'How I Met Your Mother' gets musical as it zones in on the mother
Nothing marks a celebration quite like singing and dancing. That's exactly what CBS' “How I Met Your Mother” will be doing when it airs its 100th episode tonight.
The big musical number that closes out the episode has been long in the making. With several musically leaning cast members -- Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel and Cobie Smulders have all performed songs on the show before -- it was only a matter of time before “Mother” put on an even bigger production number than “Let's Go to the Mall.” But one cast member was not overly thrilled about the idea of singing.
“They've been threatening it for years. They finally came through,” said Alyson Hannigan, who also found herself in the middle of a musical episode as Willow Rosenberg on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Hannigan shared her trepidation about having to sing again with Show Tracker at a Paley Center for Media panel last Thursday celebrating the show's 100th episode.
“I'm just not a singer, so it's a little bit like torture,” she said. “They were very nice and gave me a small, little bit. The dancing was a lot of fun even though I was not very good at that either.”
Hannigan invited “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon to stop by to watch her film her bit, calling on him to “come watch me do this again because of you.”
Luckily for her, the brunt of the singing and dancing fell on Harris as his womanizing character Barney ponders giving up his beloved suits to sleep with a hot bartender played by Stacy Keibler. The process between getting the song, titled “Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit,” and filming it went “pretty fast,” according to Harris.
“I got the song a couple weeks before to learn it,” he said. “About a week before we filmed it, I recorded it. I had about a week to learn the lip sync well. We started rehearsing the choreography maybe three days before.”
At one point, the choreography by “Glee's” Zach Woodlee had Harris “standing on top of a yellow cab by myself, no harness or anything, spinning around.” Although Harris claims he was fine up there, the network executives who came out to watch filming of the episode “worried that I would fall off the cab.”
For Josh Radnor, who plays the eternal mother-seeker Ted, the experience was more surreal.
“The singing and dancing thing felt like, 'What is going on?'” he said. “We were on the New York street of the Fox lot. There were 75 dancers around. It felt like a old MGM musical. It was very exciting.”
Exciting is definitely the word to describe tonight's episode, but the musical number is not the only exciting thing happening. “Project Runway's” Tim Gunn makes a guest appearance -- “We were all just drooling over him. He's like a true, true gentleman,” said Hannigan -- as does Rachel Bilson (“The O.C.”) as a pivotal character in Ted's journey toward meeting the future mother of his children.
Viewers will get “a nice hint of who she will be,” co-creator Craig Thomas says of the mother. Whether or not it's Bilson, Show Tracker isn't saying, but co-creator Carter Bays said they “like to think there's a great chance” that she'll be back.
“It was great having Rachel Bilson on the show,” Thomas added. “It's great seeing Ted back on the hunt for the mom. We have our main character back on the search, rededicated to it, and getting closer to the mom than ever before. For us, it was a really fun story on two fronts, not just the musical number front.”
Whoever the mother is, she may have competition. Smulders, who plays Ted's ex-girlfriend Robin, said she's still up for the job despite being ruled out as the mother.
“I think because it's a narration, anything is possible,” Smulders said, adding, “I think Ted's a great guy. I'd love for Robin to end up with him.”
But what about Barney, whom she had a brief relationship with earlier this season?
“I think it could work either way,” she said. “We'll just have a Mormon relationship. The two husbands and me. It'll be like the reverse.”
Shockingly, the show does not yet have a soundtrack release despite producing several original songs, including the aforementioned “Let's Go to the Mall” and “Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit.” There are also “Sandcastles in the Sand,” “You Just Got Slapped” and several online-only tunes.
“There's been talk about it,” Bays said of a soundtrack release. “We're working on it. At the very least, either a soundtrack or a Broadway musical of the show because there's enough music now. Or an ice spectacular.”
With so much music on the mind, it was only fitting that another popular television musical comedy should come up.
“I'm certainly a fan,” Harris said of Fox's “Glee.” “They are all so talented. I'm still about four episodes away from the end and loving it.”
“Their guest stars get the meatiest stuff,” he added. “Kristin Chenoweth's part on there was fantastic.”
So would Harris, who headlined Whedon's web musical “Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog” and sang as host of the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, like to guest star on the series?
“'Glee's' on an opposing network, so I don't think CBS would love for me to be on 'Glee,'” he answered. But don't lose hope just yet, Gleeks. “Joss Whedon is directing one, so I don't know. Maybe if the stars align, it would work out.”
Check out a video of the cast discussing their favorite moments from the show's first 99 episodes below.
-- Vlada Gelman (follow my TV musings on Twitter at @stayingin)
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Photos: (top) Josh Radnor, left, Cobie Smulders, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris gather at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills on Jan. 7 to celebrate 100 episodes of "How I Met Your Mother." Credit: Kevin Parry / The Paley Center for Media
(middle) Ted (Radnor), Robin (Smulders), Barney (Harris), Lily (Hannigan) and Marshall (Segel) kick up their feet for a musical number in their show's 100th episode, which airs tonight on CBS. Credit: Cliff Lipson / CBS
(bottom) Cindy (Rachel Bilson) meets Ted (Radnor) at the university. Credit: Cliff Lipson / CBS