Musicals in the Media: HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER's Musical Episode

Musicals in the Media: HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER's Musical Episode

By Kathryn Harris on January 12, 2010
To mark its 100th episode on January 11, the hit CBS show HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER featured a large-scale musical number.  When a hot bartender who hates Wall Street guys forces Barney (played by Neil Patrick Harris, last seen on Broadway in the 2004 revival of ASSASSINS) to chose between her and his suits, he expresses his anguish at this impossible decision in a splashy production number.  In a fantasy sequence, Barney dances through the streets of New York, transforming people's clothing into suits by pointing a finger as he declares, "Nothing suits me like a suit."

The lyrics are very clever and well crafted. It's not easy to come up with that many natural sounding rhymes for "suit," but HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER's writers have done so - without drawing attention to their cleverness. Harris, no stranger to musical theatre, commits to the number with typical Barney seriousness. It's ridiculous to see someone belting on top of a taxi a la FAME, but because Barney doesn't think it's ridiculous, its silliness is a completely natural part of the fantasy, as well as a natural part of the world of the show.

Musical sequences in TV shows can seem gimmicky, and while this one was over the top, it fit into the storyline of the episode nicely.  The transition in and out of the number isn't jarring at all, and Neil Patrick Harris remains perfectly in character, even down to his choreography.  Barney's over-the-top absurdity has long been established on the show, so the idea of Barney having internal production numbers is weirdly appropriate. Moreover, music has always been a major element of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER; Marshall's brief obsession with musical photo montages and Robin's music videos from her reign as a teenage Canadian pop star are prime examples of that.

This episode in particular took care to lay subtle groundwork for the musical number, preventing it from appearing to come out of nowhere. Barney's secret moment with the suit he hides in the bathroom feels like the start of a musical number; the suit has a kind of siren call that manifests itself musically.

With "Girls vs. Suits," HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER has successfully integrated a massive, well-crafted production number into the show, making musical theatre yet another tool to express character - and to make audiences laugh. Here's hoping that the show has more musical treats in store...perhaps even a full musical episode.

Learn more about HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER on CBS' website. Check out MTI on Twitter for the live Tweet during the episode, and add to the discussion.