POSTED BY STUART LEVINE
So there was Harris (pictured left) on the dais positioned between show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, all three discussing the awesomeness that is Barney, how Ted and Robin cope after their breakup and what's in store for newly married couple Marshall and Lily.
Critics, at least the ones here at the Beverly Hilton for CBS TCA seshes, weren't shy expressing their fondness for all the characters and were hoping for answers to the big question -- who, exactly, is the mother of "Mother"?
The first installment of season three, which airs Sept. 24, may just start to unravel the secret.
"Episode one will show that we haven't forgotten about the title of the show," said Thomas, not giving away more than that.
Well, we know it won't be Robin, who broke up with Ted just before Lily and Marshall tied the knot.
The couple seemed a perfect pair but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. And though they were "hot for each other," as Bays (pictured right) reiterated, the couple seemed alarmingly OK with the separation. Well, not so much, as viewers will soon learn.
As for Lily and Marshall, realities of marriage take root quickly. They need to find a cheap apartment in New York -- yeah, good luck with that -- and Marshall finds paying off a $100,000 college loan as an environmental lawyer isn't working as well as he would've hoped.
And then there's Barney, who gets to party with single guy Ted again. Bays and Thomas will look back at how Barney became Barney, including revisiting the night he lost his virginity, his relationship with his black, gay brother (Wayne Brady, who will be making another appearance), and his continued fascination with the slap game he partakes in with Marshall.
Harris is more than fine with not being the lead, as he was in "Doogie Howser" back in 1989-93. The popularity of the character surprised him ("I was the Fonzie in the pilot") and the production environment -- collaborating with Bays, Thomas, exec producer Pamela Fryman and his fellow actors -- allows the always busy actor to revel in the moment.
"I'm in the Emerald City and the Wizard of Awesomeness," he said, embracing the fun. CBS ordered up 24 episodes for this new season, though that wasn't always a guarantee. Ratings have been solid but not great, and Harris had some reservations of whether he and the gang would be back.
"I was terrified," he admitted. "I thought the pickup was a sure thing."
Bays and Thomas (pictured left) were more confident, and though there were elements in last season's finale that could've been viewed by audiences as a series finale, they wrote the episode with a season-three renewal in mind.
Branching out further into America's consciousness, "Mother" recently was the subject of a "Family Circus" cartoon, which Thomas found invigorating.
"That's better than an Emmy nomination," he said.
Whether that happens Thursday remains to be seen, but awards recognition -- or mostly lack of it -- hasn't made "Mother" a guilty pleasure. It's more about just watching a group of buddies hanging out.
So instead of painting themselves in a corner with a name like "How I Met Your Mother," and an overriding question that now looks like will get an answer, Thomas sometimes asks himself why he didn't come up with something different as the title.
"Our original title was 'People Hanging Out,'" he said, joking.
-- Stuart Levine