So apparently somebody in the How I Met Your Mother writer’s room has been watching Noises Off recently. The show got its farce on in last night’s episode, “The Burning Beekeeper,” which sounds exactly like the title for a Broadway comedy of errors. (We can see the marquee now: “The Burning Beekeeper,” starring Tom Hardy, Daniel Radcliffe, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Patton Oswalt. Can someone mount that show, please?) The writers certainly made sure to assemble all the elements for a proper farce — among them a literal ticking clock (well, okay, a digital timer), a contained set (three rooms) and lots of swinging doors — but lacked one crucial ingredient: humor. The actors hit their marks like pros and the proceedings zipped along as the theater gods intended farce to play, but for all the energy on display there weren’t a lot of… well, laughs. At least the episode did live up to one crucial rule of the theat-ah: if you introduce hundreds of bees in Act 1, they should show up in a swarm in Act 3.
The stage was set for the farcical antics to follow in the episode’s opening two scenes. Before the credits, Lily and Marshall were informing Lily’s dad Mickey about their impending housewarming party, which is when Mickey let slip that not-insubstantial detail about the ten thousand bees in the basement of their new home. Other details that were established that would come into play later included: 1) Marshall’s been working long hours at his new environmental law firm; 2) Lily ordered a wheel of gouda cheese of the Internet; 3) This party is very important to Lily; and 4) Once again, there are ten thousand of bees in the basement. Post-credits, Ted and Robin walk through the three rooms (the living room, the dining room and the kitchen) in which the majority of the action will subsequently unfold. They also give us the time frame that all the organized chaos will happen within — the five minutes it’ll take to heat a Zabar’s-bought Kugel in the oven. With the set-up out of the way, here’s how things played out on a room-by-room basis.
The Living Room: [Quick note: The use of “Flight of the Bumblebee” as scene-setting music was a nice touch.] Just as Marshall is praising Lily for “pulling off the party of the year,” trouble arises when her hubby learns from his boss, Mr. Cootes (is it my imagination or is Martin Short looking more and more like Sesame Street‘s Bob McGrath as he ages?) that they’ll both be heading back to the office in 45 minutes as Mother Earth is apparently one very demanding mistress. Mr. Cootes exits stage left in pursuit of some vegan spring rolls just as Mickey slinks up to remind the two about the ten thousand bees in the basement, which at least are keeping the mice at bay. Ted strides in next and is promptly confronted by Mr. Cootes, furious that the guy has supposedly consumed all of the vegan spring rolls he was so looking forward to. Ted suddenly becomes super-aggressive for reasons that will become clear later and comes thisclose to a fisticuffs-and-kicking match with Marshall’s boss that’s only averted when Lily informs him about the hummus and veggies available for consumption. Now Barney swans in, grabbing every glass of wine in sight. Why is he so out of sorts? Because he loves his penis, or at least that’s the only explanation Robin is able to get out of him. The gouda makes its entrance next, but before Robin can cut herself a slice, Lily throws it on the floor and stomps it to smithereens, thus negating the ten-second rule. She insists that the party is ruined, an impression that Robin tries to counter until a man in a flaming beekeeper outfit runs through the living room screaming. Yeah, that pretty much automatically ruins a party.