Last evening, the Television Academy of North Hollywood hosted a very special evening with How I Met Your Mother, and not only was the entire cast in attendance (including Joe Manganiello who sat in the audience), but so were the creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, director and my personal hero Pamela Fryman, uber-producer Suzy Mamann-Greenberg, and production designer Steve Olson. They all walked the press line, and some, like sweetie pie Neil Patrick Harris, even stopped to sign autographs for the fans who lined up on the street for a glimpse at the five on-screen friends with whom everyone just wants to share a beer.
Inside the room was a-buzzing with talk about the cover of Emmy Magazine featuring the cast, and laughter abounded when the past seasons' highlights video began to roll, but the energy really picked up when the people of the hour paraded out. Cobie Smulders and Alyson Hannigan, the two mommies to be, sat on the far end, each in an adorable pregnancy outfit, but only Hannigan was showing (and boy was she showing!). Bays joked about an upcoming scene of "little Lily" being hidden behind a big bowl of chips in order to hide her ever-growing stomach. He and Thomas also admitted they were forced to write and shoot the season finale early to keep their stars as "normal size" as possible for the big moment... which may or may not have something to do with an animatronic goat.
The cast and crew spoke of their favorite moments from the show, as well as their thoughts on the recent slew of guest stars. Harris was very kind to sing Smulders' praises when discussing the recent turn for Barney, almost finding a bit of "granola Barney" again but repressing it. He teased that soon we will see an episode featuring his mother, played by Frances Conroy, and "you will even get to meet Barney's wife and kid." The audience gasped, and he never said he was just joking about that last part. Radnor talked a little bit about Laura Prepon's stint as Karen, Ted's high school girlfriend who "taught him everything he knows," which pretty much means that it was all her fault he was pretentious in college, and she's even more pretentious than him. No one would cop to knowing who the mother will turn out to be, though Fryman admitted they have already shot the final scene, in part just to keep the kids the right age. "But we gave ourselves a few options," she was cryptic.
The biggest question, though, was probably a toss-up between wondering when the next slap would occur (as Segel turned to Harris, his stature was menacing even when seated, and as Harris ribbed Segel of how "method" he is as an actor, I half expected him to slap him right there, as a pre-planned bit. Now that would have been legendary!) and also when the next musical number would occur. Though Smulders said she loved shooting the Robin Sparkles videos, in part because "Sandcastles in the Sand" was shot in Malibu "and it was just this gorgeous day, and there were dolphins in the water, and I just thought: look at what I get to do for a living," they admitted it might be hard to follow up those two gems. "A prequel, though-- like how Robin Sparkles came to be..." Bays teased, and I think everyone can agree they do want to see that! The episode that airs next week, though, is supposed to have a new musical number in it, and that leaves plenty of room for soundtrack options, which Bays and Thomas are not ruling out, as they are both huge music freaks and even play the theme song themselves.
There were no questions from the audience during this hour and a half long panel with one of the top rated (and definitely most revolutionary) comedies, but it didn't matter because everyone gave such great insight-- from answering blogger continuity questions of the framed letter in Stella's house being the same one behind the kids when Future Ted is narrating to discussing the season ending tee-shirts the crew is given as a gift, in which a number is stamped on the sleeve: a number that represents how many scenes they have shot so far. An average multi-camera comedy shoots no more than eighteen scenes an episode; How I Met Your Mother averages upwards of fifty-five or sixty. They are four seasons in; their entire cast just signed new deals keeping them around for at least another couple of years; and they are getting away with edgy humor, minor swearing, and strategic nudity (apparently Radnor had a guy in a bar come up to him and tell him he was going to try "The Naked Guy" that night) all at the tender hour of eight-thirty p.m., when it is very much still "family hour." But the scope of the American family has changed, and these five friends, who consist of a couple who are able to be funny but still in love ("unlike the bickering, angry married couples you so often see on these shows," Thomas pointed out), are the new face. How I Met Your Mother: setting records and breaking boundaries since 2005!
Though the special (ne'er before seen!) season four gag reel was a big hit, and a great way to close out the evening, I must admit that nothing matched NPH darting off stage just five minutes before the end because he had "to pee." Poor Hannigan pointed at her big pregnant belly and said she had to pee since the moment she sat down, and no one seemed to care. The kicker came, though, when the sound guy turned up NPH's mic just in time to hear someone backstage ask him if it was over. "No," he admitted, unapologetically, "I just had to pee." The crowd roared, but the reaction from the panel on stage was truly priceless. Jason Segel perhaps said it best: "This never happens in real life!"