The sweet, snarky charms of How I Met Your Mother
are in full force on this clever sitcom's second season. The show's conceit is that it's all from the point of view of the future self of Ted Mosby (played in our time by Josh Radnor, voiced in the future by Bob Saget), telling his kids the story of how he met their mother--a character that, two seasons in, has yet to be introduced. Instead, the show revolves around Ted's romantic pursuit of Robin (Cobie Smulders) and the cozy relationship of Ted's best friends, Lily (Buffy the Vampire Slayer
's beloved Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel from another cult show, Freaks and Geeks
). Careening through these two love stories is Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, the former Doogie Howser, M.D.
), an aggressively single womanizer, whose intimate friendship with this largely sincere and domestic bunch doesn't make much sense...but often makes for excellent comedy. This goofy quintet of late 20somethings flounder their way through life in New York, wrestling with love and careers. When the first season ended, Ted and Robin had finally hooked up, but Marshall and Lily had suddenly split up. Season two runs with this, enriching the relationships among all the characters over the season's progress while spinning out all sorts of stand-alone plots that make each episode a treat. Examples: Ted discovers that his parents have been keeping a secret from him; Marshall, feeling burnt by love, starts doing couple things with a newly single male friend; Lily gets a job at Ted's office and is appalled by Ted's obnoxious boss; Robin tries to keep Ted from discovering her sordid past; and Barney...well, Barney is the gleeful source of a dozen cockeyed tales, ranging from asking Lily to paint a nude portrait of him to grappling poorly with his gay brother's sudden turn to monogamy to going on The Price is Right
to find his father. The entire cast is superb (and much more confident this season), but Harris's inexplicably endearing smarminess really pushes the show into a higher comic bracket. That performance energy--combined with the cunning use of flashbacks and other twisty story techniques--makes How I Met Your Mother
both sweet and spicy, a conventional sitcom that tweaks the formula enough to make it feel fresh and engaging. If the creators can keep this up, this show will become a classic. Season Two
features an abundance of fan-pleasing extras, including cheerful commentaries, extended scenes, and a disturbing music video of the show's theme song. --Bret Fetzer