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Who better than the five-time Emmy-winner who's run the gamut from over-the-top comedy (3rd Rock from the Sun) to under-your-skin creepiness (Dexter) to embody the two faces of Barney's long-lost dad, Jerry? First, we saw him the way Neil Patrick Harris' ladies' man wished he were — a "legen-daddy" rock-and-roll tour manager who can snag a hottie's phone number in five seconds, then tear it up because he doesn't have time for "chatty chicks." Then we saw him as he really is: a nebbishy driving instructor with a perfect White Plains family and a killer quiche recipe.
Like Lithgow's career, the episode mixed silly shtick (among the father-son pickup games Barney envisioned were "Bush Dynasty" and "Father Knows Breast") and serious drama. Marshall (Jason Segel) convinced Barney to give Jerry another chance by invoking the loss of his own beloved dad, leading the abandoned son to confront his absentee old man: "If you were going to be some lame suburban dad, why couldn't you be that for me?"
At times, HIMYM has verged on Very Special Episode territory this season, but at least the CBS sitcom is switching up its tone and not relying solely on the same old gags. With its recent two-season pickup, it'll need a fresh approach to avoid overstaying its welcome.
Hey, and did anyone notice that Josh Radnor's Ted told his kids "I bought the house we live in now way back before I met your mother"? Unless it was a fakeout, this seems to indicate we haven't met the mother yet, meaning it's not Zoe (Jennifer Morrison, who's perhaps not coincidentally shooting an ABC drama pilot, Once Upon a Time, for next season). But at least we've met Barney's dad, and I hope we haven't seen the last of him.
What did you think of John Lithgow's guest shot on HIMYM?