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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

How I Met Your Mother: Season Four [Blu-ray]


(Created by Carter Bays & Craig Thomas, 2008)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Fox & Bays Thomas Productions

Blu-ray: Fox & Bays Thomas Productions



Region: All

Runtime: approx

Chapters: 24

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray Case w/ flip-page

Release date: September 29, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 18 Mbps



English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1



English SDH, Spanish & French



• Audio Commentary on Selected Episodes

• Barney Stinson: The Guy's Awesome Music Video

• A Night With Your Mother Panel Discussion

• Gag Reel

• Season Three Recap



The Film: 6
As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world: those that find Jay Leno funny, and those that don't. Leno has a certain way of telling a joke that milks more laughs with simple cascading riffs on the punch line. So he gets three sets of laughs for the price of one. To me, it's like telling the same joke three times. I feel insulted – like I got it the first time. I even got the permutations before he says them – usually. So I fall into the latter group about Leno – Not Funny!

I feel much the same way about How I Met Your Mother. A truly clever line is milked for all its worth with permutations on theme. I'm not so clever as to having thought of all of them the instant the original line was spoken, but the follow-ups feel old before they half-uttered. To me, less is more. The rest is clutter.

The set-up for the series is at once simple and clever: The year is 2030 and Ted Mosby relates to his teenaged children the story of how he met their mother. He spins his tale out for at least five TV seasons worth of half episodes. And, like Scheherazade, Ted knows well enough not to give away the identity of the “lucky” girl, else he (and the TV series he has innocently spawned) will have lost the interest of his audience. His story involves a couple sets of friends (think: Friends) from the today time in the Big Apple (that’s New York, not Cupertino): himself of course (Josh Radnor), an architect at the beginning of his career; his former girlfriend, Robin (Cobie Smulders), now a reporter; Ted’s best friend, Marshall (Jason Segel, who manages to keep his clothes on, so far); Marshall’s wife, Lily (Alyson Hannigan, who has given up her Buffy witchy ways for more mundane fare); and most delightful, Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris – hard to believe this guy’s 16 years older than Doogie Howser), who believes he is God’s gift to women, and proves it repeatedly.

Throughout the series, Ted and his friends fall in and out of love and whatever else late-twenties-going-on-thirty-something-going-on-sixteen can manage to challenge their hormones, career aspirations and identity strivings with. Guest characters come and go, any female of which might turn out to be the “Mother” in the title – hell, she might even be Robin – or, more bodaciously, Lily. I can’t imagine this series without Barney – or Harris, for that matter. He, or they, adds the necessary spice to what is very well trod sitcom territory.



Image: 6/8    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The image for How I Met Your Mother: Season Four is as conservative as Barney is not – with its quiet absence of dynamic scale. You could go ten minutes without a single stray or deliberately overexposed light source. Color is saturated – vivid in some places, underexposed in others. Some indoor scenes especially suffer from shadow crushing, especially in the pub. Sharpness is good; and technical anomalies do not present a problem.
















Audio & Music: 5/6
The first thing that I noticed – and once, having noticed, could not readily escape, is the atrociously judged laugh track. Everything about it spells: careless. It is monotonous, without the dynamic range that an actual audience should have in response to the action. Are they bored? Are they real or canned? We, the real audience, shouldn’t be asking questions like this. But it doesn’t stop there: The laugh track is both too quiet and too loud – it becomes a kind of background noise instead of something that offers impulse to the proceedings. When I pushed myself to get past the laugh track I found the dialogue to be a mixed bag – clear and “normal” timbres in some locations, peculiar in others. Ambient sounds are less problematic and helped to present a fuller, if contrived, soundstage.


Operations: 6
I still say I prefer a menu design that displays the whole table of contents in one go - barring that, a pulldown list of chapter and extra features. Why this trend of hiding the numbers of chapter and titles of features that you have to click on one at a time? I don’t get it.




Extras: 6
The extra features include a recap of season three (which, by the way, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever if you haven’t been watching the show), episode commentaries, a gag reel, an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences panel discussion titled "A Night with Your Mother,” a video that showcases the special qualities of Barney Stinson, and an extended scene from "The Fight."


Bottom line: 6
If you’re a fan of the series, I imagine you’ll want Season Four. The question is: Blu-ray or DVD? The Blu-ray, which doesn’t present a particularly good image or audio, costs half again as much as the DVD, but both are being released concurrently, which should make the decision easy.

Leonard Norwitz
October 9th, 2009






About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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