Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3 stars
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

How I Met Your Mother: Season Four

Street Date:
September 29th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
October 14th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2008
Studio:
20th Century Fox
Length:
515 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The primetime void left by the departure of 'Friends' opened the door for countless imitators and wannabes. Just as every superstar NBA player is compared to Jordan, or NHL star to Gretzky, so too is seemingly every new sitcom compared to 'Friends.'

Enter: 'How I Met Your Mother.' The program, which debuted on CBS in 2005, has drawn rave reviews and quite a few award nominations, along with a faithful fan base. Funnily enough, the show's success is mostly due to it's blatant use of themes from 'Friends,' only using a running story line that's supposed to draw to a certain conclusion rather than just stretch on for season after season with no obvious destination.

Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor, voiced by Bob Saget for narration only) has a story to tell to his teenage children in the year 2030, about how he met their mother. The story has its twists and turns, forgetting no wrong turn, turning over every leaf in the same fashion that Ted has searched for his Miss Right. His group of friends sometimes help matters in his search for the future mother of his children, though occasionally they throw a wrench in his quest. Marshall (Jason Segel, 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall') and wife Lily (Alyson Hannigan, 'American Pie' films), along with Ted's ex Robin (Cobie Smulders) and the Fonz of the group, the womanizing Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, 'Harold and Kumar go to White Castle'), all play a vital part in the telling of the important tale surrounding the foundation of the love of Ted's life. When things look bleak, a new opportunity begins, in work, life, and love, and not just for Ted.

As a newcomer to this show (this Blu-ray release marks the first time I've viewed any episode), I found 'How I Met Your Mother' to be easy to jump into (one of the supplements in this release helped, but more on that later), with only one odd episode in the beginning of the season so dependent on previous happenings that piecing the story together became natural and easy, like I'd been with the show from the start. Having seasons one through three would have been nice (seriously, Fox, why release random odd seasons with no apparent rhyme or reason?), but they weren't necessary to fully "get" the show, a testament to the strengths of this sitcom.

'Friends' is first and foremost an obvious inspiration, in terms of the pace and style, and there are only minor differences between it and 'How I Met Your Mother.' The Ross-Rachel relationship, which is now symbolic of friends who become romantically entangled, unentangled, entangled again, is played out well with Barney and Robin, while the twists in that relationship caused by Ted's past romantic links with Robin echo back to the love triangle in later 'Friends' seasons that brought Joey into the main love story. Lily and Marshall are obviously the Chandler and Monica, the quirky guy and stable (compared to the others) girl whose marriage stands as the only true instance of stability in relationships. But enough about the odd coincidences...

'How I Met Your Mother' has an intriguing theme, which sometimes doesn't really fit with the episodes, as it is obvious that grown up Ted is a meandering storyteller. Not only that, but what dad tells his children about his sexual misadventures?! When numerous episodes involve the escapades (and sexcapades) of the other cast, it's hard to see why they fit in a tale about how he, personally, met a woman, though I suppose the focus on one character alone would kill a show from monotony. It's hard to take the show seriously at times due to the extreme off topic focus it often takes in approaching the grand scheme of things, as it's obvious, first getting in to the show, that we won't see what truly shapes the relationship between Ted and whomever Miss Right is for some time, so we instead see all the failed relationships that shape his identity. It creates a situation where one doesn't have to view every episode in sequence to follow along, a good-bad situation, as there is no real reward for being a loyal viewer, other than more zany acting by Harris.

Season Four follows Ted through a failed engagement, and how he copes with the loss of what he thought was the one, a too-fast-for-its-own-good relationship that implodes due to his inability to leave well enough alone. From awkward dates, to the hunt for the perfect burger (featuring a hilarious guest spot by Regis Philbin), to the discussion of an underpants radius, comfortable sleep attire, a love of interventions, sabotaging relationships, the stereotypical visit from an out of town sibling, and the struggles of the friends in the tough job climate, this season covers plenty of ground, both original and cliche.

As a noob, I have to say I was utterly amazed by the dedication of the extremely multifaceted performance Harris provides. From his perfect line deliveries to extreme physical comedy (not to mention the superb writing for his character), he steals the show at every turn, making both a convincing elderly man and a lovably deviant scamp. Segal is convincing in his man child performance, but I had a hard time believing Hannigan in her role, perhaps due to my constantly thinking of her and a flute. Maybe it's in the eyes, no matter what color her hair is, she'll always be that band nerd in my eyes. My favorite moments had to be the parody of 'Snatch''s character title cards, or the appearance of a 'Teen Wolf.'

'How I Met Your Mother' is a fun, lighthearted comedy that would be pleasant for a couples watch, or even as more teenaged family fare. It's not perfect by any means, but it accomplishes its goals in getting an audience to care for the characters and root for the romantic entanglements they put into play. There is great potential here, but the longer the story gets drawn out, the more likely I'll be upset that it took so long to just tell one tale, and the more likely I'll be to throw my arms up in complaint, as no teenage child has the attention span for this much storytelling.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The fourth season of 'How I Met Your Mother,' also known as the first season of 'How I Met Your Mother' to hit Blu-ray, does exactly that with a series of 24 AVC MPEG-4 encodes at 1080p. Not having seen the show broadcast, I can't compare qualities, just what's given here.

Skin tones stay natural and nicely saturated through most of the season, with the occasional molten lava face here and there, never flushed out. There are some amazing extreme close ups, mostly on Segals mug (which is so full of character), while at average range there is a nice level of definition, though nowhere near striking. Distances also maintain an acceptible level of clarity. Blacks are appropriate in their appearance, not too deep or bright, not worth really giving praise or disdain. Delineation can be an off and on affair, sometimes showing the best of dark details even in shadows, while other times hair just gets sucked into the void.

Colors are natural, sometimes a bit on the muted end of the scale, though dream/fantasy sequences pop gorgeously, and are clearly over saturated. The episode involving hiding under a restaurant table had obvious issues with lighting, so its colors come across as less than great, or completely unnatural, a lose-lose scenario. The picture as a whole has a fairly nice three dimensional feel, not to the point that it pops off the screen, but it certainly doesn't look cheap at all. Lastly, the composite background shots in the final episode of this season on the roof shake on one part, and stay still on others, creating a distracting, flat out ugly and cheap feel that the show really didn't have before that point.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'How I Met Your Mother' reminds me of one of the tougher questions when reviewing a Blu-ray disc: does one judge a film or show by what is there and how well it brings one into the program, or does one judge it by intent, regardless of any technological deficiencies, that may be a part of the sound design. Fox has afforded the show a series of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks that define this...ahem...age old question.

The dialogue for the show is never muffled, never garbled (in fact, it's never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and hurt you). The thing is, dialogue never comes from rear channels, hovering in its comfort zone at the front end of the room, no matter what angles a character may be at. There was a bit of a feedback undercurrent at times in the dialogue, but it's not really distracting, just noticeable.

Clutter from the laugh track (yes, sadly, this sitcom has a laugh track) is also focused from the fronts, not putting the viewer in the "audience," as it were. Rears were used sparingly with ambiance, with the often visited bar frequently sounding like it were about to get shut down due to not making a dime. Streets were never crowded or busy, creating a New York that's really about as happening as Fargo. In one sequence, a marching band plays, surrounding an entire room, yet music only comes from the front. I get it, really, that the sounds that we hear can all be interpreted as part of the narration, which would come in the form of the sit down between father and children, but that's really stretching things a bit to justify lazy sound design.

Rears did get some activity with swooshing cuts moving through a room, while, surprisingly, my subwoofer did get the occasional bit of rumble, though not from the city, rather random bits of score, and the occasional bit of emphasis. When the bass comes in, it's rather surprising, due to how often it isn't around for the party, but at least it's there. While I brought up the question fighting intent vs actuality, I have to go with my gut here and say that things could have been better.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The Supplement package for 'How I Met Your Mother: Season Four' directly rivals that found on the DVD release. It's a somewhat shallow experience.

  • Audio Commentary on episode Do I Know You? - With Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. The premiere episode of this season. The duo of creators discuss the ending of the previous season involving the engagement, the series of negatives that happen to Ted that make the positives that much sweeter, an alternate opener episode's existence, the duality of man in terms of the ever thinking penis, bathroom experiences, and have nothing but praise for their own show. There are some gaps here and there, but they aren't bad, compared to the length of the episode.
  • Audio Commentary on episode The Best Burger in New York - With Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. They talk about the real life parallel to this episode involving a record store, how long it took to get the story on paper, and the Wal-Mart-ization of NYC. They'd rather talk about their band instead of about the big name guest star on screen. It's rather shameless.
  • Audio Commentary on episode I (heart) NJ - With David Ellis Duncan and Evan Rock. These "guest actors" discuss what it's like to work on the show, not just this episode in general. They pimp their side businesses (DED Dog Photography? The hell?!), talk British, and just like Bays and Thomas before them, whore it up like it were going out of style.
  • Audio Commentary on episode The Naked Man - With Chuck Tatham, Joe Kelly, and Josh Radnor. Ted and two writers sit down to discuss what may be one of the best episodes in this release, though having the original Naked Man in on the track would have been great. They sing along with the theme "song," the casting of said less-than-clothed man, down to nipple size (note to self: *shudder*), discuss how real life fans have been influenced by the "mating dance," and real life experiences with the method. A good commentary for a great episode.
  • Season 3 Recap (HD, 2 min) - A quick music video style compilation of vital scenes from the previous season of 'How I Met Your Mother.' For those of us not familiar with the show, it doesn't do a good job of playing catch up, but I does show some vital things to know about for the season on this Blu-ray release.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 7 min) - From cussing, to contagious laughter and general tomfoolery, this series of screw ups is your run of the mill feature.
  • Barney Stinson: That Guy's Awesome Music Video (HD, 1 min) - The video from Barney's website that was absolutely awesome squared.
  • A Night With Your Mother (Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Panel Discussion) (SD, 15 min) - A sit down interview with the actors on the show about their thoughts on the happenings on screen, and the writers and their insights, all mixed in with clips of the scenes mentioned.
  • Pre-Menu Trailers - On Disc One, there are trailers before the menu, featuring: 'Family Guy Season Seven', 'I Love You Beth Cooper', and 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.'

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There is no exclusive content on this release.

Easter Eggs

On Disc Two, in the Extras menu, go to Music Video, press right button, and click on the now visible outline of New Jersey with the line through it to view a briefly extended bit of Marshall and his brothers engaging in their own little Fight Club (SD, 1 min).

Final Thoughts

I'm no 'How I Met Your Mother' expert...far from it, honestly. I'm a n00b to the show, so I can't even tell if this is one of the best or worst seasons of the program. I can see why there's such a following, and I enjoyed the characters, but I don't see this as one of the best of the best. It's strong, and often quite funny, but it's far from perfect. The audio and video are just...there. The extras package is also pretty sparse for a TV on BD release. Fans will gobble this one up, but those unaware of the show should give it a try, as it isn't hard to figure out the story, and this show doesn't revolve around the previous episodes to be enjoyed.

Technical Specs

  • BD50 Dual Layer Discs
  • 3 Disc Set

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • Spanish
  • French

Supplements

  • Recap of season three
  • Commentary Tracks
  • Gag Reel
  • "Barney Stinson: That Guy's Awesome" music video
  • "A Night with Your Mother" Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
  • Easter egg

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