Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Learning to Love Again (or The Hour of Power)

Anyone that really knows me will remember that I was in a very serious relationship when I was a student at Christopher Newport University from 1999-2001. It was a great relationship, we had a lot of fun, we really only got to see each other once a week or so, and back then I thought it would last forever.

It ended however – as many college relationship do – and the sting of that break-up has lasted with me through the years; so much so that I have had trouble letting down my guard and letting go of my heart ever since.

Ladies and gentlemen, that all changed last night as I’m proud to announce that I have found a new weekly TV group.

(What did you think I was talking about?)

Back at CNU, a bunch of us would get together on Thursday nights for “Friends” at 8:00 p.m. and then “Frasier” at nine and to this day, those nights together are still on my Top 10 Greatest Memories of My Life list. There’s just something about a group that makes a show better. The jokes are funnier, the drama is more suspenseful, everything just seems to “pop” a little more than when you watch it by yourself.

Thinking I could never recapture the magic, I have actively stayed away from getting involved with another TV group but this new one came to me more that I came to it.

If you have read any of my stuff at all over the past few months, you know that I’m a big fan of the CBS sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother”; and since CBS is apparently mentally unstable, “HIMYM” has yet to officially be picked up for next season, so I’ve been on a personal campaign to get people to watch because (A) selfishly, I want the show to return and (B) I really do feel like it is the best show on TV right now and people are missing out.

Of course the writers’ strike happened and derailed everything but when the shows came back on the air, there started to be some rumblings amongst my friends about trying to get together to watch on Monday nights. My Girlfriend and I have been big fans of both shows since the beginning but in a weekly TV group, you obviously need more than that. Fortunately, the Britney episode last week got some of our other friends interested and in some cases, re-interested in the show, so this seemed like the perfect week to try a test run for a group watch.

There were about eight of us and we all met at my buddy Paul’s house and I have to say that the night was glorious.

I was a little nervous a couple of weeks ago when CBS announced that “Theory” and “HIMYM” would be swapping timeslots (“Theory” now airs at 8:00 p.m. and “HIMYM” follows at 8:30 – before the strike, they were swapped) because networks have beaten people like me into believing the hype that the 8:00 show is the “anchor” show of the hour. A lot of people (including myself) felt like this move was a slap in the face to “HIMYM” because they’ve been on longer and this is just “Theory’s” first season.

But I have to give credit to Paul. He was excited about the move because he feels like “Theory” serves as the perfect lead-in for “HIMYM”. He used the analogy that “Theory” is like a warm-up comedian and after three weeks of the change, I think that is very accurate.

And this is nothing against “Theory”, it is a brilliantly written show and I’ve already realized that over time it could actually be one of my favorites (I’m such a sucker for sitcoms about pompous intellectuals, read: “Frasier”), but it is still finding its way. Also, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems to have a little bit more of a generic, mass appeal to it than “HIMYM”. A
gain, that’s not an insult, I don’t mean “generic” in a negative sense. “Friends” and “Cheers” were the same way and they are legendary shows.

“HIMYM” definitely has more of a cult feel for some reason and you really do have to follow it week-in and week-out to get the full experience, where as you can just hop into a “Theory” ep and catch up quickly.

That's the difference.

Regardless, the night was great and the shows were great and the more I think about it, that might have been the best “HIMYM” ever or maybe the great group dynamic is just coloring my judgment.

“Theory” was the perfect appetizer but every week I keep waiting for the episode to be epic and really launch the show into greatness. That didn't happen again this week, but still a solid outing. It’s probably better that I’m not running the show, because I probably would have Penny and Howard hooked up by now and the show would be out of gas by the third season (i.e. “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy”).

The producers are being smart and letting the characters grow naturally. It’s been a little eerie how many ways “Theory’s” freshman season reminds me of the first season of “Frasier”.

Not a bad playbook to follow I guess.

“HIMYM” was off the charts awesome last night and since there’s no possible way to rank the moments, I will just list a couple of my favorites:

- Of course I loved the whole NCAA basketball tourney parallel and they PERFECTLY capped it off with the “One Shining Moment” montage at the end.

- The fight between the group over which of Barney’s conquests was worse. From “12 hours to live girl” to Ted’s emphatic feelings about “fake baby”, it was HI-larious.

- The nod to Neil Patrick Harris’ former series, “Doogie Howser, M.D.” at the end of the show with the “Doogie” music playing while Harris’ new character Barney was typing on his laptop.

- The way that they left it with a cliff hanger for Barney! I legitimately can’t wait for the next episode (which won’t be for another two weeks because of the NCAA championship game this coming Monday night).

This ep was also a great way for “HIMYM” to follow up last week’s ratings boon. Last week was solely centered around Ted and was kinda serious. This week was all about Barney and the group (Ted actually took a pretty reserved back seat) and really showed the series’ light and fun side.

Great move by the producers.

I know there’s only like five or six new episodes this season and there is still a dumb chance that “HIMYM” doesn’t get picked up for the fall, but it doesn’t matter to me.

I’m so happy to be in a weekly TV group once more, watching two shows that I really do like. And just like the beginning of a any new relationship, it is fun learning how to love again.

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