[01/08/10 - 02:38 PM]
Live at the Paley Center for Media: "How I Met Your Mother"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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Monday marks the 100th episode of "How I Met Your Mother," a milestone for any series but an especially notable one in this case. Despite glowing reviews and a cult fan base, "Mother's" future was often in doubt for its first three years on the air. By year four however, the series cemented its status as one of television's most-watched comedies. And with Jason Segel's burgeoning film career and Neil Patrick Harris's burgeoning... everything, "Mother" continues to carve out its place in pop culture at large. Reflection on said struggles and triumphs then were the focus of the Paley Center's "How I Met Your Mother: 100th Episode Celebration" on Thursday. Here's a recap of the event:

6:38 PM - Paley executive Craig Hitchcock appears to intro tonight's panel and isn't shy about his love for the show. We'll be seeing plenty of Craig come February 26 when this year's Paleyfest kicks off.

6:40 PM - He in turn brings out our moderator, Daily Variety's (and frequent Paley fixture) Stuart Levine. He too pops off plenty of "Mother"-isms and brings up "Mother" co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, who've brought the anniversary installment with them.

7:05 PM - Said screening wraps (don't worry, we won't spoil) and Stuart returns to intro the panelists: Neil Patrick Harris! Cobie Smulders! Jason Segel! Alyson Hannigan! Josh Radnor! Pamela Fryman (whom Stuart notes directed 93 of the 100 episodes)! And our returning champions Craig Thomas! Carter Bays!

7:08 PM - Craig on the show's success: "From a writing standpoint, I would say probably writing what you know, that old cliche. Carter and I wrote two pilots that year, the other pilot crashed and burned horribly and was sort of embarrassingly bad... It was set in a school about a teacher and all this stuff, it's stuff we didn't know. What we did know was getting really drunk and making bad relationship decisions. We thought that was our forte."

7:10 PM - Carter on becoming first-time showrunners: "Our process up until that point had been Craig and I in a room with a bottle of scotch, you know, crying and writing. We still do that, two of the five days of the week." Craig adds: "One thing we learned was to delegate. I think in season one you kind of think like you can do everything. I think we were also both on every decision and all the decisions would take longer because we'd have to talk about it with the scotch and the crying and all that kind of stuff... [so] we came up with a system where one of us is in charge of one episode and one is in charge of another and we alternate. I think you can see the difference is that mine are significantly better. I don't think that's an opinion, that's a fact." Carter quips, "I get paid either way."

7:12 PM - Carter on the initial reactions to the pilot: "The one positive comment about the pilot was that it felt like... these five people really felt like friends. Often when you make a pilot the two guys who play brothers, they get cast the day before you start shooting and they have to, suddenly there's a lifetime of knowledge between each other that they have to pretend. These guys, a lot of it is extraordinary acting talent, but it's also just they're five great people who we all did hit it off with right from the start."

7:15 PM - Carter on casting Lily: "Craig and I were both huge dorks for 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' And so for that character it was like Lily, Alyson Hannigan. That's it, that's done." Craig adds: "I said to [my wife] Rebecca, we're writing a show based on sort of a couple that's based on us and a single guy that's kind of based on Carter. Rebecca was like, 'Yeah, I don't like that. That feels weird.' [But] if you can get Alyson Hannigan from 'Buffy' then that's okay.'"

7:16 PM - Carter on casting Barney: "The character was written for a large John Belushi-type character. And Neil came in, he was not..." Craig interrupts, "To be fair he was like 350 back then." Neil adds, "Before the stomach stapling."

7:17 PM - Neil on his memories of the show's early days: "TV's such a weird medium because shows that are lauded critically fail and shows that no one seems to like sometimes stick around for a very long time and everything else sort of falls in between. So that first season you just never know... and for a good two and a half of our five years we were considering cancellation as far as we knew. We were working as hard as we could and up against big, giant shows like the 'Deal or No Deal' show was opposite us, it was like a super ratings juggernaut. And the "Dancing With the Stars" show was opposite us so we never really had any light shining on us. And so I think for a while we didn't get picked up until like the day or two before they have to announce their lineup."

7:18 PM - Alyson on her experience: "I definitely wanted to do comedy and this was just the best script I read and then I met Carter and Craig and they were adorable and sweet. And then when I saw Neil - we were both at the network test - it was just like, 'What?!', because we had known each other for so long and thought, 'Oh, that'd be so cool!' And then I think I convinced you to - because you said you were going to do a summersault or something [for the laser tag scene in the pilot] - and I was like, 'Well hit the wall so I can hear you.' Like that was going to help you. [Laughs.] And then you did it and I was like, 'Oh my God that is so cool!'"

7:19 PM - Pamela on what she brought to the show: "They needed someone old." Neil adds: "I directed [episode] 101 and Pam got to be around to observe it. Her ability to be such a leader with such compassion that everyone around her works extraordinarily hard to do the best that they can do to appease her. And that's not an iron fist. You should see these camera crews, they laugh, there's a great energy. We all want to be on our game. She's able to direct without being rude. She's able to say no without there being any kind of awkward tension... she's absolutely an extraordinary person and an amazing director."

7:23 PM - Jason on the show's various guest stars: "I'm like a super comedy dork, you know? I really am and so working with both Chris [Elliott] and Bob [Odenkirk] like those are guys who I feel like I've learned from coming up. I feel this way about the rest of the cast but even more so when you have someone who's going to be there for two days: you just want to impress them in a way that brings out the best in you. Like the idea of making Chris Elliott laugh because of something I did or Bob Odenkirk, that gives me an even bigger thrill than I can even describe. It's just, it's the coolest thing ever."

7:24 PM - Craig on the Britney Spears stunt casting: "Britney, Carter and I were friends with her before... [from] way back." Carter adds that during the table read they introduced her as: "And I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly... Britney Spears."

7:26 PM - Josh on what he likes most about Ted: "He's almost like aggressively nostalgic. He wants his friends together to create these memories and document these memories. But there's something very sweet about that. He's a very self-aware character, he knows something's happening and I want it to be meaningful and I want everyone else to share in the meaning and I want another round of drinks. He wants to celebrate the, he's a rather charming creation I think that these guys have conjured up. And you don't see a lot of that on television I don't think. He's a really good friend which I think is a wonderful quality to play."

7:27 PM - Craig adds: "It keeps coming up in the writers' room that he's this guy who wants to find the one and it's so sweet and it's so heartfelt and lovely and poignant but at 100 episodes, he's banged like 600 girls." Carter chimes in: "The thing that we figured out about Ted early on... I like the idea that he doesn't have kids yet but he's already a dad. He already tells corny jokes, he already is the guy that's like 'everyone get into the picture because it's Christmas, let's all be together,' there's something kind of dad-like about him."

7:29 PM - Carter on revealing the mother: "We should just set a date. We should just say it's going to be May 15, [2000-whatever]... I want to get to say like, well, he met her in like season three. You didn't see that one? Have you not seen the show?" Craig reveals that, "We've even shot a piece of what will bring you to the mother already because the actors who play those kids are respectively now 40 and 42." Jason adds that "if they keep pushing it long enough science will catch up and there's no reason Marshall can't be the mother. I mean we could make it work, we get along so well."

7:31 PM - Neil on his take on the mother: "I think it begets too many questions when you know who the mother is. I think the show is the journey. That is the show, it's called how I met your mother. You know what I mean? Like once you meet her then it becomes, well, did you cast the right person? And now what happens? It becomes sort of a jump the shark moment."

7:32 PM - Josh adds: "One of the great things about 'How I Met Your Mother' is there's a belief in the show that the world will still be around in 2035." Jason adds he's super disappointed there's nothing futuristic in the background. ("There should be a window with flying cars!")

7:33 PM - Neil on the Barney/Robin pairing: "I loved it. I angled for it almost all of last season. I would just do random thinks like just watch her as she walked away. I think Robin is such the sexual figure in the show." [Cobie gives him a weird look.] "That I think it would have been silly for Barney not to have at least kind of acknowledge her attractiveness. So those lingering looks kind of became a little bit more of the two of them coming together. They had similar likes with the shooting guns and cigars and sex. And so it became a thing, a dangerous thing. I think it was only supposed to last for a couple episodes originally and it ended up going seven episodes which went by very, very quickly. And it was great fun."

7:35 PM - Cobie on the show's comedic and dramatic range: "I like being able to play both... I enjoy being able to bounce back and forth and I think that's one of the best things about our show. I think the guys do such a great job of catering towards that and writing towards that."

7:36 PM - Pamela teases that Jason sometimes requires multiple takes to get certain scenes. "It's like if I have to eat sloppy joes, I want to do it a million different ways," Jason quips. "I think it's important to have an environment where you can swing and miss because every once in a while you hit the random home run that you never saw coming. So I don't feel bad. I don't feel bad because we keep swinging for the fences. That's how I see it." Craig responds, "Well, this would have been a good forum to apologize though." Jason fires back, "You guys took my youth! Deal with it!"

7:39 PM - Carter explains that they did considering filming with an audience but the logistics of shooting that many scenes with its quick cuts and such, made it impossible to do so. "The show that we sold to CBS was a multi-cam show and we handed in a single-cam script," Carter explains. "I think a lot of that has to do with Craig and I never had written a multi-cam show before and our sensibility was kind of faster paced." Craig counters: "We wrote one episode of 'Quintuplets'... hold for applause."

7:40 PM - Carter on the show's ancillary tie-ins (books, digital content, etc.): "We consume media the same way everyone else in America does which is we watch YouTube all the time. We do all the things that will probably, eventually put us out of a job."

7:41 PM - Cobie notes someone told her they saw someone dressed as Robin Sparkles for Halloween. "It was such a gift from these guys," she notes. "Because I don't know why they thought that I could sing a song. We had some help in the studio." Carter and Craig admit their go to source for all things Canadian is writing staff member Chuck Tatham.

7:43 PM - Alyson admits the running joke amongst the cast is to try and create as many cat-related puns as they can. Examples of this spread like wildfire, starting with Jason: "Sometimes it feels like the whole cat and kaboodle."

7:45 PM - Jason on his lasting memories of the show: "Over the past year Josh directed a movie, they had babies, I mean it's serious... Neil hosted the Emmys and directed an episode and I've been doing my thing and watching us all grow up together and sort of achieve our dreams has been my favorite part." Neil: "Jason that was a pur-fect answer."

7:47 PM - More Neil memories: "I'm so grateful to Carter and Craig and the whole staff - they are always not complacent ever. They're always just trying to come with new, interesting things to do, not only storylines but just styles of things to do. So we've all had chances to wear old age makeup and to film on green screen teeter-totters. I love the process of making it. We don't have much control over whether people like it or laugh, we only have control of enjoying it while it's happening." Jason adds, "If we could just take a second and paws."

7:50 PM - Time for audience Q&A. Someone asks about the pineapple. Cater notes "I think this show has been a learning process and I'll say this about the pineapple, we ended that episode where the narrator says, 'we never found out where the pineapple came from.' I think the fact that we wrote that made us sort of correct ourselves in future episodes. I think we learned the lesson: never say something like that."

7:53 PM - Jason on the state of his Muppets project and which Muppets are most like him: "I think we're getting very, very close to making the Muppets movie, that's all I can really say. But I'm a mix of Kermit and Fozzie. Kermit is my favorite... he was the original everyman. He's the original Tom Hanks, isn't he? Jimmy Stewart, you know? I literally grew up thinking that's what I want to do. I want to be Kermit. Yeah, that's how my brain works... I think you guys will be very happy. I'm approaching it with no sense of irony. You know that was the important thing to me about the Muppets is that it shouldn't be done like, 'Oh now this will be funny, I'll do the Muppets.' I love them. So I think you can look forward to something very pure and good."

7:55 PM - Someone asks if there's an actor or actress that they're "clawing" to have on the show. Craig notes he was going to make a cat pun before but he "totally pussied out." Jason notes the mother should be Hillary Clinton. As for serious choices: Christopher Guest and Jennifer Aniston, whom Alyson says she's heard is a fan.

7:57 PM - Carter on why use Bob Saget as Future Ted: "We like the idea that there's two different characters: there's present day Ted Mosby who's just getting knocked around and there's Future Ted Mosby who's got it all figured out and is telling the story."

8:00 PM - Craig on what's ahead for the show: "From a writing standpoint just getting inspired by how amazing this cast is... it's just so fun to discover the new superpowers, to have the time to discover the superpowers of this cast and like we started writing this show and we though, oh, it's kind of based on us and our friends but then these guys are so much cooler than us and our friends. And so it's great to sort of dig deeper and discover who they are comedically and emotionally."

8:02 PM - And that's a wrap for tonight! See you when the Paleyfest starts February 26!

  [january 2010]  


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