It must be hard to be Neil Patrick Harris
. I'm not talking about his relatively recent decision to come out of the closet, but rather the stigma of being remembered as Doogie Howser, M.D.
The sitcom about a teenage savant who becomes a doctor was as cheesy as it could be, and since then, Harris has slowly but surely made a career of putting that role behind him.
He starred on Broadway. He appeared in cheesy sci-fi movies like Starship Troopers
. And he made an oh-so-memorable cameo as an out-of-control version of himself in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
. In his latest, Emmy-nominated role as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother
, it finally seemed as though Harris had come into a role that would outshadow Doogie.
So it was with the bravado of a man not ashamed of his past that, in last night's episode of How I Met Your Mother
, the final scene featured Harris' Barney behind an outdated computer typing away in his diary while the familiar strains of the Doogie Howser theme song played in the background. The moment was instantly recognizable as a callback to the final scene of every episode of the old sitcom, when Doogie, fresh from the special lesson of the episode, would type away his innermost thoughts while pondering his own existence.
It was a bold move, one of an actor not afraid to reclaim the cheesiness of his past. Most former child stars long to forget the painfully awkward years when their transformation into adulthood took place on network TV. For most actors, the spectre of Doogie Howser would haunt them throughout their career. But Neil Patrick Harris is confident with where he is now and where he came from.
The moment was, without a doubt, hilarious, an instant classic on a show filled with such memorable comedic moments. How I Met Your Mother
is a special kind of show that can subtly break the fourth wall without it being distracting. The Doogie Howser homage was spot-on, perfectly acted by Harris, and in perfect harmony with the tone of the series. It wasn't just about a clever in-joke about Neil Patrick Harris' past role, but it worked as stand-alone comedy as well. How I Met Your Mother
is the rare show with both a sense of humor, and a sense of humor about itself.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Images courtesy of CBS and ABC)