Monday, January 11, 2010

To 100 and Beyond: the creators talk HIMYM

This week I got the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, the creators and executive producers of one of my favourite shows on television, How I Met Your Mother. This coming Monday is the 100th episode of the series so Craig and Carter took some time to speak to reporters about the upcoming episode, the amazing talents of the cast and everything else How I Met Your Mother. In between sweet buddy banter and a well-placed joke about buying weed off one of the reporters back in college, Craig and Carter shared the following info:

The Episode-
The 100th is the most that’s ever been packed into a single episode, everybody gets something fun. The two main stories belong to Ted and Barney. First off, Ted meets the first of 3 highly anticipated guest stars (Rachel Bilson) who may or may not be the mother of his children (I’m going to take that to mean she isn’t). Apparently Bilson’s character is very important to Ted’s overall arc and the producers would anticipate having her back in future episodes.

The episode’s other 2 guest stars, Tim Gunn and Stacey Keibler, factor into Barney’s story: in his quest to nail a hot bartender who hates guys who wear suits, Barney has to choose between his libido and his motto (“suit up”). The result is, of course, a musical fantasy sequence.

The Musical Number-
When asked if the success of Glee has anything to do with wanting to do a musical number on the show, Craig and Carter explain that they met while in a band so their love of music is in everything they do (fun fact: the theme music is actually from their song “Hey Beautiful”). Also, they have a strong cast of singers (they call both Neil Patrick Harris and Josh Radnor “song and dance men”, though Josh is certainly more secretly so than Neil) so when better than the 100th episode to have some fun with music? As fans of Glee, Craig and Carter say that the FOX show has made it clear that musicals can be done today on TV. And the number is choreographed by (My TV Nominee, Glee choreographer) Zach Woodlee, so it’s like they and Glee are in this together.

The number involved 65 dancers in suits who showed up at 5am to learn their steps. What usually shoots in 3 days took 4 for the 100th episode because 2 full days were spent on the musical. A 50 piece string orchestra was conducted by the series’ composer (who had never conducted before) and the song itself was composed by Craig and Carter (who’d only ever composed cute little songs for the show before).

Though the rest of the cast is game to sing whenever (Jason Segel sang in “Slapsgiving” and Cobie Smulders is Robin Sparkles) Alyson Hannigan is so shy about her voice that they have to arrange the musical elements around her so the most she ever has to do is “speaksing”. Craig and Carter swear that if you catch her just singing for fun on set she actually has a beautiful lilting soprano but they’re sure they’ll never get it on camera.

And speaking of Alyson singing, the guys consider “Once More With Feeling” to be a perfect TV musical episode so the thought of doing a full episode and having to live up to the standard Buffy set is very daunting. They joke that maybe they’ll do a How I Met Your Mother Broadway musical when the show is all over, apparently that’s more likely than them ever doing a full musical episode- and someone pitched the idea of doing it on ice, which seemed to be the winning concept. As for the musical number in the 100th episode, Craig and Carter say “an Emmy [for best original song]?, we want a Pulitzer!”.

Neil’s Many Talents-
Of course, when talking about How I Met Your Mother, you have to talk about the show’s biggest name. And since that name got substantially bigger this year, some reporters asked the questions I’m sure Craig and Carter are always answering “how much did you know Neil could do when you cast him?”

When they were casting the show 5 years ago, everything the creators knew about the singing, dancing, magic-doing, tightrope-walking, “showbiz ninja” (as they called him) that is Neil Patrick Harris was from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. Sure they’d seen Doogie Howser and he did a 110% commitment shoulder roll in his Barney audition but Neil pretty much got the part based on the stoner movie. Now the Emmy-nominated jack of all trades is one of TV’s biggest names, stealing every episode of the show and even directing #101.

How I Met Your Mother History-
The title of the show was the first thing that came about. Craig and Carter didn’t know if it was a book, a movie or a TV show but they knew it was a universal concept that any audience could relate to.

One of the show’s most famous elements, the slap bet, was apparently something they used to do in high school “in lieu of having girlfriends and lives”. When they first put it in the show they were expecting to get letters of complaint; when they wrote in the slap bet board game they were expecting to get sued, instead they got requests from fans asking where it was available for purchase.

Craig and Carter also shared their favourite episodes and moments from the history of the series so far. They say that the season 1 episode “Drumroll Please” set the romantic tone that they all love about the series and that the final moments of the first season after Ted gets Robin then finds Marshall out in the rain was when they realized the true potential of the show.

The Future of the Series-
The second half of the season will feature lots of guest stars including Carrie Underwood, Amanda Peet and Yankee players.

Apparently the Monday after the Superbowl is home to a pretty epic Barney episode so be sure not to miss that.

As for the series as a whole, they hope not to introduce the titular “mother” anytime soon. Though they recognize that there are stories to be told after Ted meets his future wife and that all series that have long runs like 10 seasons have to move forward into new phases, to the creators, meeting the mother would signal the end. They say there are 4 other interesting characters and each of them has an interesting journey to enjoy before Ted meets the resolution of his.

The writers joke about all the people demanding that they introduce the mother character, “it’s like watching MASH and saying ‘gah, end this war already’”, one says, as the other quickly responds “because being single in New York is EXACTLY like being at war in Korea”.

How I Met Your Mother is nominated for six 2009 My TV Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy (Neil Patrick Harris), Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Cobie Smulders), Best Writing for a Comedy (Craig Thomas & Carter Bays, “Definitions”), Best Comedy Series and The Be-My-Best-Friend Award (Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan).

The 100th episode “Girls vs. Suits” airs tonight (Monday, January 11) at 8pm on CBS

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