I had my thoughts all laid out, ready to criticize both of tonight's premiere episodes of "How I Met Your Mother", and then the show took one of its trademark twists, pulling me back in with one of its most interesting casting moves in years.
Before I get to that, let's address some of the problems I had with tonight's two episodes. Hell, let's go even further and condense all those "problems" down to "problem" singular. This show has gone from toying with its audience to outwardly mocking it. It was most noticeable in the first episode, "The Best Man", where the jokes leaned heavily on the Future Ted narration mislead that has become a staple of the show's writing. The "that's not how Marshall ruined the wedding" gag was tired the very first time Future Ted paused the story, and only got worse with each subsequent return. The twist at the end relied on the TV staple of flashing back to an earlier scene from a different angle, which is just lame. And the strained way in which Ted, Barney and Lily avoided mentioning Barney's bride by name was probably really funny in the writers' room, but was painful as a viewer.
The second episode was slightly less gimmicky -- aside from the repeating gag with things Marshall's boss said -- but I wouldn't say it was great either. Ted being a douche with the magazine, then struggling to pick between the two girls, was just annoying. The Lenny Kravitz joke was obvious. And there was no suspense to Marshall's storyline for anyone who knew that Martin Short was signed on for a recurring role.
In reality, that latter point is what's hurting "How I Met Your Mother" right now. Longtime fans of the show know that it's been picked up for two more seasons, which means we're not going to meet the mother tomorrow, or next week, or any time soon. When the show winked and nodded at this back in Season 2, it was cute. Now it's Season 7, and it's just tiring.
All that said, it's still a funny show. I hate myself for this, but I laughed like hell at Barney's LeBron/Cleveland joke ("Get ready, Cleveland. The last man to screw you this hard then disappear was LeBron James"). I also laughed at Barney's list of lies he confessed to Nora, and Barney's dance with Robin. Hmm... maybe I should just watch a show about Barney, and skip the other characters.
Of course, if I did that, I'd miss out on the one moment that reminded me why I fell in love with this show in the first place: the return of Ashley Williams's Victoria. Of all the women Ted has dated over the years, she was BY FAR my favorite (and yes, that includes Robin). Unlike with last year's Zoey debacle, I don't care that there's no way Victoria is the mother. I'm just glad she's back, and hopefully she'll spice things up from the Ted perspective, because he's been dull for a couple seasons now.