Question: I imagine you must be getting flooded with questions and/or ranting about the finale of How I Met Your Mother. I was among those who left the finale feeling incredibly sad, not what I expect from a show that's kept me laughing (and sometimes crying) for the last nine years, even when others were saying that the quality had declined. The thing is, when looked at objectively, I don't even have a major problem (Major Problem!) with the content of the finale. Yes, people get divorced and people die. People get remarried after both, and I've known several people in my own life who have reconnected with an old girlfriend or high-school sweetheart after the death of a spouse. It doesn't invalidate the marriage or even lessen the feelings of loss. The finale itself had great moments: the high-infinity, Marshall's "positive talk" about his corporate job, Judge Fudge, the mother's Gore/Lieberman costume, robots versus wrestlers, etc. Seeing Barney with a child was wonderful, although I did think he had grown more than immediately going back to his old ways after his divorce. And the scene on the platform was near perfection as they wove in how their almost-shared history was influencing their connection, making the whole nine-year story relevant to how he'd actually met the mother. (By the way, one more TM would be the name we've known Tracy by: The Mother.)
My issue with the finale was almost entirely based on the timing of the finale itself, and the difference between TV time versus actual time. We invested in Robin and Barney for all of Seasons 8 and 9, and their marriage lasted all of 10 minutes. And while six years was sufficient time for Ted (and his kids) to grieve, those few seconds of actual time was definitely not sufficient time for me to grieve. I'm internally screaming "Nooooooooo!" at finding out this character that I'd come to love had died, grieving for Ted, who took so long to find his destiny (as proven by an incredible number of coincidences) just to keep it for too short a time, and imagining the kids who lost their mother way too young. And then, within that same minute, I'm supposed to be happy for him that he's getting back with Robin? No, my devastation level remained unchanged for a good hour after the show was over. I won't rate it as the worst finale of all time, because 56 minutes of it were fine-to-great. I also disagree with those who think that it invalidated the series, changed it to "how I met the womb," or that it implied that he'd been in love with Robin throughout his marriage. While I'm sad that they chose for the mother to die (again, what an ending for a comedy!), I respect that as a valid option in telling the story that they wanted to tell. However, I do think that the writers/directors/producers massively screwed up here in not timing it out a little better, and by not respecting the character and the true love that Ted's beautiful speech laid out for us. From the viewers' perspective, it was like she was dead and her husband and children were smiling and happy about it, because to us there was no 6-year difference. No wonder people felt cheated. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode and how you think it impacts the series as a whole. Thanks for the opportunity to vent! — Johanna
Matt Roush: First, a note before the response, and a caution against those who write in to complain about the length of some of the questions I post. I led with Johanna's [which was edited considerably, by the way], because it synthesizes many of the mixed reactions I fielded in the week since the finale aired. (And while this and The Good Wife continue to dominate the column this week, there are other topics, so please keep reading.) She also echoes many of my own feelings about a show with which I had grown disenchanted long ago, a reflection more of the producers' indulgences than of any of the performers, who sold it to the very end.
I was not surprised to be disappointed by the finale, in part because this entire last season felt like such a gimmicky tease, stretching things out unconscionably (Marshall's road trip perhaps the worst of many bad ideas) while still keeping The Mother an unknown quantity for way too long. Even after this final hour, it's not like we truly met the mother in any lasting or significant way (although the delightful Cristin Milioti made the most of every scene), which was only underscored when Ted finally finished his story and the kids basically responded with a shrug: Yeah, yeah, enough about our dead mom (!), go get Aunt Robin (who, by the way, is his best friend's ex-wife and his own former lover, making this an especially creepy case of sloppy thirds). Speaking of mothers, as touching as the scene was with Barney and his newborn, how cold to not even give that child's mother a face or name. And breaking him and Robin up after such a long build-up to the wedding diminishes so much of the emotional substance of what came before, mostly (as Johanna and others pointed out) because of the haste with which this all played out in the finale. I'm OK with harsh realities and even tragedy in my comedy — my objection to the mother being deceased in the future is that it was so obvious — but the rushed nature of the storytelling wasn't worthy of the investment we had made over the years in these still-endearing characters.
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Question: I personally found it to be a satisfying finale, but I wondered if the producers made a mistake with the structure of this season. If they had used the first episode of the season for Barney and Robin's wedding and Ted meeting the mother, then used the rest of the season to show Ted and Tracy's life, pregnancies, marriage, sickness and death — maybe with Robin providing a shoulder to lean on in Ted's roughest moments — the ending wouldn't have offended so many. I'll admit, having a whole season cover one weekend retelling the same wedding weekend story and then cramming 20 years or so of Ted's life into an hour seems kind of backwards (I only tuned in to a handful of episodes this year before the finale). The finale would have lost its "twist" factor, but may have been easier for fans to accept. Your thoughts? — Chris
Matt Roush: Let's give the producers some credit for being unconventional to the end — the elliptical, time-shifting way the story was told was always one of How I Met Your Mother's hallmarks in shaking up the rom-com format — but I obviously agree with the overall premise of this question in terms of respecting the characters more by fleshing out the Ted-Tracy romance, even if for less than a full season. A portion of one episode just didn't cut it.
Question: I have to say: I loved the finale and I hated it at the same time. I loved how the story wrapped up the story about how Ted met the mother, but personally the ending left me cold. Nine seasons, two kids, one dead wife and Ted still is hung up on Robin? I wish they had just ended it at the train station scene and left it to viewers' imaginations about how things turned out for Ted and Tracy. — Brian
Matt Roush: Funny you mention that, because around the same time this came in, Brandon wrote in to echo: "I was loving the ending until the show ended, and found the Robin thing to be a cold kick in the b---s. I was really torn, as I loved the show but find an ending to be key to a show (it's the same reason I sold off my Lost DVDs and refuse to buy the "final season" of Scrubs, referring to it as a spin-off). I didn't know what to think until I discovered a YouTube alternate ending video that should've been the ending (almost cried because it was perfect)." Brandon included a link, since taken down by the studio for copyright reasons, which basically had the show ending with the train-station scene, cutting to Ted's "And that's how I met your mother." That would also have been criticized, I'm sure, for ending way too abruptly, but that scene was absolutely the high point of the final hour (that and Barney's tearful encounter with his new, apparently motherless baby).
Question: For the past week, I've been reading what seems like non-stop negative feedback about the How I Met Your Mother finale. I feel like I'm one of the few who actually was satisfied with the entire two-hour ending. I understand why a lot of people are unhappy that the characters did not end up where they would have liked, but shouldn't they at least take solace in the fact that the show lasted nine seasons with the same creators/showrunners, director and cast, and ended the way they envisioned it from the start? I recognize how few shows are given that kind of opportunity to end on its own terms. I'm content knowing I got nine years of enjoyment out of a show that I believe everyone can relate to at one point or another. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. — Andrew
Matt Roush: Two-hour ending? It only felt that way. But I jest. This actually brings up an important point, because however we may feel about controversial finales (I include Lost in that discussion), this was unquestionably the vision of the show's creators, and Andrew is right to value the fact that they, the cast and other production leaders stayed loyal to the end, allowing an unusual sense of creative continuity, for better though sometimes for worse.
Question: I think the problem people are having is that the title (and supposed point) of the series was about meeting the kids' mother. If the show had been called something like, How I Met the Love of My Life (or something like that but shorter) and Future Ted had started out his story with, "Kids, this is the story of how I met your mother and the love of my life," then he could have told the same story with the same twist at the end (with the twist being that he had two loves of his life). Knowing that the producers knew the story was going to end with Ted and Robin getting together, do you think they shouldn't have sold it as How I Met Your Mother?
Matt Roush: Fudging the premise from the start wouldn't have helped. The hook of the show's title, suggesting a romantic mystery and a sense of destiny, was a very good one, and worked for a long time (though maybe not nine seasons worth of time). I just wish they hadn't treated the actual meeting like such an anticlimax.
Question: You've already dedicated almost a whole column to the tragic twist on The Good Wife. Just to add: After reading the explanation by the writers that they did not want to just ship Will to Seattle, I was reminded of that episode of M*A*S*H when McLean Stevenson wanted out. The writers did not want Henry Blake to just be another surgeon in Illinois, so they crashed the plane carrying him back home. I've heard that the other actors did not know about that and were really shocked when Radar entered the OR, reading the cable. And I think that The Good Wife's most recent episode, "The Last Call," was the best of the program. Everyone there deserves an Emmy. — Hanna
Matt Roush: No argument here. If The Good Wife is left out of the top tier of best-drama nominees again this year, after such a bold and transformative season, there will be hell to pay — at least in some critical corners. (Who knows if the cable-obsessed Academy members will even care?) The comparison to Henry Blake's off-camera death is a good one, because the shock was perhaps even more palpable back in the days when the Big Three networks dominated prime time. The main difference being that everyone knew McLean Stevenson was moving on, unlike Josh Charles' much less publicized (until after the fact) decision. The impact was just as devastating, though, because even way back in 1975, it was rare for a twist this major to be kept secret. And here's another callback to TV's tragic past.
Question: I fell a couple weeks behind (which I don't think I've ever done with The Good Wife) at the worst possible time and got spoiled about Will's death on Twitter. I was completely shocked to read what happened, and yet it was still a gut-punch even knowing what was going to happen. I watched thirtysomething on Lifetime in reruns when I was in high school, and I was just that gut-punched and surprised when Gary died. I imagine the reaction was similar by fans. thirtysomething had some really good follow-up episodes, too, and I'm glad it's going to resonate on The Good Wife. I'm glad it's not going to do a time-jump six months in the future or some gimmick like that. Anyway, I know some people haven't been happy with this season, but I think it's been great. I can't wait to see what happens now. I kind of dread it, because I'm still like, "WILL'S GONE OMG!" but I can't wait to see what's next, especially with "The Big 3" of Alicia, Diane and Kalinda. It's nice there's still a really great traditional network drama on. Sometimes I think people that would love The Good Wife if it was on HBO or AMC don't even give it a chance because it's on CBS, which is really too bad. — Melanie
Matt Roush: Do tell. And yes, I was reporting on and reviewing thirtysomething when Gary died so suddenly (M*A*S*H was well before my professional time, though I still remember Henry Blake's death vividly), and that had such impact because the show had kept us worrying so much about Nancy's battle with cancer that we couldn't believe someone this vital had been taken away so suddenly and irrevocably. And again, we didn't see it coming.
Question: I've watched The Americans since the beginning and was very impressed with the first season. But the second started with a bang and hasn't let up since. Each episode is better than the last! The show manages to seamlessly incorporate action, character development, mystery, twists and even sex. The writing and acting are great across the board. And in my eyes, it's easily as good as acclaimed shows such as Mad Men and Game of Thrones. So my question is why isn't everyone (the public, critics, TV experts and the like) talking about this amazing show? The Americans should be a watercooler-type show and it isn't. I can't help but wonder if the show would be getting the attention it deserves if it was on, say, HBO or Showtime. — Robin
Matt Roush: Most critics I'm aware of have raved about The Americans — I gave the second season a "10 out of 10" score when I reviewed it for TV Guide Magazine — and it's not as if FX doesn't command its share of cable buzz. I'm not sure why the industry and awards organizations haven't responded in kind or why it hasn't quite broken through or why there would be a perception that it's being somehow ignored. It's my current favorite FX series (although when the terrific Fargo premieres next week, it will be a close call), but there are an awful lot of shows making noise these days, and not everything can break through the clutter, not even on the premium channels. But yes, consider this a recommendation that The Americans may be the best and most entertaining show you're not watching.
Question: Do you have any scoop on the new AMC series Turn? It looks intriguing, and I don't doubt the quality of the show since it is on AMC. I'm thinking though that it would be better suited as a miniseries like John Adams. What do you think?
Also, I was eating a frozen chocolate banana with sprinkles over the weekend and thought of the Bluth banana stand. Do you know if Netflix is going to be producing another season of Arrested Development? I could use the closure.
And finally, for years now I have noticed that Showtime often casts former HBO actors for their series. They turn these stars into mega-stars: Edie Falco, Michael C. Hall and Damian Lewis were in major series. Claire Danes, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons did movies and minis for HBO. Not to mention numerous supporting actors (too many to name). Do you think Showtime does this to stick it to HBO or is it more of a compliment? I think they do it to stick it to them and to prove that they are better than HBO. What do you think? — Elizabeth
Matt Roush: My review of Turn can be found within this column. I like the idea of the show, because it's new and certainly different, but you may be right that doing it as a miniseries might have given it more dramatic urgency, because I found that mostly lacking in the three episodes I sampled, especially in the casting and characterizations on both sides of the conflict. Regarding Arrested Development: No updates beyond the rumors of a movie and a possible second season for Netflix, so just be patient and hope for better results than last time. As for Showtime poaching HBO talent: Never really looked at it that way, because the work and the projects tend to be so singular. I never think of Carmela Soprano as I watch Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie, same goes for Michael C. Hall's wildly different roles on Six Feet Underand Dexter (despite the preoccupation with death in both). What this mostly signifies is that Showtime is really good, and possibly lucky, when it comes to casting, and that because TV is still capable of creating major stars, if they (and we) are lucky, they'll have at least a second act in their careers, wherever it takes them.
Question: The new NCIS: New Orleans is so much better than the NCIS: Red team that they tried to spin off last time, with the exception of Scott Bakula's fake accent. What do you think of it? I would love for the show to be on the lineup next year if they can get rid of that. I know sometimes shows are modified before they premiere, and hopefully they will realize everyone loves Scott Bakula for his own uniqueness and nothing needs to be added to him. — Susan
Matt Roush:They did lay on the Big Easy clichés a bit thick, starting with Bakula's self-consciously drawling accent, but I imagine we will get used to that, and he's otherwise perfect as a CBS series lead. I was even more impressed by the casting of Lucas Black (whose Southern accent, courtesy of Alabama, is authentic) as Agent Pride's No. 2. Generally speaking, it's hard for me as a critic to get excited about almost any franchise spin-off, preferring the networks to try new things, but I will agree that the introduction to the New Orleans team was far more promising than anything about the Red concept and casting.
Question: I am an avid TV watcher and enjoy numerous shows throughout the week. The show I recently enjoyed watching was Intelligence. I have read that it is most likely to be canceled, and so I find myself wondering why. I have also read that CBS is doing a CSI spin-off dealing with cyber-crime. How can CBS think that the CSI spin-off will do better than Intelligence, if they both deal with the same concept? I would like to see Intelligence get a chance, even if the season is kept short (14 or so episodes), rather than go through yet another CSI spin-off. Let's give new shows some love and let them gain a following, especially considering the change in programming, with more and more networks attempting to do two mini-seasons within one full season, counting on a long winter break. A show like Intelligence could do well as a filler show (as The Following started out) and keep it a short 14 or 15 episode season. What are your thoughts? — Kelly
Matt Roush: This limited-season concept may yet pay off for CBS, but it flopped with Hostages and wasn't much more successful with Intelligence, which CBS promoted heavily and premiered behind new episodes of NCIS, resulting in strong sampling by an audience that mostly chose not to follow it to Mondays, which has become a problematic time period in recent years for the network. High-concept heroics like those on Intelligence can be a tough sell, even with a major star like Josh Holloway at the center (lightening up his mood more might have helped), and I imagine the CSI cyber-crime show will be a bit more grounded in reality, which may make it less distinctive, but depending on how it's executed, it could be more commercial as another cog in CBS's assembly line of meat-and-potatoes procedurals. This isn't an endorsement of a sight-unseen show over the one that's most definitely "on the bubble," but it's the best explanation I can give you.