EW Ranks the Best Fake Songs

Posted on March 15, 2019 at 8:00 am

I really enjoyed this Entertainment Weekly list of the best songs performed by musical groups on television and in films. Of course it includes the legendary Robin Sparkles “Let’s Go to the Mall” from “How I Met Your Mother” and he title song from “That Thing You Do” — though every song in that film should be included, especially “Mr. Downtown.” I was glad to see “Inside Llewyn Davis” included, “Sing Street’s””Drive it Like You Stole it”and two songs from the under-appreciated “Music and Lyrics” and thrilled to see “A Goofy Movie” on the list as well. And of course I have my own favorites that do not appear on the list. Where is Spinal Tap? “Waiting for Guffman?” “A Mighty Wind?” The also-underrated “Bandslam” has a great fictional group with a wonderful name: I Can’t Go On I’ll Go On and great songs, like “Someone to Fall Back On.” And the new “Documentary Now!” episode inspired by the D.A. Pennebaker film about the recording of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” cast album, “Co-Op,” has brilliant fake Sondheim songs like “I Gotta Go,” sung by Paula Pell, inspired by “Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Holiday Party,” echoing “Getting Married Today.” I’d buy that cast album.

I know it is unforgivably esoteric, but just once when I was a kid I saw a television show starring Ricky Nelson as a musician and there was a song in it I always remembered. Decades later, after the internet turned out to have the answer to almost everything, I was able to track it down and it turned out it was written by none other than Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Here’s the soundtrack.

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Farewell to HIMYM

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 8:00 am

Ted has met the woman who will become the mother of his children, Barney and Robin are married, and after nine seasons it is time for the beloved series How I Met Your Mother to come to an end.  Fans are already bidding farewell and recalling their favorite legendary moments.

Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

I especially enjoyed the Hollywood Reporter’s list of HIMYM’s best musical moments. Though for me, the best will always be Robin Sparkles.

HIMYM was the “Friends” of the last decade, that show about young people negotiating their post-college years with the kind of close, committed friendships that help them weather everything from unfortunate tattoos, job disappointments, broken hearts, and the loss of a parent.  Architect Ted (Josh Radnor) was the eternal optimist, always looking for love.  His best friends from college, Marshall (Jason Segal) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) were the stable, forever-committed couple (I’m just going to forget the misbegotten episodes where Lily left Marshall to pursue her art career).  Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) was the debonair lady-killer of the group, unapologetically committed to as many one-night stands as possible.  And Robin (Cobie Smulders) was a television journalist from Canada, sometime love interest for Ted but ultimately marrying Barney in the show’s season-long wedding weekend. What made it stand out was the narrative innovation, with unreliable narration and nested story-telling and the genuine chemistry between its cast members.  Plus some great catch (wait for it) phrases and useful life lessons.  In the Washington Post, Emily Yahr wrote about what made the show so meaningful to its audience.

In addition to capturing nostalgia, there are many reasons the show caught on with the younger crowd: It launched a thousand catchphrases (“Legend – wait for it – dary”), pick-up lines (“Haaave you met Ted?”) and teachings for 20-something life (“Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m.”). Overall though, “HIMYM” offered a much more valuable lesson about the importance of adult friendship, as the intense bonding in post-college years means that those friends essentially become your family.

And if you want to catch up on nine years of HIMYM in time for the grand finale, here’s your cheat sheet (not to mention that you can pretty much catch it at any time in syndication).  The characters may be gone, but the slap-bet, bro code, woo girls, suiting up, and of course the goat go on forever.  And a spin-off, “How I Met Your Dad,” is set to premiere next fall.

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Television

HIMYM Billboard Hijacked by New Ads

Posted on July 16, 2011 at 8:00 am

I really like “How I Met Your Mother,” and am delighted that older episodes are running in syndication.  But it is jarring to see that background shots have been updated to insert new advertising material.  NPR’s Monkey See blog reports that a billboard in one of the episodes has been digitally altered to insert an ad for the new (and awful) movie, Zookeeper. Marc Hirsh writes

The general practice isn’t new, but there’s something about this particular example that’s especially irksome, and not just because it’s been done in the service of a Kevin James talking-gorilla movie.

He points out that this is particularly annoying in the context of HIMYM, which is always so explicitly time-specific.

More than most sitcoms, Mother has a rather explicit time frame. How explicit? Well, the very first line of the episode is, “Kids, in the spring of 2007…” So it’s not an ideal candidate to layer in an advertisement for a movie released in July 2011, is what I’m saying.

I understand that advertisers are frustrated because audiences skip commercials by clicking the channel or fast-forwarding on TIVO.  But the answer can’t be intrusive ads and product placement that distract us from the story, especially retroactively.

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Tribute: Doonesbury’s Mom and Marshall’s Dad

Posted on January 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm

We don’t often see death in comic strips and sit-coms. But on “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall Erickson (Jason Segal) lost his beloved father Marvin (played by Bill Fagerbakke). And the title character in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary of publication, lost his feisty mother Daisy. In both cases, the deaths occurred out of sight but the audience shared in the loss as we see the impact on the characters that to some of us feel like family.
Doonesbury has run a week of strips about the memorial service for Daisy, mostly focusing on the insensitive behavior of Mike’s ex-wife J.J. and his brother. In “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall, who was very close to his parents, got the bad news in the last moment of the episode. I hope future shows will show Marshall and his wife Lily as they try to understand their loss and find a way to keep the best of Marshall’s father close to them.
I admire both Doonesbury and “How I Met Your Mother” for their willingness to bring the challenges of parental loss to their stories.
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