The Season: 4.5/5When CBS comedy "How I Met Your Mother" premiered in 2005, it presented an interesting, though possibly unsustainable, narrative tack. In 2030 middle-aged Ted Mosby (presented only in vocal form by an uncredited Bob Saget) decides to tell his teenage children how he met and fell in love with their mother. But fully embracing the notion of "it's not what it's about, it's how it's about it," the show kept her identity a mystery and filled its episodes with often indirectly related misadventures of 20-something Ted (Josh Radnor) and friends Marshall (Jason Segel), Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders). While at times feeling too coy or outright manipulative in order to sustain the mystery, the show is commendable for putting a spin on the standard sitcom/romcom formula. Its slightly racy and sometimes absurd brand of humor - personified by the show's most popular character, Barney - also goes a long way towards forgiving the writers' rather liberal interpretation of the word "how." In fact, if not for the supporting characters and their respective foibles and fates, the show would have reached its limit long ago. As it is, the series has become a hilarious and poignant fusion of "Friends," "The Wonder Years" and "When Harry Met Sally." If you've yet to see the show, I can't recommend it enough - it's really one of the best sitcoms to come out of the post-"Friends" and "Seinfeld" era.
"How I Met Your Mother: Season 4" includes all 24 episodes from 2008-2009 season, whose major story threads include the continuing search for Ted's ultimate soul mate, Barney's full-blown - and poorly suppressed - feelings for Robin, and Marshall and Lily's foray into home ownership, which breaks up a living arrangement they've had with Ted since the beginning of the show. Though the writers continue to be coy about the identity of the Mother, they haven't been so evasive as to be frustrating, doling out enough crumbs along the way to keep most viewers satisfied. And now that the show is in its fifth season, the series has proved to be less about Ted's all-consuming search for "the one" than about the core cast's eventually lifelong friendship and experiences. The burgeoning romance between Robin and Barney in particular has proved to be an interesting development, a pairing some fans feel has been a long time coming, but others think is as misguided as the disastrous Joey-Rachel coupling from "Friends." Personally I'm in the former camp, and am looking forward to the stories centered around the dysfunctionally endearing pair. Though the question behind the show's title won't likely be answered until the series' finale, I have every confidence there will be plenty to keep us entertained along the way.
Video Quality: 3.5/5Available for the first time on Blu-ray, the series episodes are framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with AVC codec. Contrast, black levels and color are above average, which is consistent with my weekly experience with the high definition broadcast, though thankfully the Blu-ray has none of the broadcast's noise and motion artifacts. Overall sharpness and detail are also better on the release, though for the format the image is never exceptionally detailed. The other area where there's an issue - and this is something I've always noticed with the show - is black crush in the more dimly lit scenes, usually taking place in McLaren's Bar. The more evenly lit environments look fine, though my personal preference would be to see everything just a bit brighter and with more contrast. Nevertheless, the transfer offers a very good presentation of the show and should be an improvement from what fans are used to seeing from week-to-week.
Audio Quality: 3.5/5The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is mostly filled with dialogue and as such sounds very clean and intelligible. Unfortunately low frequencies levels tend to be too high, which can be a distraction. Surround channels perk up with the show's theme song and additional music, and there's some left-right directionality with things like swoosh pans, but on the whole it's a front and center channel experience.
Special Features: 3/5Commentaries tend to be the most substantial items in the special features package, which is fairly slimmed down compared to the extras in the previous season set. With the exception of the panel discussion, video features are in high definition.
Disc OneAudio Commentaries: Show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas offer solid, anecdote-filled tracks for "Do I Know You" and "The Best Burger In New York." Commentary for "I <3 NJ" is by guest actors from the episode, but turns out to be a put-on. Most will skip over the track once the cat's out of the bag.
Season Three Recap (2m44s): Clip-filled recap of the previous season.
Disc TwoAudio Commentary on "The Naked Man" with Chuck Tatham, Joe Kelly and Josh Radnor: Another solid commentary spends a lot of time about the ins-and-outs of "the naked man" technique, but proves to be pretty hilarious.
Gag Reel (7:26)
Barney Stinson: That Guy's Awesome Music Video: Barney's complete résumé video.
Disc ThreeA Night with Your Mother Panel Discussion (15:25): Live panel discussion covers the Barney-Robin pairing, the Naked Man strategy, shooting the show without an audience, keeping things new, and set design.
RecapThe Season: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5
An excellent CBS sitcom gets decent audio and video treatment and a fairly slim special features package.