One thing I was keeping an eye out for in the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother is whether they’d continue the trend they (unconsciously) started last year, of having Ted (Josh Radnor) be selfish, immature, and kind of a jerk. He did not disappoint: knowing nothing about the woman he’s going to marry, committing criminal negligence, and becoming freakishly obsessed with whether or not she likes Star Wars is an impressive tally for one episode, and continues his devolution into, as he put it tonight, “15 year-old me.” Barney is now officially a more mature and compassionate character than Ted.
I don’t think this is actually the wrong way to go with the character; as his friends all get more mature, why not have him become more immature on his way to self-discovery and eventual happiness with The Mother? (Is there anybody out there who thinks Stella’s the mother? Come on; her accepting his proposal is the equivalent of somebody confessing to the crime halfway through a Murder, She Wrote episode.) It works better than the original portrayal of Ted as Mr. Starry-Eyed Romantic, which didn’t work — and probably never works; sensitive guys are ratings poison, and rightly so. But for all its strengths, this show would be stronger if it really arrived at a strong, consistent characterization for Ted, since he’s the main character, after all. Unless they plan to really dig into this portrayal of him as an immature jerk and run with it, they’re still not quite there.
The premiere itself felt a little “off,” but I’ve learned not to panic with season premieres. The thing that struck me was how few scenes and time-jumps it had; I’m not about to count, but it’s very possible that the strong season premiere of The Big Bang Theory (still the same solid, funny, middle-of-the-road show it was last year; in another era, it would be a strong second-tier performer like Night Court or something like that, but in an era without top-tier hits, too much may be expected of it) had more scenes. I don’t know if it was a one-time only thing, since I haven’t seen the other episodes after the season premiere, but tonight’s was an episode that was mostly linear and could easily have been done in front of an audience.