at different types of relationships: supportive relationships, challenging relationships, and I-cant-believe-you’re-quitting-I-am-going-to-blow-you-up-with-a-meatball-sub relationships (you can’t get more HIMYM than that). For each type of relationship the audience saw pros and cons. I really loved that the show delved so much into positives and negatives of different relationships, because it made the episode feel all the more real to me. If they would have just focused on supportive, it probably would have gotten old fast. If they would have focused on challenging, that would have just been irritating. But instead they contrasted both extremely well, and in the end showed that a supportive relationship is ultimately healthier (duh). I loved it.

In the very beginning of the episode when everyone was teasing Lily and Marshall about basically being the same person and always getting along, I knew it would annoy them. That is why Lily’s line to Ted right before the opening credits was probably my favorite line of the episode:
Marshall and I have been together 15 years and the only debate we have had about Tommy Boy was whether it was awesome or super awesome. That’s love, bitch.
When she said that line, it killed me. It basically summed up why I love those two so much. They just fit together so well and there is no denying that. But although you can’t deny their love, I knew from the get-go that Lily and Marshall were going to face some problems during this episode. It was just perfectly set up for that…and I was right.

During tonight’s episode Lily and Marshall were the example of an extremely supportive couple. For the entire episode Lily kept supporting Marshall no matter what. I was just sitting there waiting for her to snap. Then the scene came where Lily dragged Ted with her to the airport (because of his oh so wonderful Spanish) to go pick up someone for Marshall’s NRDC gathering. Naturally the conversation in the car between Ted & Lily went back to the argument they’d been having the entire episode- which type of relationship is better: supportive or challenging? With her and Ted arguing in the car, I was just waiting for her to explode and admit to Ted that too much support isn’t necessarily a good thing. By the end of the car ride, the only change in Lily’s behavior really, was her agreeing with Ted that maybe one relationship isn’t really better than the other. I was shocked that she wasn’t freaking out…

And then she got out of the car.

When Lily told Ted she was going to Spain and wasn’t even going to tell Marshall, I lost it. I read a lot of reviews and blog posts about Lily, and a lot of people bash her. Personally, Lily is one of my favorite characters. She keeps everyone grounded, but still has her quirks (and I mean…she’s played by Alyson Hannigan…so how can you not love her?). Anyway, one of the main arguments people tend to have against Lily is that she is selfish. People use the fact that Lily up and left Marshall for SF and broke off their engagement as evidence of her selfishness. Yes…okay…that definitely wasn’t the best move, but the girl was freaking out. She needed to do what was right for her, and it would have been a bad idea (in my opinion) to go through with the wedding without being fully happy about her decision. A wedding is a BIG deal, and I’m glad she got all of her sh*t straightened out beforehand. I don’t blame her for what she did. However, now that Marshall and Lily have been married for almost 4 years (wow), I would expect Lily to be able to confide in her husband what she was feeling. When she told Ted she was going to Spain I immediately thought “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” I couldn’t think of a legitimate reason why Lily would do that. If she left and went to Spain I felt like I wouldn’t be able to forgive her…it wasn’t the same as leaving for San Francisco because of an impending life altering decision….it would just be running away from something that could easily be solved.

So long story short, it’s really hard for me to get mad at Lily, but at that point I was furious and felt like she needed to have a damn good reason for what she was doing. Finally all her thoughts came spilling out to Ted about how she can’t support Marshall constantly and blah blah blah. I still kept saying to myself “That still doesn’t mean you should just up and leave.”

Then Lily said something that punched me right in the gut. She said she felt like Marshall didn’t care about having a baby anymore. Immediately hearing her say that my emotions changed and I understood where she was coming from. Ted’s attitude visibly changed too and he tried to comfort her. In that moment I was so proud of How I Met Your Mother. The characters had gotten me so wrapped up in the story that I was blindsided by Lily’s true feelings, and then had the same reaction as Ted when I figured out what was going on. It made me feel like the moment was so real. To me, that is the sign of a great show.

When Lily ran off and Ted went back to Marshall’s apartment, I was definitely worried about what Ted should say to Marshall. I mean what does one say in a situation like that “Oh your wife couldn’t handle you anymore so she literally fled to Spain.”?? Before Ted was able to say anything to Marshall though, I had this strange feeling that Lily would come running in- and she did, which only made me love her character even more. Lily is so complex and like anyone, has her faults. But at the end of the day she knows what comes first- and that is Marshall.

I don’t know if anyone picked up on this, but tonight’s episode paralleled Season 1’s episode “Milk” so much. I love when television shows draw parallels like that and this was no exception. Even when Ted and Lily were talking at the airport and I was mad at her, I couldn’t help but think of “Milk” and how sweet it was that Lily was confiding in Ted. I absolutely love their friendship. So the fact that her freak out happened with Ted, made me enjoy this episode even more.

Now I’ve rambled on enough about Lily and Marshall, so I’d like to touch on Barney’s subplot for a moment. As always Barney was hilarious tonight. He was clearly upset about Marshall quitting his job, and even though Robin was convinced it was because of abandonment issues (which I still believe was part of the problem) Barney went on to tell the tale of how he needed to get Marshall back with an exploding meatball sub…and that all of his anger was because Marshall quit before he could carry out his plan. When Barney said all of that to Robin, I looked at the TV and said “What is wrong with you?” Robin had the same reaction, which I loved, because like I said earlier, it made the show feel all the more real to me.

Also about the subplot, I loved that Robin was trying to help out Barney. Hell, I love how much Robin has been helping Barney out all season (i.e. Nora). In my eyes those two are destined for each other and it is just a matter of time. And speaking of them being “destined for each other” in the tag I watched very carefully to see if Robin was wearing a wedding ring. I don’t think she was, but she was the one closest to Barney when he was on his “deathbed.” She also looked FURIOUS when he said he wasn’t really sick, while everyone else looked extremely confused. This gives me hope that maybe something can happen between them in the future…yeah I know I’m grasping at straws, but I just love those two.

All in all this was a great episode. I give it a WIN. And wow…I just realized I didn’t even talk about Ted and 
Zoey. Oh well. Zoey won’t be important soon anyway J.

So what did you guys think of this episode? Did you feel for Lily when she was freaking out? Did you agree with the viewpoints on supportive vs. challenging relationships? Did you think Barney was a WACK JOB? Chime in below!