Good­bye, gang

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - FRONT PAGE - BRAD OSWALD

HOLLYWOOD — It’s clos­ing time at MacLaren’s Pub. And like most last calls at most drink­ing es­tab­lish­ments, when time is called, there will likely be a few hugs, a few tears and a few fi­nal glasses raised. But at MacLaren’s, there will be no re­grets. At MacLaren’s, the favourite wa­ter­ing hole of the char­ac­ters on CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, clos­ing time will lock the doors on a ni­ne­sea­son run that ev­ery­one in­volved feels is end­ing at just the right time. “We re­ally did have an eight-year plan, right from the pilot,” se­ries co-cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Craig Thomas said re­cently dur­ing CBS’s por­tion of the U.S. net­works’ semi-an­nual press tour in Los An­ge­les, on a day when a group of TV crit­ics and re­porters paid a fi­nal visit to HIMYM’s set in­side Stage 22 on the 20th Cen­tury Fox Stu­dios lot. “We kind of knew how we wanted to end it, which turns out to be (af­ter) nine years, which is great. At the be­gin­ning of Sea­son 2, we shot part of what is go­ing to air in the se­ries fi­nale with (Ted’s) kids. “Yeah, it’s sur­real that the end­ing is com­ing. We shot that lit­tle bit with the kids in fall of 2006, I think, and it’s part of the end game. You will see it on March 31st; it’s re­ally weird to get to that point. I miss ev­ery­body al­ready, but I think it’s only go­ing to hit us once it’s re­ally over.” Thomas, along with fel­low pro­duc­ers Carter Bays and Pamela Fry­man, and cast mem­bers Josh Rad­nor, Cobie Smulders, Neil Pa­trick Har­ris, Ja­son Segel, Alyson Han­ni­gan and Cristin Mil­i­oti, were un­der­stand­ably a bit wist­ful as they rem­i­nisced about their HIMYM ex­pe­ri­ences and looked ahead to the se­ries’ March 31 fi­nale (the show airs Mon­days on CBS and Ci­tytv). “I had been part of a cou­ple shows that I loved be­ing on, and they got can­celled within the first sea­son,” Segel re­called, re­fer­ring to his short­lived st­ints on a pair of Judd Apa­tow-pro­duced se­ries, Freaks and Geeks and Un­de­clared. “So I re­ally felt like there was no way you could equate qual­ity with whether or not it lasted, and I was al­ways ready for this show to be can­celled, and then the fact that we got along so well made it al­most a sure thing to be can­celled.

“It’s just the best gift ever that it stuck around for so long. We lucked out. It’s been a dream ex­pe­ri­ence.” In­ter­view ses­sions on the TV press tour tend to be filled with dec­la­ra­tions that “This is the best cast ever,” and “We all get along so well,” but there was some­thing about this fi­nal in­ter­view with the HIMYM bunch that felt so sin­cere. Segel said that much of the credit for the show’s all-for-one men­tal­ity be­longs to ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and res­i­dent direc­tor Fry­man, an ex­pe­ri­enced TV-in­dus­try hand who quickly be­came sort of a den mother for HIMYM’s rel­a­tively young cast. “I think we’re all in­her­ently nice peo­ple and try to be nice peo­ple, but Pam Fry­man has set a tone on set from Sea­son 1 where it was, like, the thing that took prece­dence over any­thing was that we all get along and that we all be kind and good to each other, and that the set be a pleas­ant place to be,” he said. “I can’t imag­ine do­ing this for nine years in a dif­fer­ent sort of en­vi­ron­ment, and I don’t think it was just be­ing smart. I think it’s who Pam is in her heart. “This has been like the nicest place to come for nine years, and no­body could get out of line with­out feel­ing re­ally dumb for do­ing it, you know?” How I Met Your Mother’s fi­nal sea­son has been a de­par­ture from fa­mil­iar sit­com style in that the en­tire cam­paign is tak­ing place in the span of a sin­gle week­end — the week­end of Bar­ney and Robin’s wed­ding in the up­scale coastal en­clave known as Farhamp­ton. Con­cen­trat­ing the nar­ra­tive of an en­tire sea­son into a 72-hour span has been a chal­lenge for the show’s writ­ers — and some would ar­gue the gim­mick has re­sulted in some episodes that don’t live up to HIMYM’s usual com­edy stan­dard — but it has pro­vided an ef­fec­tive blue­print for Ted and the long-dis­cussed mother (played by Mil­i­oti) to fi­nally meet. “We’re go­ing to get more glimpses of their re­la­tion­ship, for sure, and some big mo­ments in it, and there’s also this won­der­ful episode, our 200th episode, that fills in the eight years in the life of the mother,” said Thomas of the episode called How Your Mother Met Me that aired ear­lier this week. “Cristin is amaz­ing in it, and there’s a lot of fun in­ter­sec­tions be­tween her life and our gang. Our gang is in that episode, but re­ally it’s her episode, and I feel that kicks off the end game of the sea­son and the se­ries.” The penul­ti­mate episode (March 24) is The End of the Aisle, and the hour-long se­ries fi­nale, which airs March 31, is aptly ti­tled Last For­ever.

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