Josh Radnor is about to shoot a crucial scene in the season finale of "How I Met Your Mother," but what's on his mind is whether Madonna appearing at the annual Coachella music festival will be weird.
It's early March, the next-to-last day of filming on the CBS comedy's first season. As a makeup artist dabs at Radnor's face, he chats with co-creator Carter Bays about Coachella and the English band Arctic Monkeys. You'd hardly guess that Radnor's character, Ted Mosby, is about to make a big romantic gesture to Robin (Cobie Smulders), whom he's been chasing for much of the season.
That relaxed vibe is part of the charm of "How I Met Your Mother," which ends its first season Monday and will return in the fall. Although Bays and co-creator Craig Thomas established in the first episode that Robin is not the mother of the title, they're not in a rush to have Ted meet his future wife.
In an odd way, given that we know in some respects how the series will end, the outcome feels less predetermined than a host of other will-they-or-won't-they TV romances of years past.
"I feel like, if it's [Robin], you have 22 minutes of a great pilot. But if it's not her, then you've got a whole series. That's where we are," Radnor says. "... Everyone has relationships that don't end up with marriage and kids, but that doesn't make them any less significant. You never wish away that experience, or what you learned from it."
In addition to the scene she and Radnor are about to film, the finale also has what Smulders calls "a 'say anything...' moment" that has Ted standing in the rain, shouting up to Robin's balcony.
"It was just beautiful, very romantic," she says of the scene, which they filmed the previous night. "It was very cool to be part of that. It was this huge production -- like being on a movie set. I love the show for that -- it is a sitcom, but it has a lot of elements that are like a feature film. We're on location, we have nine sets here, and we're always cutting back and forth. It's kind of great."
Aside from Ted pursuing Robin, the episode also contains several references to the show's beginnings, which points to how much the characters -- who also include the outrageous Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and engaged couple Marshall and Lilly (Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan) -- have grown over the season.
For instance, whereas at first Robin wanted no part of Ted's romantic advances, now she sort of enjoys the chase.
"It's huge," Smulders says of her character's realization that she might actually like Ted. "It's fun to do the switch from the one who's being sought after to the one who's looking for someone. ... You don't know what you've got until it's gone, right? I've totally been there, and it's a very fun emotional thing to play."
As for Ted, Radnor thinks he may be slightly nuts. But in a good way
"He goes a little crazy in this last episode. On paper, it's like, Wow, this guy's really lost it," Radnor says. "And he has, but it's also -- he's so guided by his hear and his emotions. He just goes for it, and it seems to work out for him. So I wouldn't begrudge him that."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times