'Mother' cast shares the love

Talks about recent success at ATAS

A packed Academy of Television Arts & Sciences theater brimmed with laughter Tuesday night as the cast of CBS' "How I Met Your Mother" discussed the series' inside jokes, upcoming story lines and the cast's love affair with one another.

Now in its fourth season, the multicamera comedy has found its footing in the ratings, averaging 9.7 million viewers and consistently ranking in the top 10 in the 18-49 demographic.

"Kudos to CBS for keeping us on Monday and for sticking with us and not moving us to Friday night at 10," said Neil Patrick Harris, who plays womanizer Barney Stinson.

Added co-star Jason Segel (Marshall Eriksen): "In this world of reality TV, you need a real sense of stick-to-it-ness (from the network) for people to catch on."

Now with 80 episodes and a recent contract extension under its belt, the cast can reflect on the show's early uncertainty and laugh.

Harris recalled a conversation he and Alyson Hannigan (Lily Aldrin) had during filming the pilot. "When we filmed the pilot, Aly said, 'This show is never going to go because we're all having so much fun,' " he said.

Josh Radnor (Ted Mosby) agreed. "It did feel a little too good to be true," he said. "The five of us sitting around the booth is just so fun and interesting."

Radnor said he sees evidence of the show's quirkiness all the time, including on a trip to Ohio where a fan approached him and said he was doing "Naked Guy" that night -- referring to an episode where Ted and Barney surprise their dates.

Co-creator/executive producer Carter Bays said the "Naked Guy" story line came out of the writers' room and an experience that happened to someone involved with the show.

"The stuff that comes out of writers sitting around that's really happened is always the funniest," he said. "We'll mention something like the goat and then come back to it."

Bays and co-creator/exec producer Craig Thomas said they devote a lot of time to the show's Web presence and what bloggers are saying about it and denied the intentional use of a prop that appears in a scene with Stella (Sarah Chalke) and Ted that also appears in the series' opening flash forwards with Ted's eventual kids.

"It was a complete coincidence," Bays said. "We try to adhere to continuity."

"It's like an episode of 'Lost' sometimes," Harris joked about fans' speculation about who Ted will wind up with.

"Will you stop posting that please," a very pregnant Hannigan deadpanned.

Cobie Smulders (Robin Scherbatsky), who joked that her Canadian character has slept with just about everyone on the show -- "Lily is Season 7" -- said there's a lot to explore between Robin and Barney.

"I like the idea that we did it backward," she said of Barney's pursuit coming after they had sex.

Bays said that pairing Robin and Barney was always a "break glass in case of emergency" situation, and after the writers' strike, "it was an emergency."

Up next, Ted's college girlfriend Karen (to be played by Laura Prepon, "That '70s Show") will surface and fans will get a taste of the woman who helped turn Ted into a "pretentious douche," Radnor said.

Viewers also will get to meet Barney's mother -- to be played by Frances Conroy ("Six Feet Under").

"It's a blessing and a curse to have such a deep bench of guest stars," Bays said.

One thing that isn't in the series' immediate future, however, are children for Marshall and Lily.

"Jason and little babies don't mix but toddlers love him," Hannigan said. "There's so many jokes there," Segel shot back.

As for if viewers will see more of '80s child star Robin Sparkles making a musical return to the show, Bays said the challenge is "trying to figure out a way to have her hidden videos come out. It might be a prequel; how did Robin become a singer."

As for other returning characters, Thomas warned, "We've shot the season finale, and the goat does appear."
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