Wait for It

Like most viewers, I was punched in the gut by last Monday’s How I Met Your Mother.

Marshall, holding a bottle of ketchup labeled 48, speaking with Lily
Screencap from How I Met Your Mother 6.13 “Bad News” © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox.

But while I did realize that something awful was about to happen moments before it happened, based on the big, fat hanging fastball of dialogue, unlike most viewers I wasn’t expecting any surprises good or bad before that moment — at least not based
on the apparently instantly infamous visual cues.

To be honest, I just didn’t see the trees for the forest; I wondered why the ketchup bottle had a 48 instead of Heinz’s trademark 57, yeah, but that’s because I figured the ketchup bottle itself might become central to that scene and the producers didn’t want legal trouble. Often these days it’s all I can do to keep up with the dialogue on a show, missing ambient images and/or specific clues entirely (or vice versa), giving my rewind button a real workout when I know I didn’t hear something or suspect I didn’t see something that I should have.

Every instance of the episode’s prop-assisted countdown has been compiled on a Tumblr blog, I happily report, and the motif is typical of the series’ creativity. Had I noticed the conceit, I could well have found it distracting, although it’s impossible to know for sure after the fact. From what I hear the Internabobs are nattering with both praise and high dudgeon regarding the setup of such a serious event in a playful fashion.

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