‘HIMYM’ Role Plays With a Gaggle of Guest Stars

by | October 25, 2011 at 12:01 PM | How I Met Your Mother

Chris Elliott and Alyson Hannigan on "How I Met Your Mother" (Fox/CBS)

Chris Elliott and Alyson Hannigan on "How I Met Your Mother" (Fox/CBS)

It was a guest-a-palooza last night on “How I Met Your Mother,” with what seemed like almost all of the gang’s collective family history coming together at once. The trigger? Guest boyfriend / Robin’s former therapist Kevin (Kal Penn), who told the group that people essentially marry their mothers and fathers. Why did he say that? Because Barney’s brother James (Wayne Brady) got freaked out that Barn’s new squeeze Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) acted too much like their mother for comfort.

Wait… why was James there? No particular reason; he was just in those opening scenes to mention the creepy mother thing, and we never saw him again. Since when does the show bring in Brady just to have him film one scene? Anyway, it was distractions like this that took away from what was generally an entertaining episode. And, while the show doesn’t do all that well when a guest infiltrates the group — Penn has stuck out like a sore thumb as Jennifer Morrison did last year — the rest of the guest-a-thon worked well.

How couldn’t it, when it produced a scene where Chris Elliott and Bill Fagerbakke, playing Lily’s and Marshall’s dads, get ready to make out? Freud would have a field day with this scene. To explain it would take longer than it would to watch it, so we encourage you to watch the entire episode below to see how the writers managed to twist their way into that fantasy sequence.

Watch “Noretta” here:

We also got some glimpses of Frances Conroy when Barney finally realized that Nora was actually acting like his mother Loretta, as well as Christine Rose in both fantasy and non-fantasy sequences as Ted’s mom Virginia. Oddly, both of the sequences with Ted’s mom involved Ted’s love for “Weird Al” Yankovic, who we also saw in the final scene, dressed in his eighties-era Hawaiian shirt, frizzy wig, aviator frames and tiny ‘stache. That scene also worked, but that’s mainly because Al is so over the top that he overacts on purpose. In the scene, we’re supposed to believe that young Ted Mosby was the inspiration to Al’s hit parody “Like a Surgeon.” Ah, if it were only true…

The only member of the gang whose family we didn’t see was Robin’s, but that may have been because last week we saw how her overbearing father (Ray Wise) left her to fend for herself in the wilderness on her birthday when she was a teenager.

Was it a case of too many guest stars? Perhaps. It felt like the show had a season’s worth of guests all in the same episode. But if it weren’t for the fact that most of them played family members who we’ve seen many times before, it felt more natural than it could have. The “you marry your mother/father” concept also helped, because it gave us limited exposure to these guests via fantasy scenes. Only a show in its seventh year, with a collective history to mine, could have a reason to pull out this many guests at once, but let’s hope Carter Bays and Craig Thomas don’t make a habit out of it.