Last night's How I Met Your Mother was over-reliant on improbable contrivances, but still delivered an effective episode capped off with a resonant emotional event, ironically enhanced through the use of a contrivance. It's not quite Inception, but for a sitcom it was a nice little bit of complexity.
Let's get the aggravating contrivances out of the way first. It was a little off to use a health scare like Barney's arrhythmia for some cheap heart-related jokes. The heart monitor that registered his emotional responses was just tacky. I also disliked the way they handled the man-dog story. It was too obvious for Robin to bring up wanting a dog right before she met Nate "Scooby" Scooberson. It would have been better if the gang had made the connection after meeting him.
This storyline was saved by the gang's marathon riff at MacLaren's, using dog puns to query Scooby and Robin about their relationship. The pot aspect of the story was really only mildly entertaining, if just for Marshall's "I know Paul Schaeffer's sandwich guy" line.
As to Barney and Nora, well, the episode showed its true hand with the meaningful resolution. It seems Barney might want to change after all, but even if he can imagine it, he might be too scared to try. It was a lot better that way than having the character suddenly find inspiration and change right away.
Okay, I watched Mad Love last night and I have to say, "Not bad." It's got a charming cast, and gets by on that for the most part. The premise and the plot aren't going to surprise anyone, but sometimes it's not so bad to coast by for 21 minutes. This episode featured an obsessive Connie (Judy Greer) driving away her best friend Kate (Sarah Chalke) while planning Kate's birthday. The annual names for KateFest were quite funny. (From the Nixon-themed "WaterKate" to the current year's Kate Gatsby.)
The men's story this week involved Ben (Jason Biggs) needing to strike the right balance in buying a gift for his brand-new girlfriend, and finding out inadvertently that his first guess won't make the impression he was hoping for. Biggs is surprisingly okay in this, but his plots are enhanced by Larry (Tyler Labine) who's caustic humor and lazy everyman personality make for a likeable sidekick.
Mad Love may just be for people like me who are too lazy to find something else to watch for the half-hour after another show, but it's got enough to get by for awhile. No one ever lost money betting on the laziness of the general population.