Robin Sherbatsky can still seem like somewhat of a mystery six seasons into How I Met Your Mother, but that's mostly because of the way the show handles character development. Though the writers will always make sure to set viewers up with any applicable context, they rely very heavily on the retrospective joke, often catering more to the viewer who has stuck by the show.
Over the years, we've been given a fairly amusing character in Robin: she has her snarky sense of humor and jaded outlook, she's Canadian, she was raised as a boy for the first part of her life, she has dated two best friends and the three of them all seem to be able to continue everyday pleasantries even in the aftermath of both break-ups, she works on a cheesy news show that college kids play drinking games to, and of course she used to be a teen pop star in Canada, performing with the stage name "Robin Sparkles."
We've seen a few Debbie Gibson-inspired Robin Sparkles music videos in the past, but this week Barney uncovers a Canadian show called Space Teens that Robin starred in with her best friend "Jessica Glitter" (played by Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger) and Alan Thicke (aka the dad on Growing Pains). Sporting the kind of tight, outlandish outfits that seem more like an American Apparel conception of the late '80s and early '90s than the period itself, Ted immediately asks if it is a porno ("Are you sure? It has all the trappings: stripper pole, bad lighting, delusional girl who thinks it's a stepping stone to success").
Robin Sparkles seems to be a cult favorite among HIMYM fans. After all, it is somewhat amusing to imagine that the child stars of Kids Incorporated or the non-successful members of The Mickey Mouse Club could possibly be struggling for journalistic credibility on a lousy news show in their adult lives. And yet the episode ultimately falls short—relying too heavily on the bet there is humor in accidental and outrageous sexual references (two girls gripping a joystick, a recurring reference to beavers through a song and an educational segment on how they consume wood, etc.) throughout a family television show. As I've mentioned before, HIMYM doesn't shy away from the crude, and sometimes it works quite well. In this case, even though it may be a good concept on paper, the show is smarter than the juvenile and obvious gags that we saw tonight.