Filmed in front of a semi-live audience (they show the completed episode to an audience and incorporate the laughs into the track), How I Met Your Mother is so much more than a typical sitcom. For one, the title completely explains the show. The show is done mostly in flashbacks, with Bob Saget (America's Funniest Home Videos) narrating as an older Ted Mosby, relaying stories to his two teenage kids about how he met their mother. Ted is played in his 20s by Josh Radnor (Judging Amy).
In these flashbacks, Ted relives his adventures with former roommates Marshall (Jason Segel, Knocked Up) and Marshall's wife Lily (Alyson Hannigan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), their friend and Ted's ex-girlfriend Robin (Cobie Smulders, The L Word), and the womanizing Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle). The viewer is left wondering if the next girl that Ted dates will become his wife and mother of his children, but alas, and we haven't quite figured out who it is yet.
But that could all change with Season Three and its three-disc, 20-episode run, as Ted meets Stella (Sarah Chalke, Scrubs), a dermatologist Ted starts seeing professionally at first after he drunkenly gets a butterfly tattoo. And his relationship with Stella isn't even the most interesting part of this season. Season Three is fantastically written, with guest stars like Enrique Iglesias and Britney Spears. Yes, I know it sounds like stunt casting at first (Harris actually voiced some apprehension about the latter appearing on the show), but they actually play interesting roles and pull them of well. Additionally, the writers decide to break up good friends Ted and Barney. It's not like it should be any real surprise, as Ted and Barney's living styles always clash, but in this season, Barney's personality is just too much for Ted to take.
What makes this show particularly enjoyable is how the writers really play on all of the actors' strengths. Segel achieved breakout success for his starring turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and has been under the Judd Apatow wing for awhile, Hannigan appeared in the American Pie films, and Harris has been doing comedy for awhile, and his casting as Barney, a ladies' man, in light of his coming out gives him the chance to be over the top while still maintaining a sense of comic believability. How I Met Your Mother is excellent and hilarious material executed by a great young ensemble cast, and done properly. In the meantime, Radnor balances some comic timing with serving as the heart of the show in Ted in a way that's mildly Braff-ian. And the show has an inate quality to be picked up on rather easily; you're not going to miss out on a character turn or something, it advances character stories while still looking new and standalone to the new fewer.
There were a lot of laughs for the season, but if I was going to go with a "desert island" pick of highlights for the season, I'd include any of the following: the gang's discovery of Robin's Canadian pop star alter ego, "Robin Sparkles." Or when Marshall and Lily buy their first apartment, which they discover (after purchasing) has uneven floors. The bracket formula of Barney's carnal conquests a la the NCAA Final Four is also a stroke of genius, and the "Slapsgiving" episode was one of the funniest I've seen; Marshall even creates a video (included in the extras) where he's playing a white piano with a black backdrop and a crystal chandelier. Some of the lyrics are, "you just got slapped ..." It all makes for hilarity and an overall fun show.
In 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, How I Met Your Mother is pretty straightforward looking. The show just aired last year, so I wouldn't expect any large picture issues, edge enhancement, noise or the like. It looks like...a TV show on DVD.
I'm a little surprised by the inclusion of a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, but like most 5.1 soundtracks for television shows, or even sitcoms, most of the action occurs in the front speakers, if anywhere, with directional effects at a minimum. The show sounds as good as it looks, meaning that it's golfing on a respectable par course.
Overall, the extras were okay, but a few of the special features they included in this set were old. After all, it doesn't do much good to include a special feature titled "Cast Favorites" for the Season Three set that was done after the end of Season Two; the cast only has Season One and Two from which to select their favorite episodes. However, the amount of commentaries makes up for the few old pieces. Divided by the three discs, other special features are as follows:
A Series Retrospective Featurette (2:43) which takes the uninitiated viewer through the world of Ted and his past relationships and how the rest of his friends have fared through the years. Kind of boring, but I suppose it's helpful if you hadn't seen the show.
Lily and Marshall's Honeymoon Videos (10:00 total) are several videos in four settings as Marshall and Lily vacation in Scotland. Definitely a great addition; Marshall drags Lily to Loch Ness so that he can find the famed monster. Lily's upset because she didn't get a chance to see "Midsummer Night's Dream," so she eventually makes Marshall recreate the play. Priceless.
Behind the Scenes of "We're Not From Here" (5:39) covers the second episode of this season from rehearsal to shooting. In this episode, Robin comes back from vacation and tries to reconcile her vacation self with her daily life self. Also in that episode, Lily and Marshall are shown as an aged couple. Fun!
Additional Scenes (8:30 total) for six different episodes in the season are included. Most of them are just different versions of what actually aired, but they're fun to watch.
Two episode commentaries here, including one on The Platinum Rule with show Co-Creator Carter Bays, Director Pam Fryman, and Editor Sue Federman, and one on "Ten Sessions" with Bays, Josh Radnor, and Sarah Chalke. I'd definitely recommend the first commentary; it's very interesting as the episode was shot right after the writer's strike had begun. In fact, Bays and Co-Creator Craig Thomas wrote the episode and turned it in right before the strike started, so they weren't there to refine it at all. Also, apparently Chalke was wearing her "Scrubs" lab coat and had put a pocket protector over her "Eliot Reid" name label, which is mentioned on the "Ten Sessions" track.
A music video for "You Got Slapped" is Marshall at the piano as he delves further into his musical side and sings about, well, getting slapped.
An unrated gag reel (11:00) is pretty funny; you can see that the cast really gets along well. Unsurprisingly, the biggest laughs are from Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel. Be forewarned, a portion of this is just fluff; scenes from the actual show, set to music.
Five episode commentaries here, starting off with "The Bracket" with Thomas, Harris and Writer Joe Kelly, followed by "The Chain of Screaming" with Writer Chris Harris, Segel, and Segel's driver Danny Bress(?) I'll get to that one in a minute. Next is one for "Sandcastles in the Sand" with Thomas, Smulders, Director Pam Fryman, and Writer Kourtney Kang, then "Everything Must Go" with Hannigan and Consulting Producer Jonathan Groff, and closing out is "Miracles" with Bays and Fryman. If you're interested in the real background on the episodes, listen to the ones with Thomas, Bays, and the directors. If you just want fun, check out the ones with the cast members. The exception is "The Chain of Screaming," because although it's hard to believe, Jason Segel sounds drunk in his commentary with Chris Harris (who didn't even write the episode he was asked to commentate on), which is why Segel brought a "driver." A few of the comments from Segel's track include "I just had eight drinks in 30 minutes." And Chris tells the listener, "Jason's shirt is off now ... he's taking off his shoes ... he just put 12 condoms on the table." Segel's suggestion is that he and Harris play "Condom chicken." Yes, you kind of have to listen to that track.
The "Ted Mosby is a Jerk" audio track is more than a bit confusing. It is an audio track, but I guess they didn't want the viewer to not have anything to look at, so they set the audio track (a 20-minute song on how Ted Mosby is a jerk) over top of a random episode. Robin Sparkles' "Sandcastles in the Sand" Music Video is one of the funniest things on here, and it totally exploits Robin's Canadian heritage. Of all things, I was sure they'd include this in the set.
The show itself is one of the best sitcoms on TV today, assuming you can get used to the narration and flashbacks. Despite the old extras, delight in the fact that more than one-third of this season's episodes have commentaries and remember the bottom line: the episodes alone are what make the set worth purchasing. It's funny writing with funny actors. That's all you can really ask for at the end of the day.