Emmy Watch: 'How I Met Your Mother' boss on keeping finale secrets, not being 'above a pity vote'

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Image Credit: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to return nomination ballots, EW.com is running a series called Emmy Watch, featuring highlight clips and interviews with actors, producers, and writers whom EW TV critic Ken Tucker has on his wish list for the nominations announcement on July 19.

How I Met Your Mother closed its seventh season on the top of its ratings game, ending the broadcast season with a 3.4 rating in the all-important 18-49 demographic, its best stat since the ’08-’09 season. But can ratings success translate into Emmy success? Executive producer Craig Thomas isn’t so sure. “It’s always tricky to speculate on Emmy chances,” he tells EW via e-mail. “We’ve only been nominated for Outstanding Comedy once, for Season 4.  Season seven — this past season — was our highest-rated so far and while I have no idea if that helps our Emmy chances, I’m pretty excited about that fact just by itself!”

Meanwhile, as Mother cruises toward its final years (no word on exactly how many remain), Thomas is also unsure of how the show’s age factors into the Emmy process. “I don’t know if our show’s age helps or hurts.  All I can do is hope that Emmy voters go, ‘Oh crap, HIMYM ain’t gonna be on forever — let’s throw those poor bastards a bone!'” he jokes. “Hey, I never claimed we were above a pity vote.”

Some fans would argue no such consideration is necessary. Creatively, this was a banner year for the show, which in one season revealed Robin’s infertility, showed Lily and Marshall’s journey toward parenthood, saw Barney in two serious relationships (with Nazanin Boniadi and Becki Newton), and reunited Ted with fan favorite Victoria.

But if you ask Thomas, the season’s high note was their first-ever hour-long finale, titled “The Magician’s Code, Part One and Two.” Read on as Thomas takes us behind the scenes of the episode. But first, watch a clip:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you pick the season finale?
CRAIG THOMAS, via e-mail: It featured just about everything HIMYM does well — the sweetness of Marshall and Lily having their baby; the bittersweetness of Barney and Robin finally putting their feelings for each other to bed; the deep-cut callback of Victoria (from season one) coming back into Ted’s life (wearing a wedding dress, no less!); the flash-forward twist ending that Barney’s future bride is, in fact, Robin; and of course a whole buttload of stupid flashback jokes (My favorite: “The time we all agreed to go as The Breakfast Club for Halloween but failed to coordinate our costumes” — CUT TO: The whole gang all dressed as Judd Nelson).

When did you know it was a special or particularly standout episode?
I always hoped this finale would be special, but I didn’t know if we’d fully succeeded until I watched the finale on the air while also on Twitter. I’m not an avid Twitter user by any means — this was the first time I actually sat there with a laptop open as HIMYM aired live. But reading the responses, seeing the fans’ brains explode in real-time like that — people freaking out and crying and celebrating — I gotta say, that was pretty damn cool. (Not to sound product placement-y, but for that specific use — insecure showrunners checking to see if people liked their season finale — Twitter’s hard to beat!)

What scene from that episode was particularly tough to write and/or shoot?
One of the toughest things about the finale was, of course, keeping the secret that Robin was Barney’s future bride. We’ve been teasing Barney’s future wedding day (via flash-forwards) for almost two years now, so there was a lot of anticipation about who the bride would be. We spent a big chunk of this season investing Barney into a relationship with Quinn (Becki Newton) and in the finale, Barney proposes to her with a crazy, elaborate magic trick. We liked writing the theme of magic into this episode, because in the end, the true misdirection was in the last thirty seconds: the reveal that Robin is the bride.

Oh, the other tough thing about shooting this episode? Shooting scenes with a month-old baby. Wow. Legally, you only have 20 minutes to shoot any scene with the baby, so everything is really tense… (Now I know why we never saw Ross and Rachel’s kid on Friends.) God help us next season!

The show has enjoyed some accolades from the Emmys over the years in technical categories, but could this be the year y’all get the big Comedy Series win?
I was truly proud of Season 7, and I thought it was one of our finest outings. We’ve all worked so hard to keep the show consistently good over seven years, but also to bring it to new places, some of them fairly dramatic and bittersweet at times.  We’d be thrilled to get some Emmy love for this season. But the fans still being this invested — (I’m well aware this sounds cheesy), but that’s really the best reward of all.

Related:
Emmy Watch: Aziz Ansari talks Tom’s Oh-no-nos list
Emmy Watch: ‘Revenge’ creator on the season’s best moments


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