How I Met Your Mother: The Complete Season 7
opens with Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) getting married, but you won't find out who he's marrying until the very last episode--which is pretty quick for this show, given that after seven seasons we still don't know who the mother of Ted's future children is. Or do we? The season concludes with Ted (Josh Radnor) hand in hand with someone, but is she really the long-awaited woman of his dreams? Robin (Cobie Smulders) realizes she still has feelings for Barney, leading her to sabotage his flowering relationship with another woman. And Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) are pregnant! When is the baby due? In the last episode of the season, of course! These season-long storylines are the counterpoint to the quick flashbacks, flash-forwards, sideways jaunts, and stories-within-stories that fill every episode.
Unlike most sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother benefits from watching an entire season all at once. Not only do episodes routinely refer to past or future events, but the show's humor depends on what the five main characters themselves find funny. In fact, How I Met Your Mother is practically an analysis of how shared humor forges a group identity, as the friendship of these five hapless New Yorkers is held together by in-jokes and mutual history--to the point that it's almost impossible for anyone else to join their tight little tribe, including new viewers. This makes watching any single episode a little off-putting; the show doesn't seem that funny and the characters seem derangedly attached to each other. But with each episode you watch, you get drawn in more and more until you find sweeping declarations, the ducky tie, long-term bets, "The Night We," and pregnancy brain just as compelling as they do. --Bret Fetzer