TV Diary: HIMYM, New Girl, The Office

In the last week I saw three season finales from sitcoms I regularly watch and all three leaned heavily on the tried and true plot device of a wedding.  For the love of god, of course there are spoilers.

How I Met Your Mother
In a perfect world this would have been the last episode.  Midseason the actors signed on for a 9th year and as such the writers had to pump the brakes on the plot and leave the titular Mother off the table a little while longer.  I hear people complain about the lack of momentum in the plot on this show a LOT and it is usually from folks who had the same complaints about Lost or similar sci-fi/fantasy drama.  The difference is, this is a situation comedy.  A pretty pure situation comedy, if not a more well evolved one with lots of call backs and deep mythology.  So as long as the 22 minutes I watch has jokes, I’m fine.  I only care if we meet the mother if the mother is also funny.  So the only frustration in this episode was that it was trying so hard to move the pieces into place for a final season.  Lilly and Marshall moving, Marshall being offered the job, Ted putting the house up for sale and moving to Chicago, Ted knowing where Robin’s necklace is… All this plot and not enough gags about it.  The strongest part of the show was Barney and Robin going out to dinner and feuding with another couple.  They are getting married soon and nothing in the episode disrupted that.  The characters were free to just be funny.
As for the moment when we get “One ticket to Farhampton” It was a big moment for the show and for fans who have been waiting, but I’d be a lot more invested in her importance if I’d seen her do anything remotely as interesting as Robin, Barney, Lilly, or Marshall do in every episode.  Note to Bays/Thomas, you’re still writing a comedy show.  Season 9 is your victory lap.  We met the mother.  Justify her existance by making her shine brighter than the cast we’ve come to know.

New Girl
Unlike the HIMYM or The Office, New Girl isn’t ending any time soon nor is it intending to.  So they left a lot on the table and thats why it was a successful finale.  I want more.  Of course I’ve been saying that New Girl is the best sitcom on TV for most of this amazing second season. Schmidt has become the runaway success of the show with countless one-liners and obnoxious choices keeping the show hilarious even in the face of momentum killing romance between Nick and Jess.  Luckily, it appears they’re not going to make things easy or happy for Nick and Jess. They like each other a lot, as has been established, but they’re going to fight and nit pick and argue and probably storm off a lot in the future.  But that is going to be OK because those moments are going to come in the middle of stuff like chasing Bucky The Badger through an air duct.
Keep up the good work, make Winston even crazier next year, and don’t let anyone decide for sure what they want for as long as possible.  New Girl works best when its characters are reduced to children in adult situations.

The Office
I made a big deal earlier about how HIMYM shouldn’t be so concerned with plot and instead just focus on being funny.  The Office has been historically pretty uneven in this department.  Plot threads come and go, and hilarious highs are met often with uncomfortable dramatic lows.  The heart of this show is Pam and Jim and their happiness.  Fuck anyone who think this show was about Michael Scott and said it should have ended when he left.  Any weakness shown in the last 2 years since Michael left was based on lazy writing (Andy got rebooted a half dozen times) and the writers not knowing where to send Pam and Jim next.  They were happy and had 2 children.  Comedy doesn’t usually come from complacency.  The “Brian” sub plot from earlier this year was met with a lot of fan resistance because he threatened to ruin Pam and Jim.  Athlead should have been enough stress.  We didn’t need Brian.
Pam and Jim got their happiness though.  And Andy went far away so he can be unpredictable and uneven somewhere else.  Everyone got some kind of moment where the were sent off into the sunset, even if it was as bizarrely forced and Joan Cusack and Ed Begley Jr arrving at a Q&A to reveal to Erin they’re her birth parents.  Dwight firing Kevin was a long time coming.  I actually would’ve been disappointed in Dwight as a manager had he not done something like that.  No emotional attachment, just based on merit.  And since it was the last episode, it was OK to not have Kevin around anymore.
Dwight’s growth is amazing though.  With Angela at his side and the manager’s desk, he suddenly doesn’t seem as infuriatingly difficult to work with.  He got eaxctly what he always wanted and laughs off a decade of Jim’s pranks by asking Jim to be his best man and doing him a huge favor by the end of the episode.  Dwight will look after The Office better than Michael or Andy did, and without that disfunction, it is a perfect end.  The Office itself as a non living entity got closure.
I’m glad Michael did cameo, and his single talking head moment was one of the better lines in a good episode.
The reason I give The Office a pass on all this plot and drama is because I did get emotionally invested in the characters. Seinfeld is one of the all time great comedies and remains rewatchable today.  But the last episode was a disaster because the characters were funny but we just didn’t care what misfortune happened to them, and the parade of proof they were assholes all along just made you care even less. On The Office, even when the show was weak, it was still satisfying to check in with everyone.  I’ll miss it because I miss them.

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