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How I Met Your Mother: Season Four(TV) (2008-2009)
No synopsis for How I Met Your Mother: Season Four.
For more about How I Met Your Mother: Season Four and the How I Met Your Mother: Season Four Blu-ray release, see How I Met Your Mother: Season Four Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 6, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Pamela Fryman
Writers: Carter Bays, Craig Thomas (II), Greg Malins
Starring: Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan
» See full cast & crew
How I Met Your Mother: Season Four Blu-ray Review
An awesome series, an awesome season, a not-so-awesome Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 6, 2009
Need a good laugh in these turbulent economic times? Allow me to offer a selection of hilarious shows guaranteed to raise your spirits and lighten the mood in your TiVo queue. First up, The Office, a sharply written, uncomfortably sublime slice of mockumentary bliss that puts most network television series to shame. Next, Community, one of the funniest first-season comedies I've had the pleasure of stumbling upon; an absolute gut-buster that will appeal to anyone who was less than enamored with their college career. Arrested Development, the best comedy you didn't watch when it mattered. Now in syndication, its tragically short-lived, multi-layered brilliance somehow gets better and better with age. The Daily Show, a quick-witted, insightful alternative to the 24-hour-news channels that offers more accurate reporting in a half-hour than most pundits spew in a year and funnier bits in one night than most variety shows churn out in a week. And finally, How I Met Your Mother, the only traditional sitcom I call home. Despite its laugh-tracked trappings and punchline-packing setups, it delivers some of the finest gags, most rewarding payoffs, and most endearing characters on television today.
The premise of How I Met Your Mother is simple. In the year 2030, a wizened man named Ted Mosby (voiced by comedian Bob Saget) tells his teenage children the sprawling story of how he first met their mother. As a young hopeful and budding architect, Ted (Josh Radnor) lived in New York with his closest friends: former flame, reporter, and Canadian immigrant Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), self-proclaimed hookup maestro Barney Stinson (a scene stealing Neil Patrick Harris), Ted's good-natured best friend Marshall Eriksen (Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Jason Segel), and Marshall's sweet but manipulative wife Lily (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Alyson Hannigan). Future Ted recounts the mistakes of his youth, the lessons he learned, and the various misadventures his ragtag band of city-dwellers encountered in his quest to find his one true love. We don't know who the title character actually is -- a tease that results in quite a few well-conceived nods to the audience -- we just know she's made Future Ted a very happy man.
In Season Four, one of the series' best yet, Ted gets engaged to a New Jersey divorcee named Stella (Scrubs' Sarah Chalke), has to contend with her ex (Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones), struggles to start his own architecture firm, competes with a Swedish design firm called Sven, and tries to come to terms with his inability to meet someone that makes him as happy as Lily makes Marshall. Robin quits her job, navigates the rocky waters of deportation, spends her time on a surprisingly eventful morning show, and attempts to make the best of being single (after briefly succumbing to the allure of being a Woo Girl). Barney works to increase his awesomeness, bed more beauties, prove he can worm his way out of a ticket, show Ted he "isn't too old for this stuff," and deal with his sudden and unexpected affection for Robin. Marshall lands a job with Barney at Goliath National Bank (FDIC approved), coaches a peewee basketball league, tries to find New York's perfect burger, wonders whether he and Lily need to mature, and trumpets the benefits of marriage to his increasingly cynical friends. And Lily becomes more and more fond of handbags, guitars, balls, and eating contests (Hannigan is pregnant, but her character is not), goes out on the town with friends from work, fails to settle conflicts between her kindergarten students, and continues to fill the role of group confident and resident secret sharer.
Drawing inspiration from The Wonder Years, Seinfeld, Cheers, Friends, and countless other sitcoms and comedy classics, but forging a personality and style all its own, How I Met Your Mother is a self-referential pop-culture buffet that refuses to relent until it's left its fans rolling on the floor. While Barney and, by extension, Neil Patrick Harris are the driving force behind the series' comedy and its go-for-the-jugular tenacity, the entire quintet earns some truly unforgettable laughs as their exaggerated shenanigans inexplicably explore the realities of relationships, the nuances of everyday life, and the frustrations modern twenty and thirtysomethings face on a regular basis. Radnor -- clearly the lovechild of David Schwimmer and High Fidelity-era John Cusack -- keeps the overarching storylines on track, injects some fitting eccentricities into the mix, and gives the rest of the cast plenty of material to work with. Segel and Hannigan do their part as well, giving the writers' room the confidence to deliver a healthy, believable couple in a genre populated with failed marriages and contrived chemistry. Smulders is a bit too straight-laced, so much so that her delivery is occasionally affected, but she nevertheless plays an integral role in the group's lives and, like Radnor, gives her castmates ample room to weave their magic.
But it's Neil Patrick Harris' smug and smarmy portrayal of Stinson -- a lovable narcissist if there ever was one -- that makes How I Met Your Mother one of the few must-see sitcoms out there today. Self-absorbed, disloyal, disingenuous, self-assured, and cocky, Barney is a conundrum; a miraculously likable unlikeable-character; the sort of guy you would never actually befriend but would love to have around. Harris skewers his own gee-whiz roots, packing everything Doogie Howser wasn't into a near-monstrous cancer, and manages to make it funny and charming. A feat that can't be easy. Whether you chalk it up to the writers' handling of the character, Harris' unwavering commitment to the role, or Barney's undeniably soft, gooey center, How I Met Your Mother owes much of its success to Stinson. If you've ever heard someone quoting the show, chances are they're delivering one of Harris' lines. Want a taste? Enjoy Barney's explanation as to why a man should wait three days before calling a woman who gave him her number:
Seriously. Jesus started the whole "wait three days" thing. He waited three days to come back to life. It was perfect. If he had only waited one day, a lot of people wouldn't have even heard that he died. They'd be all, "Hey Jesus, what up?" And Jesus would probably be like, "What up? I died yesterday!" And then they'd be all, "Uhh, you look pretty alive to me, dude." And then Jesus would have to explain how he was resurrected, and how it was a miracle... and then the dude would be like, "uh okay, whatever you say, bro." And he's not gonna come back on a Saturday. Everybody's busy, doing chores, workin' the loom, trimmin' the beard. No... he waited the exact right number of days. Three. Plus it's Sunday, so everyone's in church already, they're all in there, "Oh no, Jesus is dead!" Then BAM! He bursts through the back door, runs up the aisle, everyone's totally psyched, and FYI, that's when he invented the high five. Three days. We wait three days to call a woman because that's how long Jesus wants us to wait. True story.
How I Met Your Mother isn't an acquired taste. It will either strike newcomers as hilarious or dull, inventive or derivative, infectious or forgettable. Personally, I can't get enough. In spite of its sitcom roots, its at-times detrimental adherence to the rules of the genre, and its sometimes trite plotlines, the series is one of my go-to television comedies. Maybe it's because it speaks my language (Star Wars references, movie quotes, and well-cast cameos abound). Maybe it's because I can't wait to see what trouble Barney, Ted, and Marshall get themselves in (and out of) next. Or maybe it's just because it's really just that funny. Regardless, I hope How I Met Your Mother survives for another four seasons and nabs enough Blu-blooded fans to convince Fox to release the first three seasons in high definition. That would truly be awesome.
How I Met Your Mother: Season Four Blu-ray, Video Quality
How I Met Your Mother: Season Four features an initially underwhelming, ultimately satisfying 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer; one that's occasionally too dark and drab for it's own good, but one that eventually finds its footing as Ted's mood steadily stabilizes over the course of the fourth season's twenty-four episodes. Many scenes -- particularly those that take place in MacLaren's Pub -- suffer from murky contrast, crushed shadows, and reduced clarity. However, for the most part, the series' under-lit palette remains strong, black levels are deep (albeit too deep at times), and skintones, while a tad inconsistent, are fairly natural. Likewise, edge definition is nice and sharp, delineation is decent, and textures are more refined than they are on the standard DVD version. The technical image is more proficient as well. Ringing, source noise, and aliasing are nowhere to be found, and artifacting is kept to a minimum. It's safe to say the series has never looked better, but Fox's Blu-ray presentation isn't as refined as I hoped it would be.
How I Met Your Mother: Season Four Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unfortunately, Fox's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is even more problematic than its video transfer. Dialogue ranges from flat to full to tinny, sometimes in the course of a single scene. While the majority of conversations at MacLaren's are healthy and clear, the quintet's visits to other locales aren't as commendable. Wavering background noise and an altogether front-heavy soundfield (peppered by an oddly disconnected laugh track) only serve to highlight such shortcomings, making How I Met Your Mother's mix a decidedly average one. Thankfully, while limited by the chatty nature of the series itself, LFE output and rear speaker activity are more fulfilling, if for no other reason than they make the bars, restaurants, and streets Ted and his friends frequent more convincing. It still all sounds rather stagey, but solid directionality at least adds another layer to the experience. All things considered, How I Met Your Mother's lossless audio track isn't going to ruin the show for anyone, but audiophiles will have to patiently wait for the show's humor to distract them from the discs' stilted sonics.
How I Met Your Mother: Season Four Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 3-disc Blu-ray edition of How I Met Your Mother: Season Four arrives with the same decent supplemental package as its DVD counterpart. It would have certainly been nice to have a few more audio commentaries, as well as a full cut of the cast and crew's panel discussion, but I still managed to have a good time with most everything that made the cut.
How I Met Your Mother: Season Four Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
How I Met Your Mother is a bright light in my otherwise dismal TiVo queue; a queue crowded with dark dramas, bleak sci-fi stunners, and cynical comedies. I'm not usually a sitcom guy, but this is easily one of my favorites. Season Four is one of the series' best yet, offering a steady stream of quotable lines and hilarious encounters. Sadly, its Blu-ray release is a bit disappointing. A problematic video transfer, a bland DTS-HD Master Audio track, and a relatively small pool of supplements hardly demands attention, but a low price and the must-see nature of the show make it fairly easy to overlook the set's technical shortcomings, particularly since each episode looks and sounds better than it does on DVD. AV mishaps aside, give this 3-disc release a spin and, when all else fails, bask in the awesomeness of the show itself.
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