How I met your mid life crisis

 Among the various shows anointed as successor to Friends, only one has come close.

 That show is How I Met Your Mother, the sitcom which takes an irreverent look at – you guessed it – a group of attractive chums living in plush Manhattan apartments, complete with plenty of dating, drinking and dumb jokes.

 For five series now, viewers have been following the life and loves of the fivesome, hopeless romantic (and hubbie of the ‘mother’ in question) Ted, comedy cute pairing Marshall and Lily, cynical Canadian Robin and strangely endearing womanizer Barney.

 We’ve followed them through bad relationships and good, marriages and mysteries, trips to bars (well, just the one) and trips to Minnesota. We’ve watched Marshall stab his fiancée during a sword fight, Robin reveal her embarrassing teenaged pop career, Barney try every bad chat-up line on the planet (and get away with them), and seen several aspects of a fantastic concept called the Slap Bet.

What we haven’t seen is the Mother. Which was OK for the first few series, but has now gone well past the point of gripping and reached the territory of ‘I want to throw something at the TV every time you give us a spoiler involving an umbrella’.

 This season has been worse than ever, with constant references to her (including a very sneaky episode when we met her roommate in the form of a Rachel Bilson cameo), but there’s been no juice.

We know it’s not Stella, Robin, Britney Spears or any other of Ted’s increasing list of loves, but that’s all we know.

 And the thing is, it’s getting old. How I Met Your Mother still delivers (this week’s episode on ‘hooks’, or people who you keep around ‘just in case’ was pure genius) but not always. The jokes are getting rehashed, the teasers frustrating.

 In short, it’s having a mid life crisis.

That’s OK though. So did Lost, in Season 3, when the writers put Sawyer and Kate into cages for what of a better plotline. But then they set an end date for the series, and suddenly we were back on for gripping action and suspense being built up into Something.

 So, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. You’ve done well, creating a comedy that actually brings laughs and scripting a group of actors who can act. It’s been fun.

 But for crying out loud, work out where you’re going with it.

 Because if we get to season 8, and suddenly Ted reveals ‘so, kids, in the summer of 2012 I gave up the hunt and adopted you’, there are going to be a lot of broken television sets out there.

Watch a very funny scene from the latest episode below:

Friends: not there for you anymore

“Surely you’ve seen this episode,” my dad says, as he comes into the living room to find me watching yet another old Friends episode.

“So,” I say. “You can never watch too much Friends.”

But apparently, you can. Channel 4 are axing the reruns of the popular series, fifteen years after the world first tuned into the antics of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey and ugly naked guy. E4’s popular 8pm to 9pm slot wil be filled with something new from October 2011.

“It’s time to say goodbye to old Friends and welcome new ones, in the form of more comedy, drama and entertainment from the US and UK,” said Channel 4’s head of acquisitions, Gill Hay.

Forever Friends? not exactly!

Fifteen years is a long time, and after showing each of the 236 episodes around the same number of times (ish) it makes sense for Channel 4 to close the doors on Central Perk for good. But Getting Lippy was quite sad to hear the news, and wasn’t the only one as the web erupted in a show of emotion for smelly cat et al.

On Facebook, a keen fan named Daniel Wheeler showed his contempt at the decision by setting up a group to ‘SAVE FRIENDS! – E4 TO STOP SHOWING FRIENDS’.

“Lets try and get them to show more episodes!” it appeals to its 201 members.

One Benjamin Howard tweeted that hew as ‘deeply saddened’, adding that “when Richard and Judy left [sic] it was only thing that kept me going between 5-6 :(“.

“devastated […] who doesn’t love eating their dinner in front of Friends?!” said SpannerBristow.

Over on the Watch With Mothers blog, the vitriol was intense as the noted the ‘horrific news’ that Friends would no longer be there for us.

“Clearly, you only meant “I’ll be there for you every day, twice a day for 17 years and then that really is it.”

“Call that commitment, do you? Damn you, Friends! Damn you all to Hades!”

“What will we do when there’s nothing else to watch on an evening?” mourns blogger Joseph Seager.

“I might have to buy the boxset,” he said.

So it seems someone will be emerge a winner from this then.

TV degrees and other true fictions

Outcry across the web because Harvard students are to study the TV show The Wire .

Said Sociology Professor William J. Wilson:

The Wire’ has done more to enhance our understanding of the systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the poor than any published study.”

Not everyone agrees.  “Just when you thought the show couldn’t be anymore overrated” wrote TheBaffler on the Huffington Post.  Another commented that if was a good show, if you had “to teach TV shows to rich and coddled post-adolescents”.  Over on Twitter, killahmcgillah is more forthright: “uh, #harvard students get to take a class on “the wire” next year? i knew that shithole was barely a real school”.

Well, apart from the fact that as I have previously commented, watching The Wire is more like work than play, I can’t see what all the fuss is about.

Ok, TV shouldn’t be a replacement for all formal academic study. I doubt I could become a successful journalist based on the lessons of the newspaper staff in The New Adventures Of Superman. And I’m pretty sure I won’t hone my catering skills just by following the exploits of Monica from Friends. Just because Dawson Leery was a great film-maker does not mean I will be.

Yet I can still see the benefit of Harvard students watching The Wire.

For one module of my politics degree at Nottingham University, I spent a semester watching TV. West Wing, Yes Minister, even The Simpsons at one point. We also watched movies like Mr Smith Goes To Washington and heaven forbid, read a few books, Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate being just one example.

The class, surprisingly very popular, focused on the representation of politics in fiction.  We used these sources as a starting point from which to ruminate on matters from how the non-political sectors of society perceive the political to the more philosophical question of whether life is essentially a social construct shaped by art.

All that from watching the work of the (great) Aaron Sorkin.

An unorthodox teaching method? Certainly. Useful and memorable? Very much so.

In arts subjects – perhaps science too though I’m no expert – we frequently refer to newspaper reports and commentary as source material. English students have long been using literature as a basis to consider pertinent social ansmits460d cultural questions.

So why not use unconventional source material like TV shows? It doesn’t mean dumbing down, and it doesn’t amount to a degree in David Beckham studies.

The reality is that we live in a worlds where the lines between the imagined and the actual are blurred. How many of us can distinguish between what Sarah Palin said in the run up to the 2008 election and what Tina Fey did as her TV alter-ego. Was Obama’s election aided by voters seeing ethnic minorities as the very capable Presidents Matthew Santos and David Palmer, from West Wing and 24 respectively, as successful holders of the office?

Fiction doesn’t come out of nowhere. Even the most outlandish story has some relevance in society – think Shelley’s Frankensteinian monster as a recreation of the outsider, alienated in a capitalist society, or The Simpsons as a comment on the changing face of the nuclear family.

Art imitates life. It’s only logical that life can learn from art.

Gossip Girl – Dan de Fleurette

“Welcome to the real world,” Gossip Girl.  To quote Monica Geller, “it sucks! You’re going to love it.”

This week will go down in GG history as the point when Blair, Serena (and Lizzie McGuire) finally grew up.  Reality hit the Upper East Side, and it wasn’t always pretty, in what was frankly a blimming fantatsic episode. 

Like Obama, everyone this week had to put away childish things

Americas next best friends?

America's next best friends?

Lets start with Serena.  Lily VdW finally returned, with only a teeny hint of her baby bump.  Within milliseconds she and Serena were having a disagreement, culminating in our favourite airhead vowing that instead of college, she was going to get one of those, wait what do you call them again, jobs.  Or, at the very least, an internship.  The fact that such things are fairly hard to come by in a recession seemed to escape her notice. 

After a brief angsty job hunt -“‘they all want me to come to their parties, but none of them want me to actually work for them” – Serena lucked out.  In the same way Obama got the Nobel nod for simply existing, she stumbled across a job in publicity.  Her credentials were apparently her knowledge of New York’s paparazzi escape routes, and with a blink of an eye she was minding a movie star, gamely played to maximum ham by Tyra Banks.  Of course, Serena being such a naive dumbo, she couldn’t even successfully lie to a second-rate actress, and was unceremoniously fired by her meglomaniacal boss.  Wow, jobs really are hard work.  

To continue with the tenuous Obama links (becoming a theme in this recap), Blair was positioned this week as the presidential loser, who, having failed to succeed on a national platform (NYU) returned to local politics (Constance).  To refresh your memories; last season she bestowed upon Little J the title of Queen, but upsetting Blair’s machinations was the fact that the panda-eyed one was having none of this aristocracy lark.  Armed with sleepovers and monogrammed headbands, she sought to restore the feudal system, but Chuck (who is in danger of becoming a truly sympathetic character) intervened and gently reminded her that it was time to move on.  Basically, ‘yes she can’ triumph at NYU

If Blair and Serena were forced to grow up, at least Dan was still his usual innocent self, failing to recognize he was dating an A list celeb (an unconvincing Hilary Duff).  Meanwhile Nate, who apparently got into Columbia on his own merit, still needed tutoring and Vanessa was whining about something (I forget what, she’s so annoying).  Eric made a long-overdue appearance, though the Georgina showdown failed to surface.  Lastly, when it came to taking Blair down, there was some excellent war planning on the part of Jenny and Chuck. 

If only they were on Obama’s Afghanistan advisory team.