The sitcom is actually pretty funny.
TV's balance will continue to tip in favor of dramas this fall (18 new dramas, 10 new comedies), but for the first time in several years, the comedies are a better bet.
Based on a viewing of its pilot episode, CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" (8:30 p.m. EDT Mondays) is as close to a sure thing as TV can come. It's scheduled in CBS's successful Monday-night comedy block, features talented, young, familiar stars, and this sitcom is actually -- prepare to be shocked -- pretty darn funny.
It's the story of a group of friends, narrated 25 years in the future by Ted (Josh Radnor) as he recounts his life to his children. The show is mostly set in the present as Ted's best friend, Marshall (Jason Segel, "Freaks and Geeks"), proposes to his longtime girlfriend, Lily (Alyson Hannigan, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). He gets advice from his pal, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, "Doogie Howser, M.D.").
For Hannigan, Harris and Segel, the series marks a dramatic departure from the type of shows viewers are used to seeing them in. All three grew up starring in single-camera shows that were more dramas with comedy than out-and-out yukfests.
"On a one-camera show, you spend most of the day in your trailer until you're called to the set," Harris said. "We get to do a little playlet and rehearse it and present it every day, which is great fun. ... We were having so much fun, [Alyson] was worried there was no way this pilot will ever go."
"I thought, somebody has got to throw a tantrum or something," Hannigan said.
Takes less time
In addition to a more appealing schedule -- making a three-camera sitcom takes much less time than a single-camera drama -- Hannigan said she liked the opportunity to try something closer to stage acting.
"It's like doing a play with training wheels," she said. "If you mess up, it doesn't matter, you just do it again."
The pilot for "How I Met Your Mother" ends on a surprising note that fails to resolve clearly a portion of the show's premise. Producers said subsequent episodes will be more about the journey than the destination.
The cast isn't worried about leaving viewers in the dark.
"You never found out who the boss really was on 'Who's the Boss?,'" Hannigan joked.