It's always fascinating to watch a comfortably middle-brow show take on the high brow. In this week's episode of How I Met Your Mother, "Robots vs. Wrestlers," we were treated to the sitcom portrayal of a wealthy intellectual's party. Set in a small, oddly decorated "penthouse" apartment in the fictional (but prestigious, we're assured) Alberta building, the space is sprinkled with garish marble statues, 500-year-old gongs, and a candlestick holder that was owned by Edgar Allen Poe.
The waiters are dressed in tuxes, foie gras is being served, a string quartet plays in the background, and everyone, including Michael York's character Jefferson Van Smoot, speaks with clenched-jaw pretentiousness. Also, three of the maybe 30 guests in the room include Arianna Huffington, New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, and director Peter Bogdanovich.
Ted's the only one of his friends who's officially invited, but Marshall, Lily, and Barney crash because of the promise of free drinks.The show sets itself up for the party scene by establishing Ted's "douchey" side (their word, not mine), which includes casual recitations of Emerson poems at the bar, and his friends' inability to embrace or appreciate that. In fact, every time Ted starts to get a little pompous, the group responds with a fart noise. After 20 minutes at Van Smoot's, Marshall, Lily, and Barney leave the stuffy party for an event called Robots vs. Wrestlers, while Ted stays on to sing in a quartet with Bogdanovich, Shortz, and Van Smoot, and captivate the guests with a reading of Dante in Italian.
Though not laugh-out-loud funny, this episode works on a number of levels thanks to Ted's wide-eyed enthusiasm for his intellectual kindred spirits, Barney's failed attempt to seduce Arianna Huffington, the image of Peter Bodganovich holding a wine bucket, and Will Shortz's reassurance that he frequently uses Ulee from Ulee's Gold in his crossword puzzles "because of the vowels." I was only disappointed that we didn't get to see more of Bogdanovich.