The danger with a character like Barney on How I Met Your Mother is that he is, on a lot of occasions, really not a very nice person. So the writers have to find a balance between that smarminess — which admittedly is a sizable part of the character’s appeal — and still keep him likable.
For too much of Monday’s episode, though, the balance got tipped a little too far toward Bad Barney. And, like Marshall’s bachelor party, the show wasn’t as fun as it could have been.
Sure, his running amok in planning Marshall’s bachelor party, despite Ted’s best efforts to foil him, allowed for some vintage Barney-isms: "This one’s in HDTV … this one’s in H-double-D-TV"; "Oh, I got the wrong Deep Impact"; "X-rays — more like Triple X-rays." And yeah, the backstory on why he left Marshall in his hour of need — to fly to San Francisco and convince Lily to come back to New York — was incredibly sweet.
But the bachelor-party story (even with the extra MySpace footage) just didn’t quite do it for me. Although there were a couple other well-observed touches as well — the explanation of bachelor-party archetypes, for instance — the episode felt a little too Sitcom 101 for me.
The episode’s other story was also out of the sitcom playbook: Robin buys a racy bridal-shower gift for Lily, is horrified to discover the party is attended by Lily’s mom, grandmother, novitiate cousin and a couple of little kids and then switches her card with another to cover her tracks.
It worked, though, which is testament to Alyson Hannigan — the look on her face as she opened the box was priceless — and Cobie Smulders. Nice callback, too, to the Lily-Marshall telepathy as Robin tried to thought-project her concerns about the gift to Lily. Alas, our bride-to-be is not quite as in tune with Robin as with her fiance.
And the speech that Grandma gave? Holy cow, what a marvel of double meaning that was: "This handy little device has been in our family for generations. … Of course, back then it was made of wood." Love Mrs. Aldrin’s comment, too, that "It’s just like the one Miranda gave Charlotte on Sex and the City," and Robin and Lily’s pre-credit roll tug of war over the gift.
Still, it’s a little odd when a Barney story lacks awesomeness. He’ll get to redeem himself in the next episode, though (which, alas, doesn’t air for three weeks), as he goes on The Price Is Right. I have to believe the show’s writers won’t squander an opportunity for him to be legendary once more.
What’d you think of tonight’s HIMYM? Is too much Barney ever enough?