'How I Met Your Mother's' Carter Bays: Storytelling requires tragedy

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The morning after "How I Met Your Mother's" Jan. 3 episode, fathers across America no doubt received calls from their adult children.

In the wake of the heart-kick at the end of "Bad News" -- the sudden death of Marshall's ( Jason Segel) dad -- a check-in with the parents seems to be in order.

"Well, my dad called," series co-creator Carter Bays tells Zap2it of the episode's aftermath. "I would have called him if he hadn't called me... it's one of those moments where you just want to talk to your dad."

The moment also caught a lot of fans off-guard. Hardly a cookie-cutter sitcom, "HIMYM" isn't all laughs -- but it's yet to go into territory as dark as this. "The show has always explored the various mileposts of life in your 20s and 30s," says Bays. "Very early on we set the goal for ourselves that we weren't going to sugarcoat it or back away from something if there's a little darkness to it. Loss is a part of life."

Bays and co-creator Craig Thomas have wanted to explore loss for a while. In the planning stages for Season 6, they decided it would be an appropriate arc, setting up events throughout the first half and then letting the rest of the story unfold from the moment of the death."

Having the tragedy focus on Marshall ended up being a natural development. "Jason is such a terrific actor," says Bays. "It felt like something he could play very well. And we love Bill Fagerbakke (Marvin Eriksen Sr.). Their relationship has always been so nice, we felt like we could get the most powerful effect out of them."

Adding to the tension of the episode's tragic end, the episode featured a countdown from 50, told through strategically-placed props with numbers on them. "We knew we wanted to do something that sort of announced to the audience early on in the episode that we're heading towards a big moment," Bays says of the script, penned by Jennifer Hendriks. "It's hard to create a sense of foreboding on a 22-minute CBS sitcom. We wanted it to be a sucker punch, but we wanted to balance the sucker-to-punch ratio."

The aftermath of that sucker punch won't come until the Jan. 17 episode (written by Bays and Thomas), "Last Words." Bays wouldn't reveal much on the events of the episode, but makes the themes they want to explore quite clear.

"I really think it came out good," he says. "It's all about how to behave when your best friend has gone through something like this -- and the need inside of you to figure out a way to help them."
Photo/Video credit: CBS
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