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‘How I Met Your Father’ has yet to find its way

| Thursday, February 3, 2022

Claire Kirner | The Observer
Image source: National World

A single person who is unlucky in love but desperate to find their “person” faces the New York dating scene with the help of some zany friends, one of whom might be a potential love interest. Does that remind you of a certain show? If you thought of “How I Met Your Mother,” you’re not far off. “How I Met Your Father,” a Hulu reboot starring Hilary Duff as Sophie — who is telling her son the story of how she met his father — shares a nearly identical premise with its predecessor.

Sophie tells her story over video chat (duh, it’s the future), and the dating she’s doing involves more time on “the apps” and fewer random bar pickups. Unlike Ted, she reveals that she has met her child’s father by the end of episode one. The mystery here isn’t when she has met the father, but which man he actually is.

The show’s supporting characters also differ from the members of the original gang. As of now, they’re pretty much just amalgamations of tropes from other shows mixed with quirks that older millennials probably thought seemed funny in the writer’s room. A person with generational wealth who gets cut off from his parents and has to start over in the big city? Really? Apart from recycled tropes and traits, though, the writing just feels tired, especially in the first couple of episodes. With a few exceptions, the jokes tend to fall flat, and the actors fail to sell cheesy attempts at seeming modern or “up with the times.”

A few such references work, but most of them — talk of Invisalign, the use of the phrase “crisp AF” by a 30-year-old — are sure to make “HIMYF” feel totally outdated pretty much immediately. It seems as if the show has yet to decide whether it wants to mock modern tropes or to impress audiences with the fact that they know about them in the first place.

There are times when the show forgoes a chance to be totally predictable and chooses to be slightly less so. For instance, when Josh Peck’s character Drew foregoes a chance to admit he is just as much a “mess” as Sophie in favor of simply reassuring her that maturity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

This would be a good sign for the show, except for the fact that I couldn’t stop thinking about what the writers of “HIMYM” would have done instead. Off the top of my head? They would have come up with a Venn diagram system to measure whether there was enough overlap in a couple’s varying levels of maturity in order for them to stay together. This system would have been presented by one of the characters (probably Barney) and used as a framing device for the episode, adding an interesting visual element and an extra layer of storytelling and analysis. This kind of narrative flourish was par for the course on “How I Met Your Mother,” which was full of those kinds of fun storytelling techniques.

While most shows don’t make use of quite so much unconventional narration, I expect a bit more from one that shares a theme song and a name with its predecessor. The truth of the matter is this — if “HIMYF” is going to stick with its current format of narration, then it will have to rely on good writing and charming performances from members of an ensemble cast with real chemistry.

Granted, only four episodes of the show have been released so far. There may be hope that the characters will develop from bundles of millennial stereotypes into realistic people, that interesting dynamics will begin to appear between members of the group and that the writers will lighten up on the references to modern lingo and cultural quirks — or, at least, figure out how to use them. 

If these improvements never come to fruition, though, HIMYF will remain what it is now — an astoundingly mediocre, sometimes cringeworthy remake of a show that revolutionized sitcom storytelling.

Show: How I Met Your Father

Starring: Hilary Duff, Christopher Lowell, Francia Raisa

Favorite episode: The Fixer

If you liked: How I Met Your Mother

Shamrocks: 2 out of 5

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