By its eighth season HIMYM has the feel of a show grinding its way toward a conclusion. There’s that ‘Friends Season 10′ sensation, where everyone is starting to become too successful and satisfied (both within the show and outside of it professionally) to be funny for much longer.
This could easily have been the final season. A fitting end to a flamboyant ‘I met her at a friend’s wedding’ anecdote. But the actual final season is to be an audaciously structured end to the show, with all 22 episodes covering just the one weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding. So Season 8 has the job of tying everything up before a high-risk conclusion to a tale so elongated that it would make James Joyce’s eyes water.
It is still that rare quality in modern US sitcoms – genuinely funny – and being able to watch it in DVD portions of several episodes per sitting benefits the elastic time structure of the show. But by now it’s so self-referential that it’s become a comedy Ouroboros; feasting off its own fleshed-out mythology to nourish its fans with laughs.
It’s gathered so many in-jokes and self-references that dropping someone into Episode 1 of Season 8 is equivalent to clubbing someone over the head with a boxset of the previous seven seasons tied to a cuckoo clock. But what’s intimidating for the uninitiated is rewarding jollity for long-time fans who’ve been there ever since the first ‘Kids…’. Way, way back in the same year that YouTube was launched.
And while the world has changed, HIMYM’s characters are still the same pegs, pushed through large, forgivingly-shaped holes. Ted whines about relationships, Marshall and Lily make theatre of being a couple. As Barney, Neil Patrick Harris never disappoints, cutting through the emotional anxiety treacle with a cartoonish level of acidic crudity (though even he at one point is upstaged by a dog), but it’s Cobie Smulders (Avengers Assemble, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) who continues demonstrate a versatility that makes her an enviable asset of the Marvel movie-verse.
HIMYM has lived through a changing time in comedy. Picking up from the legacy of ‘90s super-sitcoms and surviving changes in the laughter landscape, it’s ending at a point where no one seems to know what to laugh at next. So make the most of this penultimate series. Long-running tonsil-ticklers are rare these days.
Extras: Standard but welcome stuff in the Yellow Umbrella Edition of the DVD: a fun gag reel, deleted scenes, commentary for the opening episode and finale, and a set tour with Josh Radnor. There’s also a ‘Making of’ and music video for the Robin Sparkles video ‘P.S. I Love You’ featured in the eponymous episode.
Released on DVD on Monday 30 September 2013 by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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