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How I Met Your Mother: Season One

Considering that How I Met Your Mother began its broadcast life during an era in which shows like "The Office" and "Arrested Development" have reinvented the sitcom (even as TV critics and executives are widely lamenting the virtual death of the genre), its success is all the more impressive. It just goes to show that, in the end, engaging characters and sharp writing matter more than the cleverest of clever concepts. Because there's no question that How I Met Your Mother revolves around a fairly precious premise. It's set up as one giant flashback in which architect/father of two Ted Mosby (voiced in the future by Bob Saget; played in the present by Josh Radnor) regales his kids with the tale of how he met their mom way back in the '00s. Naturally, the course of soulmate-finding never doth run smooth, so Ted's story takes a looooong time (two seasons and counting…) to tell and ends up involving a few other key characters, namely Ted's roommates, long-time couple Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan); snarky, womanizing friend Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, in a scene-stealing performance); and ambitious reporter Robin (Cobie Smulders) — whom flashback Ted thinks is "the one" but future Ted knows will end up as the kids' "Aunt Robin." It's interesting watching Ted and Robin's relationship move forward and fall back (and move forward… and fall back…) knowing that they won't end up together; it takes the tension that haunts most will-they-or-won't-they TV couples' relationships out of the equation and lets viewers focus on the whole group. And that's what gives How I Met Your Mother an edge over its "traditional sitcom" competition: Its ensemble is one of the strongest casts currently on TV. The group's chemistry rivals that of the "Friends" gang, and the actors play up their characters' quirks — Barney's penchant for suits and the word "legendary," Marshall's earnest goofiness, Lily's ability to chug a beer with the best of them, and so on — without making them annoying. It helps that creators/executive producers Craig Thomas and Carter Bays and their writing staff turn out tight, well-paced scripts littered with truly catchy catchphrases (most are Barney's, including the aforementioned "legendary," "suit up!" and "have you met Ted?") and (mostly) believable situations. The flashback gimmick adds a diverting bit of mystery to the show's ultimate destination, but it's the talent and sense of fun evident in the characters' day-in and day-out interactions that makes the journey worth watching. Fox brings the show's first season to DVD in a three-disc set that includes 22 half-hour episodes and a decent (if not extensive) set of special features. Cast and crew members weigh in on six episodic commentary tracks (two per disc), a nine-minute blooper reel features some truly funny outtakes (the last one is the best), two brief montages cover memorable moments from the first season, and the 20-minute "Video Yearbook" making-of featurette offers some nice insights from the main players. All of the episodes are presented in full frame transfers (1.33:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available). Two slimline keep cases (one single disc, one dual disc) in a paperboard slipcase.
—Betsy Bozdech

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