Hooray! Another excuse to talk about how completely hilarious “How I Met Your Mother” is! And make no mistake, my friends: it’s so funny that it’s made the jump from the Bubbling Under section of our TV Power Rankings into the proper Top 20. The show has one of the best comedy ensembles on television, including Neil Patrick Harris (“Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”), Alyson Hannigan (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), and Jason Segel (“Freaks and Geeks”), but the two breakout stars of the show are Josh Radnor (Ted) and Cobie Smulders (Robin). Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to score a few minutes with Radnor to brief him on the accolade his show has earned, and immediately thereafter, we unabashedly quizzed him on all things “How I Met Your Mother.”
Josh Radnor: Uh, hey, is this Will?
BE: Yes, it is.
JR: Hey, it’s Josh Radnor.
BE: Hey, how’s it going?
JR: Good, how are you?
BE: I’m doing great. I appreciate you calling me.
JR: Yeah, not a problem. (Hesitates) My call got moved up, so I’m a little, uh, frazzled.
BE: (Laughs) No problem.
JR: When they call you and you’re not expecting to have to be up for an hour, and they’re, like, “Can you come in now?” It’s, uh…
BE: No pressure.
BE: I don’t know if they told you why we wanted to talk to you, but we do a TV Power Rankings thing for our site…
JR: Yep, uh-huh…
BE: …and “How I Met Your Mother” vaulted from the Bubbling Under section into our top 20…
BE: …and it’s all my doing.
JR: (Laughs) Great! Now, is this based on quality, or popularity, or…how do you rank it?
BE: A combination of quality and popularity amongst the staff of the site. And I’m just kidding: we’ve got several fans of the show on the staff. But I have been trumpeting it as the heir apparent to “Friends” since, like, the second episode.
JR: Oh, okay!
BE: So, from a timeliness standpoint, I guess my first question has to be, why didn’t CBS air your Super-Bowl-themed episode right after the Super Bowl?
JR: Y’know, Carter (Bays) and Craig (Thomas, the show’s creators) lobbied really hard to get that. They met with the director of programming, who’s a big fan, but it was just one of those things that…you know, obviously, they wrote that episode to be a perfect pairing with the Super Bowl. One of the cool things was that, since we had to watch the Super Bowl the night after, we were kind of watching that episode in real time; we were watching the episode the night that we were trying to watch the Super Bowl! But I guess they just made a decision that “Criminal Minds” was kind of getting ready to bust into a bigger hit, and they just made the call. I don’t know. Uh…(Pauses) …yeah, I don’t know. I don’t wanna say anything politically unwise. (Laughs)
BE: I understand. But, y’know, it seems like “How I Met Your Mother” is one of those shows that not everyone knows about, but the ones that do know about it can’t stop talking about how great it is.
JR: Yeah! Yeah, I feel like if you just kind of know what the show is, or have seen ads or a commercial or two, I think you think you know what the show is…but when you watch it, it’s not that show. Do you know what I’m saying?
BE: I do, yeah.
JR: It’s just this highly innovative, really… (Laughs) …weird show! You know? The stuff they come up with, these writers…I’m, like, “Wow, this is not where I expected this to go!” And so I think the people that are onto us feel like they’ve got a secret password or something to go into this really strange world…that’s really fun to be in! So, yeah, I’ve had some really nice things… (Hesitates) I’m from Columbus, Ohio…and, obviously, they’re excited about the show there…and my friends – a married couple – I think it was after they saw “Slap Bet,” which I think is one of our strongest episodes from this season, for sure…
BE: Absolutely. (Writer’s note: head over to http://www.aolvideo.com and do a search for “How I Met Your Mother” and “Slap Bet.” As of this writing, the episode is still available for free viewing.)
JR: …and they said, “You know, we turned to each other and said, ‘You know, we’re no longer watching this show because Josh is on it.’ We actually are fans of the show.” Which is great…because I think they’d watch any sucky TV show I was on.
BE: You know, I actually travel to Columbus for our site’s editorial meetings.
JR: Oh, really? The site’s based in Columbus?
BE: Well, we don’t really have central offices, per se, but the majority of our operations take place in Ohio…and we have meetings at my editor’s house, in Columbus.
JR: Oh, wow. Fantastic!
BE: So how did you get hooked up with the show in the first place?
JR: Um… (Chuckles) …an audition? I mean, very simply, I was…you get a script, if you’re lucky, every pilot season, and it was sent to me by my agency, and I read it really fast and I called my agent and said, “I’ll audition for this.” Because I’d been burned in some TV stuff, and my agent really wanted me to be picky about television, and the way she phrased it when I first signed with her was, “TV is like junior high: the more you say no, the more they like you.” The casting director was a big fan of mine, but I had actually passed on a few auditions for her, and she didn’t think that I’d come, but she told them…she told Carter and Craig, “I have your Josh.” (Hesitates) Not “I have your Josh.” “I have your…” (Hesitates again, apparently because of something that had just happened to him while he was driving) Whoa, I almost died, hold on. Um, “I have your Ted, his name’s Josh Radnor, but I don’t know if he’ll come in.” She actually said, “I have your Robin, she’s Cobie Smulders.” She just kind of picked the two of us. And I was the first person they saw on the very first day of auditions, so it was just…you know, when you don’t get roles, it feels like all these doors are locked, and when you do, it’s like every door you walk through, the door is off the hinge. You just walk through. It was really…it was just great. And I also kind of had this idea that the TV show I wanted to do was with people who had never had a hit show before, because I think that TV is so lightning in a bottle, and very few people can keep turning out hits…and I just got a sense that these guys were something great. And I liked the fact that they were contemporary, that we’re the same age…and all of it felt right to me.
BE: Actually, I was going to ask if Jason Segel did a dance of joy when the series was renewed for a second season, because I’m a big fan of his single-season shows, like “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared.”
JR: Yeah, so am I! But, well, he does all sorts of dancing and singing, so…
BE: Yeah, I saw the Megan Mullally clip!
JR: (Laughs) Yeah…
BE: Well, this question kind of goes out the window, since you said you were hired on the first day of auditions, but I had been wondering if the producers had intentionally gone with – you’ll pardon the expression – lesser names for the roles of Ted and Robin, then used more familiar faces to fill out the ensemble.
JR: You know, I don’t think there was any agenda in that regard. Cobie and I had been together at the network and studio, and we were the first people cast, and I think then they cast Alyson. Rebecca – Craig’s wife – and Craig are both huge “Buffy” fans, and I guess…the story, as Craig tells it, is that Rebecca was uncomfortable with a character being based on her, so she said, “I’ll let you do it if you can get Alyson Hannigan to play her!”
JR: So they really went after her. And, then, Neil and I had done a play together about two months before out in L.A., so we knew each other and had worked together, and it was great. And I’d heard he got cast, and I just called him up and said, “Are you kidding me?” (Laughs) And then, once I heard Jason got cast, I thought, “Wow, I’ve found myself in really great company here,” because I had been such a big fan of “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared.” So, yeah, I don’t think there was an agenda in terms of…obviously, the network likes it if you can get people who are known, but it’s just one of those things that, in a strange alchemy of casting, the five of us just worked really well together, for whatever reason.
BE: I guess Craig being a big “Buffy” fan explains why the, uh, Joss Whedon Players have been sprinkled throughout.
JR: Yeah, absolutely. And Alyson, also. I mean, Alexis (Denisof, a.k.a. Alyson Hannigan’s husband) is a genius, and he’s so funny as Sandy Rivers…but Alyson, she always wants to get her friends on the show, but, luckily, they’re all fantastic, so…
BE: Actually, I was wondering: Joss, of course, recently made his announcement that Cobie had been his first choice to play Wonder Woman, but did she know that before he made the announcement?
JR: (Surprised) He did? Really?
JR: I didn’t even know that!
BE: Yeah, he dropped off the project – I guess they didn’t like his take on it – but he finally admitted that she was his pick.
JR: (Still stunned) Oh, my God! Well, so, is he still doing it?
BE: No, apparently not. I guess he felt safe now; he wouldn’t tell anybody who he was thinking about, but, now, I guess he figured, “Well, if I’m not on it, I guess I can tell you!”
JR: (Clearly still reeling from the information) Oh, my God! (Laughs) That’s amazing! Well, she could play Wonder Woman. She is kind of Wonder Woman!
BE: Ya’ll have great chemistry…which I’m sure you’ve heard a thousand times…but it kinda sucks that it was set up from day one that Ted doesn’t end up with Robin.
JR: Yeah, well, I think that’s kind of the genius part of it.
BE: Well, it is! It’s ballsy!
JR: It’s bold, and…it feels true to me. The line I’ve been telling people who are furious about it… (Laughs) …is that I’ve had relationships in my life that meant so much to me, and I grew so much, and I’ve never wished them away, but I didn’t end up marrying them. And I think that’s what this relationship is. And it’s also nice because it mirrors…there’s something…I love that this is a coming-of-age story, because our characters can grow and change. A lot of sitcoms, they’re locked into this persona…and Ted and Robin will be different people this season, and they’ll change as we change; they’ll change as the show changes and we grow up. I think it’s great.
BE: Oh, yeah…but it just seemed like something where CBS would’ve said, “No way! It’ll kill the romantic tension!”
JR: And, oddly, it hasn’t. I don’t know. The network, in their defense, has been really great about this show, in terms of letting us do what we want, and they haven’t tried to…all the kind of weirdness that we were talking about, they haven’t tried to tone that down. They…actually, I think that’s what they love about the show. And we get a…I don’t understand much about ratings and demos and all that nonsense, but we really do pull in a much younger audience than they’re used to getting. So I think that they trust… (Chuckles) …they trust that Carter and Craig are indeed the voice of their generation.
BE: (Laughs) The show’s time structure is pretty unique; it’s practically the “Memento” of sitcoms at times.
JR: Yeah, that’s right. Actually, the first cut of “Brunch” was much more fractured and non-linear, and that was one where they said, “Help us out here. Make this a little more easy to follow.” But I described it as if Quentin Tarantino directed a sitcom. We have an episode coming up, called “Lucky Penny,” that I’m flying to interview with these corporate guys for a new position in New York, but I have to fly to their corporate headquarters in Chicago…and Robin’s coming with me, and we’re about to miss the plane, and it turns out that I had a court date, and that’s why I missed the plane. Why did I have a court date? Because of something stupid Barney did. And you trace it all the way back. Oh, no, it’s not Barney’s fault, it’s actually Marshall’s fault. “No, no, no, no, it’s your fault!” “No, it’s Lily’s fault!” And we just go back through the whole story, trying to figure out who’s fault it is and why I missed this flight…and we were talking about how it’s actually all the scenes of the series, or the writing theme of the series, encapsulated in one episode: all the crazy twists and turns of fate that lead you to where you need to be. And the other thing that’s…there are certain episode that we call…well, Craig and I call them the “mystery episodes,” where something happens like Barney and Lily wake up in bed together…Ted meets a girl at a wedding, but who is she?
BE: Or you wake up with a pineapple.
JR: Yeah! (Laughs) I wake up with a pineapple, and what the hell’s going on? And then you get these pieces of information, you kind of piece it together…but that’s actually also what the series is about. The whole series is essentially a mystery: who’s he going to end up with?
BE: By the way, just let me know if you have to go. I only have a few more questions, but I don’t want to hold you up.
JR: Oh, no, I’ve got about five or ten more minutes.
BE: Okay, cool. Um…the music for the show is awesome, and, clearly, the selections are the work of fierce music geeks…
JR: Yeah, and I’m one of ‘em!
BE: I was going to ask…because, like, you used my favorite Replacements song (“Skyway”), you used a song from the first Fountains of Wayne album (“Sink to the Bottom”), you used a relatively obscure Roxy Music song (“Mother of Pearl”)...
JR: Yeah, actually, Barney Stinson is named after…isn’t he the (Replacements’) guitarist?
BE: Absolutely: Tommy Stinson!
JR: Yeah, Carter and Craig are actually huge Replacements (fans). I never got into them as much. I have, uh…is it Let It Be? The one with “Here Comes a Regular”…? (Writer’s note: it’s actually on Tim, but due to the relative obscurity of the song – it’s not like it was a hit single or anything – we’re gonna forgive him.) I have that record. That’s the only one I got into. But I’ve recommended a lot of music that they’ve used. I think…there’s a songwriter that I love, in Brooklyn, named JayMay, and I want to get her hooked up, but I doubt if she actually follows television. But I gave the song to Craig, and he and the music supervisor want to use it, maybe for the season finale. I also got my friend, Rachael Yamagata, I got a song of hers on the show, in “Nothing Good Happens After 2 AM.” But, yeah, Craig and Carter, myself, and Carl, their assistant, we’re all big music dorks, and we love the idea that we’re doing a sitcom that can help break new music.
BE: It’s like “Scrubs”…but on CBS!
JR: (Not entirely enthusiastically) Yeah!
BE: Do you ever hear from any of the artists who end up having their music play a key role in the show?
JR: Actually, I recommended the 88’s, who guested on our show last year, and they’ve become friends of mine. I actually got them to play at a benefit for this charity that I work with, so that was great for them. I think their name in the original draft of the script was, like, the Jazz Lobsters. The J-Lob! They asked, “Can we just use our real name?” (Laughs) They said, yeah, that’s fine! So that was great for them. And I think Craig and Carter had a fairly well-known musician call and say that he was a huge fan of the show, and that if he could ever do anything, if they ever wanted to use any of his music, that they could. So people seem to be onto it.
BE: Did anyone ever hear from Moby after the “Not Moby” episode?
JR: (Laughs) No! I wish! That would’ve been great!
“I’ve had relationships in my life that meant so much to me, and I’ve grew so much, and I’ve never wished them away, but I didn’t end up marrying them. And I think that’s what this relationship (between Ted and Robin) is.”BE: Do you live in fear of the day that CBS says, “Hey, you guys are doing great! Let’s put you up against ‘Heroes’”?
JR: (Laughs) That has never occurred to me.
BE: Have you guys been picked up for a third season?
JR: Sorry, did you say do we think we will be…?
BE: No, have you been?
JR: No. No, we’re all kind of tapping our feet, wondering when the announcement’s going to be made!
BE: Because I’ve heard a report that there’s going to be a wedding coming up, and then the tease that it might not be the engaged couple (Marshall and Lily) who’ll be the ones getting married, and it just sounds like it’s setting up for a possible cliffhanger.
JR: Yeah, I wish I could answer that! I’m about to get the script for next week’s episode later this afternoon, so that’s about as far in advance as I know what’s happening…but I do think the next episode is called “Bachelor Party,” if that gives you any idea where the season’s going. (Chuckles)
BE: For some reason, it never occurred to me until I heard about the wedding that just because Robin isn’t the mother of Future Ted’s kids doesn’t mean that Ted and Robin couldn’t have been married at some point prior to him marrying the mother of his kids.
JR: (Laughs) That is very true! I also wonder sometimes how reliable a narrator Ted is. I mean, he’s really not telling his kids all the details of these stories…unless parenting standards have really changed by 2035! But, yeah, who knows? Also, memory does funny things to people. Who knows if all this happened?
BE: Okay, and two quickies to close with.
BE: First, do you anticipate your voice changing to sound like Bob Saget’s anytime soon?
JR: Um… (Clears throat) It feels… (Laughs) No. I don’t know what to say to that! (Laughs again) I actually wanted to do the voiceover, but they said I sounded too young.
BE: Well, there is actually a similarity between your voices.
JR: Oh, okay. That’s fine. He’s a funny dude. He’s got a sweet gig, huh?
BE: Definitely. And, in closing, are you now glad that you lost out on the role in the sitcom “Off Centre” to Stifler?
JR: (Laughs) Oh, it wasn’t to Stifler; it was to Eddie Kaye Thomas.
BE: Oh, excuse me, sorry. (Writer’s note: I’m a dumb-ass.)
JR: But, like, every day of my life, I give thanks to Finch. (Laughs) That was a huge career break!
BE: All right, well, again, thanks a lot for talking with us today, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the third season announcement comes soon.
JR: Hey, thank you for all the support!
BE: No problem. Like I said, you’ve got some huge fans here, and we’re looking forward to as many episodes as you’re allowed to put out.
JR: All right! Take care!