How I Met Your Mother, "Noretta": Oedipus Stinson

Quick Take: How I Met Your Mother, "Noretta"
"Psychologically speaking, it's perfectly normal to end up with someone like your parents." - Kevin 

Review: How I Met Your Mother, "Noretta"
(S0707) A lot of the time, the "experience" of watching television has little to do with the actual TV show itself. Factors like "What am I doing while I watch?" and "Who am I watching with?" influence one's experience, yet are completely detached from the sounds and images coming from the screen. Nowadays, "watching TV" has a different meaning for everyone. And that meaning is dynamic on an individual level.

Sometimes -- often in the case of the "prestige" dramas on networks like AMC, HBO, and FX -- "watching TV" has pretty literal definition: I'm simply sitting there in rapt attention absorbing the stuff on the screen, and doing little else. But we are multi-tasking society; so in many instances we are "watching TV" while cooking dinner or playing scrabble or doing the dishes. I have been criticized in the past for making my reviews "all about me," but I would argue that my goal is to give a depiction on one man's "experience" with a show, and not to simply recap the major plot points of a given episode.

How I Met Your Mother is what I would describe as an "after dinner show" in my household. It comes on at 8:00 PM on the East Coast, so I'm usually just finishing eating and cleaning up as it comes on. The day is done, I can relax. How I Met Your Mother isn't the type of show that takes a clear, sober mind to appreciate, so I often enjoy it with a drink and smoke. But since the Ravens played on Monday Night Football, I wasn't able to watch "Noretta" when it originally aired. It's 9:40 on Tuesday night and I'm about to watch the episode on my laptop in bed so other people in my house can watch X-Factor in the living room. I'm kind of out of my element here on this little screen.  So I want to do an experiment to see if (and how) my How I Met Your Mother experience differs when virtually all of the variables are switched up, with the exception of the show itself. Here goes nothing...

22 minutes later...

Initial thoughts: I really enjoyed "Noretta". I thought it was a quality episode. It was well constructed and everybody (even Kevin) got something to do. And yet, I didn't find my self laughing. That's atypical for me when it comes to How I Met Your Mother. There are plenty of comedies that I enjoy during which I smile and chuckle once or twice. How I Met Your Mother isn't usually like that. Depending on the episode, I'm either actively disliking it (mainly because of Ted) or laughing my ass off.  During "Noretta" I was doing neither. Perhaps this is a symptom of watching television alone. It's certainly easier to laugh in the company of others. Look no further than your local comedy club for concrete evidence of this. During a stand-up act in a crowded room, people will laugh out loud at stupid shit they would never find as funny in different, less public setting.

"Noretta" begins with two couples -- Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Nora (Nazanine Boniadi), and Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) -- dealing with the issue of sex. More specifically, the issue of lack of sex. Nora is making Barney wait to take their relationship to the next level and Lily's ever expanding baby-belly is killing her sexual confidence. Thus, no one is taking any trips to "Booty Town".

When asked about his feelings on Barney and Nora's relationship, Barney's brother James (Wayne Brady) points out that Nora is disturbingly similar to Barney's mother. "She's our mom, everything about her is vaguely mom-like." Although Kevin (Kal Penn) responds logically, "Psychologically speaking, it's perfectly normal to end up with someone like your parents," the damage has already been done. Lily and Marshall can't stop picturing the other's father when they are about to get it on.

Barney wasn't present when James made the comparison between Nora and his mom, so he's still blissfully ignorant to the oedipal nature of his relationship. In true Stinson fashion, he pulls out all the stops to try to get Nora into bed, but the gods seem unwilling to let it happen. First, she falls while ice skating and loses a front tooth. After Barney fixes her up with a 24 hour orthodontist (slash tattoo artist), the mood is killed by a rat who decides Nora's head would be a good place to make a nest. When he finally gets her home and onto his balcony for a sexy nightcap, a suicidal maniac takes a plunge off the roof in front of their eyes. Not exactly an aphrodisiac.

Despite all of the tragic distractions, Barney is able to power through undeterred. However, he takes pause when Nora sings a rendition of "My Favorite Things", a song his mother would sing to him as a child. Luckily, he is able to come to a realization that Marshall and Lily don't immediately consider: "My mom's the best person I know. If Nora's even a tiny bit like her, I'm a lucky guy." Quite a mature observation, especially coming from the likes of the Barn Burner.
Meanwhile, Ted (Josh Radnor), Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Kevin are struggling to come to terms with Ted and Robin's living arrangement. The more time Kevin spends at Robin and Ted's place, the more he suspects that Ted is desperately trying to win back his ex. When Ted invites Robin to a concert, Kevin snaps. As it turns out, Ted had invited a dozen or so other friends, coworkers and virtual strangers before asking Robin to join him. Kevin calms down and extends an olive branch by offering to go the concert (Weird Al Yankovic) when Robin declines the invite.

Again, I didn't find "Noretta" overtly hilarious, however I don't necessarily blame the show for this. This experiment demonstrates the fact that television is a little like LSD, in the sense that sometimes you have to be in just the right environment to experience the desired effects.

By Lucas High

About the author

Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at, on Facebook and on Twitter at

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1 Comment
On: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Such a great point Lucas about how people watch TV (and particular shows) and what they are doing while watching. For me, the personal angle makes for the more interesting review whereas the opposite extreme is "NPH said X, it was funny. Then he fell over," etc. What makes a review interesting is how the reviewer's life and opinions and experiences plays into thoughts about a particular show. So it can get into the level of, "Wow, Lucas really hated how The Killing turned out, I better pay attention because my feelings are similar about X, Y, Z shows," etc. 

/ ramble ;-) 


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