Monday, March 1, 2010

How Ted Met Carrie Underwood

After the scourge to fans of scripted television that is the Olympics on NBC, tonight, CBS' sitcoms return with all-new episodes. For fans of Two and a Half Men, enjoy 'em while you've got 'em, because with Charlie Sheen away in rehab, the show has halted production, after completing only 18 of the 24 ordered episodes.

But in better news, tonight's episode of How I Met Your Mother -- entitled "Hooked" -- is as fun as ever, with guest star Carrie Underwood in a comic turn (and an even cuter "teacup pig," which I never knew existed, but now I want one.)

Back in January during the Television Critics' Convention in Pasadena, we critics had been shuttled over to Stage 22 on the Fox lot in Century City, where over breakfast, we were treated to a live "table read" of this episode, up close and personal. The teacup pig was not present -- he was actually scheduled to be born two days later, explained one of the show's executive producers, Carter Bays, and then brought in for filming the very next day -- but we did get to see Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris read their lines aloud for the first time, and give them their comic spins.

Carrie Underwood wasn't present either -- her lines were read by the episode's writer Kourtney Kang -- but Neil's real-life boyfriend David Burtka was, as he was again appearing in the episode as Scooter, Lily's recurring, long-ago ex. And guest star Catherine Reitman, daughter of filmmaker Ivan, got lots of laughs in her role as Henrietta, a girl pining for Ted.

So many times, episodes change extensively between this first "table read," when writers and network executives gauge which jokes are working, and adjust what we finally see on the air. But tonight's episode seems, as far as I can remember, virtually identical to what we saw performed in person that day -- way to go, Kourtney! -- and may inspire you to go out and find a "pharma girl" of your very own.

(How I Met Your Mother airs at 8PM Eastern/7 Central tonight (Monday, 3/1) on CBS.)

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