Archive for July, 2009

31
Jul
09

Toy Stories/What I’m Watching: Green Lantern-First Flight

Like they did a few months ago with the Wonder Woman movie, the new animated Green Lantern: First Flight movie is available at Best Buy with an exclusive action figure based on the movie design. Since I was going to get the movie anyway, there was no reason not to get the one with the Infinite Heroes toy and give you guys a review.

I’m not going to talk too much about the movie itself. I did a review over at Comixtreme.com, and you can read it there for my in-depth thoughts. I do have a couple of comments about the DVD set I wanted to share. First, the good — Warner Premiere is raising the bar on bonus goodies for these DVDs. In addition to two GL-focused episodes of the old Justice League cartoon, this set also has the “Green Loontern” episode of the unfairly-forgotten Duck Dodgers in the 24th and 1/2 Century cartoon, in which Daffy Duck accidentally gets Hal Jordan’s dry cleaning and becomes a Green Lantern. Plus, the DVD has a bonus feature about the current Blackest Night storyline, which may be the first time a DVD has promoted a comic book, and a very nice preview of the next movie in this series, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.

Now the bad: like the Wonder Woman DVD, this DVD includes a digital download of the film to be used on laptops and personal devices such as an iPod. Although my iPod doesn’t have video capabilities, I assume that I’ll eventually upgrade to a newer one that can play videos, and when that happens, I want to have this content available, so I’ve been saving the digital version of any DVD that happens to include one. I was startled, then, to realize the Green Lantern digital copy is in the Windows Media format, which is utterly incompatible with the iPod, the Zune, or the PSP. So I have to say, “Hey, Warner Brothers! What the hell? Why even bother giving us a digital copy if we can’t use it on our devices? The whole reason DVDs started to include digital versions in the first place is to try to cut down on piracy, but if people can’t use the digital versions, they’re just gonna go right back to pirating. This is really stupid, and I can only hope that the next DVD is something I can actually watch on other devices.

Anyway, on to the action figure. As you may recall, I already have two Infinite Heroes Hal Jordan figures — the basic version and a clear green variant. I expected this figure to be a simple repaint of that body, but I was pleasantly surprised. The head is a slightly different sculpt, but the rest of the body is almost totally different. The changes are subtle, and I didn’t even realize them at first. If you look at the hands, though, they’re different than the other two — the left hand is in a fist, and the right, while still open, isn’t as wide open as the other. The real great thing, however, is the legs. The knee is no longer the simple hinge joint like the other figures, but instead a hinged ball. That, along with articulated ankles, gives the figure a much greater degree of poseability than any of the other Infinite Heroes action figures in my collection. The previous Hal Jordan figure was just a masked head on the basic body. Since Green Lantern doesn’t have a cape, spikes, poofy boots or gloves or anything else that needs to be added to the costume, it didn’t require special sculpts for any part. That gives me great hope that this is the new male body type, just as the Wonder Woman figure was better than the basic female body type. Let’s see more figures like this one, Mattel.

And while we’re talking Green Lantern toys, I’ve got one other figure I want to introduce you guys to. As big a fan as I am of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, I haven’t been collecting the action figures, mostly because I’ve been into the Infinite Heroes and I didn’t want to get sucked into two separate lines. But when I saw this guy — one of my favorite characters — on clearance at Target, I needed to rescue him from the dustbin of the toy aisle.

Kilowog is not only one of Hal’s comrades in the Green Lantern Corps, he’s the main trainer for the entire Corps. If you want to be a Green Lantern, you’ve got to go through Kilowog first. The K-man here appears in First Flight, showed up in the Justice League cartoon, is playing a big role in the Green Lantern Corps comic book, and even co-starred with Daffy Duck in the aforementioned Duck Dodgers cartoon. He’s the same size as the other JLU toys, but as that line is slightly bigger than the Infinite Heroes, he’s almost in-scale with Hal here. I don’t like this line as much as the Infinite Heroes — there’s very little articulation (just the hips, shoulders, and neck), and with a character as topheavy as Kilowog, it makes it very difficult to stand him up. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Infinite Heroes will expand to slightly larger figures the way Marvel Universe did for the Hulk and the Thing, because this is a great character who deserves a great action figure.

30
Jul
09

What I’m Reading: Blackest Night-Tales of the Corps #3

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #3The third and final installment of Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps doesn’t actually feature both the Greens and Blacks, the Corps that weren’t covered in the first two. Instead, we get two stories focusing on the Green — specifically, the origin stories of two of the more popular alien Green Lanterns, Kilowog and Arisia, both written by Peter Tomasi.

In “New Blood,” Tomasi and artist Chris Samnee bring us the story of Kilowog’s days as a Green Lantern in-training. It’s so bizarre to see him playing this role. We’re so used to seeing the calm, confidant warhorse Kilowog is today that it can be easy to forget that he was once a recruit himself. The story fits a pretty common archetype, the young recruit who becomes his own trainer, but it’s an archetype that suits Kilowog very well. There are some really strong moments for the character, including a nice dovetail into the current story at the end. Plus, Samnee‘s art is just great, a perfect fit for this story.

“Daddy’s Girl” tells the story of Arisia, Green Lantern of sector 2815. Her story is known pretty well, but this story tells it in much more detail than any version I’ve seen before. Arisia was the daughter of Fentara Rrab, and from an early age was determined to follow in his footsteps, just like Fentara followed his own father, and he his. Arisia comes from one of the few families in the universe for which being a Green Lantern is a legacy. Tomasi really gets across the fear in young Arisia, the terror that she may not live up to her father’s example. Arisia’s been around for a long time now, and she’s changed a lot. This story really recalls the bright, eager young cadet she was when she first turned up in the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps miniseries. Mike Mayhew‘s art on this story is downright beautiful.

Filling out the book we get a “director’s commentary” version of the story from the Free Comic Book Day giveaway comic, Blackest Night #0. This version is uninked or colored, featuring only Ivan Reis‘s original pencils and the text written by Geoff Johns. Johns, along with editors Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman, add extra captions discussing the behind-the-scenes stuff — the things that inspired certain choices in the story, the artwork, that kind of thing. It’s a fun look into the workings of the book.

Rating: 8/10

29
Jul
09

Everything But Imaginary #316: Somebody’s Favorite

One thing I’ve learned in my years of columns, reviews, and podcasts. Every single comic book character — no matter how obscure, how poorly-written, or how outright goofy — is the favorite character of SOME fan. And boy, will they let you know.

Everything But Imaginary #316: Somebody’s Favorite
Inside This Column:

28
Jul
09

What I’m Listening To…

I’ve mentioned my podcast listening habit here before, but I don’t think I’ve talked about how much I fall behind on that habit during the summer months. I do most of my listening while driving, and without the 80 or so minutes I’m on the road during school, I wind up behind on most everything. What’s more, the regular podcasts have fallen even further down on my rotation as I find myself listening to more and more podcast novels.

Recap: a podcast novel is like a traditional audio book in several ways, but released in installments (a chapter or two at a time) in a podcast fashion. The vast majority of them are free, and the vast majority of them — so far — are unpublished in traditional books. More and more up-and-coming writers are using the Podiobook model to try to build an audience before making their print push. I’m currently listening to four different novels (three in-progress, one older one that I’m just listening to now) and all four of the authors have made it into print, which makes the model seem more viable and attractive to the likes of me.

One book I’m listening to is by Scott Sigler, author of Infected and Contagious, which I reviewed here a while back. Sigler is probably the most successful writer to break out of this model, with both of those novels doing very well and a third, Pandemic, planned to come out sooner or later. But since he’s not currently releasing a podcast novel, I’ve decided to go back and listen to his earlier works, beginning with his first book, Earthcore. This sci-fi tale focuses on a mining company hoping to dig out the biggest platinum find in human history, but to do so they’ll have to dig into a mountain shrouded in bloody, horrific legends. Sigler’s great at blending sci-fi and horror, and develops characters you love and hate (sometimes at the same time) along the way. Even in this first work, I’m having fun waiting for the scares.

Last year I interviewed writer Mur Lafferty about her print debut with the novel Playing For Keeps. Currently, she’s presenting the fifth and final volume in her Heaven series, War. I can’t tell you what War is about without spoiling the rest of the series, so let me tell you briefly about Heaven. The first volume begins with the deaths of Kate and her best friend Daniel, who go on to the afterlife and their reward. Kate soon realizes, however, that the perfect existence of Heaven is kind of boring, and she begins a journey that takes her through all the realms of the afterlife. It’s a really great fantasy novel, and holds a special place for me in that it’s the first Podiobook I ever listened to.

J.C. Hutchins is not only an awesome writer, but from all my limited interaction with him, he’s also come across as a genuinely nice guy, the sort of writer you want to support, which is why I told you guys over and over again to check out his print debut, Personal Effects: Dark Art. He’s also currently podcasting the prequel to that book, Personal Effects: Sword of Blood. The prequel has actually been on hiatus while he’s been promoting the print book, but he promises to return to it soon. Sword of Blood, like Dark Art, focuses on art therapist Zach Taylor and his attempt to peel back the layers of a patient with a dark secret.

Finally, here’s the one author I haven’t mentioned here before, because I’m new to his work. Virtually all of the other podcast authors I listen to told me frequently what a great writer Phil Rossi is and how much his new book Crescent, now available from Amazon, was. So naturally, I checked it out. Crescent is more of a hard sci-fi novel, the tale of a salvager who finds something pretty terrible waiting on one of the roughest stations in space. It has a sort of Alien vibe, and I mean that as a compliment.

Cool thing is, every one of these podiobooks is free. So click on the links, download a few eps and give ’em a listen. Oh, and when Christmas rolls around don’t forget my own podiobook, A Long November. I’ll have another one, too, but until I have the timeframe nailed down, I don’t want to get more specific than that. Enjoy!

27
Jul
09

Lost in Silver Chapter Twenty: The Reunion

Hey, friends. If you’re new to the website, every Monday I’ve been posting a chapter of my work-in-progress, a fantasy adventure called Lost in Silver. If this is your first time here, why not start with Chapter One: The Visitor? For those of you who’ve been following along, here’s Chapter Twenty!

Chapter Twenty

The Reunion

For the rest of the day Linda was left alone in her tiny room, except for twice when a guard came in with food for her. Both times she re-opened her “third eye” to examine him, and both times she saw the same thing – orange. Baliwick was not sending anyone in his right mind to confront her here, and the thought that something she had done could have disturbed him so much was slightly to her. Although she supposed it was unfair to take credit for it – it wasn’t so much what she had done to Baliwick as what Elmer had done to her.

She didn’t doubt that her new perceptions were due to Elmer’s potion, but she couldn’t figure out why. Why had he given her this… she supposed you could call it a “gift,” if not for the several hours of blinding agony she had to endure beforehand. Why now? And was the “third eye” the only thing the potion did to her?

She’d been left to eat by herself – some sort of thick soup that she was afraid to try at first. Trusting food sent by Baliwick didn’t seem very smart. She gave in, though – if he wanted to kill her, it would have been far easier for him to snap her throat than go through the charade of poison. Plus, she eventually reached a point where hunger and exhaustion overcame fear. The soup tasted like some sort of mushroom cream – not a favorite of hers, but undeniably nourishing. With each bite she felt a little stronger, and after her dinner was done, she’d progressed to the point where she was just tired instead of deathly exhausted.

The sun eventually began to dip and she wondered if she was going to be provided with a lamp or candle or if Baliwick would just leave her in the dark until morning. Or if he would try things in the dark. He could sneak up on her if her first two eyes couldn’t see… but somehow, even in pitch-black, she thought it unlikely that he could sneak up on her third eye. She opened it again.

For the first time, she saw something different. The two orange guards were still outside her door, but she saw two more shapes coming up the stairs. One was Baliwick – she recognized the ugly black cyclone that the third eye assigned him. The other shape was much smaller, and wasn’t completely one color, either. It was mostly orange, but at the core there was a white glow; diminished, but not gone. It was like a flashlight with dying batteries inside of an orange fog. She knew what it would be even before Baliwick opened the door and ushered the other form inside.

“I’ve brought you a visitor,” Baliwick said as the door opened, revealing himself and his companion to Linda’s ordinary eyes.

“Hey, Linda. Isn’t this cool?” Benny said. He was smiling unnaturally, his eyes sparkling with orange swirls. He even seemed to have a small tick in his cheek, twitching nervously every so often.

“Benny, are you okay?” she asked.

“I’m great. Baliwick is awesome – and he’s taught me so many things. He’s gonna make me a knight and take me with him on his adventures.”

She shook her head. “No he isn’t, Benny. He’s a liar.”

“He wouldn’t like to me. He’s my friend.”

“No, he isn’t Benny.”

“Yes, I am, Linda,” Baliwick said. “Benny and I are very close, and I’d like to be close to you.”

“I’ve seen your temper, Baliwick. I’m not going to be that easy to sweet-talk.”

Baliwick’s face soured. “Aren’t you a clever little thing?”

“Why did you bring him here?”

“I was hoping he could help me talk to you, Linda. Such undeserved hostility towards me… I hoped that if you saw how well your brother was treated, you’d be more inclined to help me in my search.”

“How well he was treated? Which part was that – the part where you lured an eight-year-old into the woods by promising him Happy Meals or the part where you brainwashed him?”

“You’ve got quite a sharp tongue, Linda. Your sort often does.”

Again with “her sort.” She wondered if Baliwick meant the same thing Nancy did with that particular turn of phrase.

“Come on, Linda,” Benny said, grabbing onto her slowly- strengthening hand. “It’s okay, really. I’m fine, aren’t I?”

“No, you aren’t, Benny,” she said. “When’s the last time you looked at your eyes?”

“My eyes?”

There was no mirror in the room for Benny to look into, but upon mention of the state of his eyes, he raised his hand and touched his face, right over his nose, between the eyes. He winced, as though there was some mild pain that touching made worse, and as he did that, Linda’s third eye saw the white gleam inside his orange glow flare up just for a moment before growing weak again. He wasn’t lost after all. If she could watch that gleam, watch how it changed, maybe she could bring him back.

“I know what you’re thinking, Linda,” Baliwick hissed. “Your brother is mine, make no mistake of that.”

“You don’t know what I’m thinking,” she said, with a certainty she couldn’t explain. “You can guess what’s going through my head – after you kidnapped my brother, it probably isn’t that difficult, but you can’t see into my head.”

“Watch yourself, girl.”

“I’m safe from you.”

Baliwick’s eyes flashed orange again, and Linda felt an impact behind her eyes as though she’d been hit. Hit, but not penetrated. It was like the time she’d been shot by a paintball gun, except when she got hit by a globe full of yellow gel, the person who shot her with it didn’t look as furious as Baliwick did now. She closed her third eye, and the pain subsided a little.

Safe?” he howled. “You’re far from safe, girl. If you’re not with me, you’re never safe again!”

He grabbed her by the wrists and lifted her off the bed, turning towards the door. Leaving Benny behind, he carried her down the stairs. She struggled against him, kicking him in the side a few times, but the blows glanced off without harming him. Whether this was because he was strong or she was weak, she wouldn’t tell.

He took her down past the ground floor, down a long, winding stairway, and to a tunnel full of what looked like cells. “Welcome to my dungeon, dear,” he said. “If you don’t appreciate my hospitality, perhaps you’ll learn to fear it!”

He threw open the door at the far end of the dungeon and hurled her in, landing in a heap of filthy straw.

“Linda!” Gene’s voice shouted.

“Are you okay?” Gail helped her sit up and she looked around, seeing a man hanging on the wall in the gloom. Baliwick went up to him.

“Still taking a little nap, Edward?” he said. He slapped the man in the face, but the man didn’t seem to notice. He just hung there like meat, and Linda wasn’t even sure he was alive.

“Another playmate for you,” Baliwick said. “May you all rot together.”

He left, slamming the door behind him, and as soon as the echo of his footsteps faded, the questions began.

“Linda, where did he–”

“Where have you been–”

“Do you still have a fever–”

“Children, children,” said the man on the wall. “Really, let the girl catch her breath.” Linda was stunned – a moment ago this man could have been a corpse. Now he was smiling, eyes sparkling even in the dark.

“How did you do that?” she whispered.

“Edward’s pretty good at playing possum,” Gene said.

“Edward?”

“At your service,” Edward said, although dangling from the wall like that, he didn’t appear readily available to be of much service at all.

“You’re Edward?” Linda whispered into the shadows. “The Edward?”

“Well, I’m certain there are others out there somewhere… it’s a big multiverse, dear. But if you mean, am I the Edward that Murphy told you to look for, then yes, I believe I am.”

“You know about that?”

“Oh, of course. I’m quite telepathic.”

“We told him about it,” Gene said. He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Watch this one, Linda. He’s got a wicked sense of humor.”

Perhaps he did, but as she listened to his voice, Linda concluded that she kind of liked Edward’s sense of humor.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“In the dungeon, you mean? There’s been something of a feud between Baliwick and myself for some time. He recently found me in a rather weakened state. Took advantage of it. Before I had the chance to regain my strength, he whisked me off here, to a universe where he knew I’d be powerless.”

“Powerless?” she said, hope draining from her voice.

He smiled sharply. “Well… mostly powerless. And you, my dear, are in the dungeon because…?”

She told them how Baliwick had nursed her back to health (if “health” was really the proper term for someone who woke up seeing colors through an eye that didn’t exactly exist) and how he’d tried to use Benny to win her over. Her new perspective, though, she kept to herself.

“He’s got Benny in the castle, then?” Gail said.

“Yeah. And based on what I heard, he’s feeding him junk food,” Gene added.

“It’s Benny, but it’s not Benny,” Linda said. “Talking to him… it’s like talking to a puppet that looks like my brother while Baliwick pulls on his strings.”

“Heavy, orange strings, eh Linda?” Edward said.

That word “orange” sent her spine crawling. Edward definitely knew more than your average prisoner. “Exactly. Can you help us?”

“If anyone can, it’s me.”

“Yeah, but can you?” asked Gene.

“I don’t know yet, actually,” Edward said.

“Oh good. As long as we’re all on the same page here.”

Gail turned to Linda. “What happened? Why did you get so sick?”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I think Elmer had something to do with it.”

“Why would Elmer want to make you sick?” Gene asked. Linda didn’t have an answer.

“Are you okay now?” Gail asked.

“Good question,” Linda admitted. Breathing deeply to steady herself, Linda opened her third eye.

She wasn’t prepared for what she saw. Gene and Gail both looked like bundles of white light, like the sparking at the core of her brother. Gene burned just a little brighter than Gail, though, and she wondered why that was. She could “see” into the other cells, dozens of prisoners that also glowed, all of them flickering between dim white and dark gray. Several of them had tendrils of orange within their forms too, although none were as tarnished by the color as Benny or the guards she had “seen” upstairs. The guard at the entrance to the dungeon glowed black like Baliwick – one of his own people. He clearly didn’t trust this job to one of his brainwashed peons.

Edward looked… the only word she could think of to describe it was “remarkable.” He glowed white, like Gene and Gail, only much, much brighter. It was like his entire body – muscle, hair, tendons and all – had been replaced with fiber-optic cords, pumped through with blinding sunlight.

But there was also a secondary glow around him, one of pure summer-sunset gold. This second glow didn’t cover his entire body, but surrounded his head and flowed down into his chest, holding everything from his mind to his heart in a bold, golden fist. It looked like nothing so much as the mane of a mighty lion, and Linda suspected this lion was not cowardly at all.

“Linda?” Gail was saying, pulling on her sleeve. “Linda, are you okay?”

“Yes, Gail,” Linda finally said, staring up at Edward, at the light only she could see. “I’m fine now.”

*   *   *

Llaeli and Lareil, together, pulled themselves from the Evertime pool into the baumer orchard. Not bothering to hide his disgust, Lareil removed the tether that bound the two of them together from his belt and let it fall to the ground. He flicked his wrists, spattering Llaeli with the flecks of Evertime water, which simply joined the water flowing from his own body. “What sort of world is this, now?” he griped. “More trees, shrubbery… this is worse than the tavern.”

“Let’s just find the younglings and get home,” Llaeli said. He shuddered. Lallura had sent him on this insane mission using the logic that, since he was the only one of the first two Macana that entered Evertime to come back, he’d be well-suited for this exploration. This was clearly the opinion of a madwoman.

Tethered together, they had wandered aimlessly among the trees and pools for what felt like days. The boredom was bad enough. The fact that he never got tired, hungry or thirsty somehow made it worse. After days alone with Lareil, who seemed to regard the entire thing more as an annoyance than anything else, his only aim was to return to Mitimae, and from there, to return to the base-ship and never, ever leave behind anything familiar again.

“There’s a path,” Lareil said, pointing to Baliwick’s ersatz Yellow Brick Road. “A painted path,” he added. “A poorly painted path.”

“Which way did the girl go?”

“The one called Murphy said west.”

“Which way is west?”

“I don’t know,” Lareil admitted. There was no north, south, east or west aboard the Macana’s nomadic base-ship, and they had different terms for direction on the worlds they scoured, based on their orientation to the planet as they approached. Lareil knew direction was based on their position relative to the central star in the planetary system, but couldn’t remember which direction walking towards this “sun” would bring them. The path stretched as far as they could see, both to the left and to the right. That was all they knew.

“How do we decide?” Llaeli asked.

“I say we simply burn everything we find in both directions. That way we’re bound to get the little rodents.”

Llaeli wanted to point out this probably wouldn’t be the most expeditious use of their time, but at that moment there was a rustling sound to the left of the orchard and a man burst onto the Yellow Brick Road. Lareil instinctively reached down at his side for his weapon, only to grasp air. They hadn’t brought the lightning-casters down into the water for fear they would short out and electrocute them both. He would not have considered that a loss in Llaeli’s case.

The crazed human didn’t seem to be running towards them, but away from something else. He was dressed in shredded clothing and wore a scruffy beard. A single heavy brow hung down over crazed, green eyes, and he was shrieking in the language the Macana had been taught as “Mitimae,” but that the human children had called “English.”

“Wildchild!” he screamed. “There’s a wildchild in the woods! Look out for–”

He stopped when he saw the Macana, tripping over his own tangled feet and crashing onto the yellow cobblestones. As he wheezed, pointing at the two of them, Lareil clenched his fists, missing the weight and heft of his lightning weapon.

“Blue people!” the human screamed. He scrambled to his feet, howling, “Blue people! Blue people!” and started running on the stones, off to the right.

“That means we’re going left, then?” Llaeli said.

“I hate nature,” Lareil said in response. He kicked a baumer fruit out of his way and started to march irately down the road. Llaeli moaned and followed.

Next: Chapter Twenty-One-The Interrogation

26
Jul
09

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 129: Spider-Man — Kraven’s Last Hunt

Retrospective week is upon us again! This month, the guys dive into one of the greatest Spider-Man sagas of all time, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck‘s classic Kraven’s Last Hunt. The guys break down the story, talk about what makes it so enduring, and discuss spin-offs and repurcussions that last even today! In the picks this week, Blake presents Buzzboy: Sidekicks Rule #3, Chase digs Savage Dragon #150, and Mike enjoys Superman: World of New Krypton #5. This week’s graphic novel pick: Echo: Atomic Dreams. Don’t forget our “Give Mike a Title” contest! Contact us with comments, suggestions, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com.

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 129: Spider-Man — Kraven’s Last Hunt
Inside This Episode:

Plus: With a whole one day of the San Diego Comicon under our belts, Blake and Chase sit down to chat about some of the announcements so far. An ARG for Tron: Legacy? A possible Roger Rabbit 2? The return of Jeff Smith‘s Bone? Bat-Boy comes to comics? Plus, Chase talks about the latest season of Torchwood!

Week in Geek #27: One Day in San Diego

25
Jul
09

What I’m Watching: How I Met Your Mother Season One

How I Met Your Mother Season OneIt’s been a slow weekend here, so for the sake of entertainment, I turned to the DVD shelf. What was I in the mood for, I asked myself. Horror? Nah. Action? Eh… not today. Period drama? I’d probably have to go to Chase’s secret lair to get one of those. No, I wanted something lighthearted, but still intelligent.

How I Met Your Mother turned out to be the perfect choice. I’ve been a fan of this show since it premiered, and I picked up the DVDs of the first two season on sale a while back, but this was the first time I ever sat down and watched the whole season in one stretch. Let me tell you, you don’t recognize the real genius behind this show until you watch a whole block of episodes in a stretch.

The show is framed by the character of Ted Mosby (voiced by Bob Saget) in the year 2030, telling his teenage children stories about his youth. In the pilot episode young Ted (Josh Radnor) meets a girl named Robin (Cobie Smulders) that he falls for head-over-heels. His enthusiasm turns out to be a bit much, though, as Robin blanches from a guy ready to fall in love, get married, and start a family so soon after they meet. Rounding out the cast are Ted’ engaged roommates Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and his skirt-chasing buddy Barney (the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris). In the first episode, Ted begins telling his kids the story of “how I met your mother,” which makes it particularly surprising when he tells us right out of the box that Robin, the girl of his dreams, isn’t the one he’s going to end up with. Suddenly we’re left wondering, just who is the mother of his children? And why is he beginning this story with meeting another girl… one his kids call Aunt Robin?

What elevates this show past the level of an average sitcom is the same thing that you don’t understand until you watch a lot of episodes together. My favorite TV shows are the ones that are planned out, that tell a long-term story. Shows like Lost and Babylon 5 raised the bar for genre television, with a single storyline that extends the entire run of the series. While I’m not sure this show is as meticulously planned as either of those dramas, it’s most certainly better planned out than most TV comedies. Continuity is important to this show. Small elements or minor characters turn up later on down the line. Sometimes they’re just there to be funny (the ongoing “slap bet” being a prime example). Other times, the things and people that come back turn out to be vital to the storyline.

What’s more — as the Bob Saget voice occasionally reassures his kids — you really get the feeling that all of these storylines are important, that they are building up to something. Even though, at the end of the fourth season of the show, we still haven’t actually met the nameless “mother,” everything that’s happened to Ted, to Robin, to Marshall and Lilly, are working together in concert, preparing him for one event, one relationship, one disappointment and one triumph after another. And after each one, he comes out a little different. His goals, his ideas, his hopes shift over time, and soon it becomes clear that without these adventures he wouldn’t be the right person in the right place when the Mother finally makes her entrance.

And I gotta say, that’s the sort of thing that happens in real life. When I watch Ted making a dork of himself in over-the-top pursuit of one girl of his dreams after another, I remember myself pre-Erin. Although real life isn’t quite as funny as this show, and few of us are blessed with a Neil Patrick Harris, I honestly believe that the events in our past DO prepare us for the future.

(I should interject here that I don’t want at all to imply that I no longer make a dork out of myself now that I’m with Erin. I just do it in different ways.)

The first season is a good example of how it all plays out. Although the larger arc of the season is Ted’s pursuit of Robin, there’s a side arc where he falls for a girl named Victoria (the so-cute-it-should-be-illegal Ashley Williams). By the end of the season, it’s doubtful that things would conclude the way they did without that side-track. The writers also play with the format quite a bit, employing flashbacks, flash-forwards, nonlinear episodes and even Rashomon-style episodes where we see the same incidents from various points of view. It’s a constant reminder that we’re not actually witnessing these events as they’re happening, we’re being told the stories more than 20 years after the fact.

Unlike most sitcoms, this is a show that really demands you think, pat attention, and even play along with the characters in a way most others don’t require. With season one down, I intend to start watching season two right away, and I’ll more than likely be picking up three and four before long. This is a series that’s completely worth my time.




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