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How I Met Your Mother Gets a Little Crowded in “The Pre-Nup”
I’m not so sure if How I Met Your Mother is playing it smart by announcing the Autumn of Breakups so blatantly and so early in the season. “The Pre-Nup” is only the second episode and we’re already being told that every couple – with the exception of Marshall and Lily, will break up sometime this fall. That’s a pretty bold statement, but I simply cannot get over how quickly the show is strolling into that territory. Of course none of these couples are going to last. We’ve seen the future, we know Barney and Quinn don’t get married, and we know Robin and Nick won’t last. Hell, we’ve known since the first season Victoria isn’t the mother, so why put us through the motions? How can we, as an audience, ever come to enjoy these couples if we know they’re doomed to fail? There was a time in HIMYM’s run when Future Ted didn’t spoil the ends of relationships, but now it seems that’s all he ever does. It really takes you out of the story.
But the tease of the many breakups is not what ultimately drags “The Pre-Nup” down; it’s the overwhelming amount of guest stars. On top of our five regular cast members, we have to put up with the presence of Quinn (Becki Newton), Nick (Michael Trucco), Victoria (Ashley Williams), Klaus (Thomas Lennon) and Arthur Hobbs (Bob Odenkirk). Oh, and don’t forget Bill Fagerbakke and Suzie Plakson popping up as Marshall’s parents for a throwaway scene. That’s a lot of extra bodies to work into the storyline. It can feel a little crowded at times, especially toward the end when everybody and their significant others – plus Arthur – gather at GNB to renegotiate their relationships. There were so many people in that room I kept wondering if the floor would give out. What a nightmare that must have been to block on the day of shooting. It was such a messy scene.
The story of a couple discussing their pre-nup has been around almost as long as the sitcom itself. It’s been done many times and many ways, making it one of those classic go-to stories you wish writers would just forget about. Unless a show can add a new twist to the formula, it’s going to come out bland. You could have the best characters in the world, but if it’s still your run-of-the-mill pre-nup story, you’re going to lose the interest of the audience. While HIMYM has shown itself quite capable of turning classic stories on their heads, it failed to do so in “The Pre-Nup.” Everything turns out exactly the way you would expect. Barney and Quinn battle over what they want the other person to sign and the distrust spreads through to the other couples, who begin arguing over what they would want to change in their relationships. Ultimately, everyone comes clean about what is really bothering them and they all go back to being happy, except for Barney and Quinn. They realize they won’t ever trust each other enough to get married and so ends that short relationship.
For an episode with such a weak story, I still found many jokes to my liking. Bob Odenkirk as Arthur Hobbs is a never-ending well of hilarity, particularly as he goes over the pre-nup with Barney and Quinn and casually drops in anecdotes about his ex-wife and his beloved dog, Tugboat. I particularly enjoyed his claims of having crossed out the provisions that would allow Barney to have up to eight wives, and then loudly telling Barney that, in fact, no he had not crossed them out. Lennon has always been a great comedic actor in my eyes and I was pleased to see him back as Victoria’s ex-fiancé, now living with Ted and Victoria after Ted felt like playing the hero and giving him a place to stay, only to regret it five minutes later. I would love to see more of the German sitcom Strange Compatriots, starring a character who is very neat and another who is very, very neat
All in all, after last week’s successful premiere, “The Pre-Nup” did not live up to expectations. It’s always so jarring to go from seeing a couple one seemingly happy one week to breaking up the next. Things moved too fast to make much sense. I felt like there must have been a better way to break up Barney and Quinn, but we’ll never know now. I’m dreading the coming weeks as the remaining couples breakup as well, particularly Robin and Nick. We’ve barely gotten to know Nick. To lose him now will just seem like a waste of time. Saying goodbye to Victoria won’t be so hard – we’ve done it before – but, again, it would feel like such a waste of time to bring her back only to send her packing so soon afterward.