How Not to Reboot a Show: 'How I Met Your Father'
I was very skeptical when I heard that Hulu was rebooting the beloved sitcom How I Met Your Mother. How I Met Your Mother hasn't been on TV for almost a decade; it lasted for nine strong seasons, culminating in its 2014 finale. I hadn't thought about the show in years, so seeing it getting revived was puzzling. People seem to feel very mixed about the reboot. Some believed a reboot from a woman's point-of-view could be a success while others felt it was unnecessary.
A reboot titled How I Met Your Dad was pitched in 2014 by the series' original creators, Craig Thomas and Carter Bays. The series would have starred Greta Gerwig, and been narrated by Meg Ryan. 20th Television opted not to order the pilot into a series. Part of the reason it wasn't rebooted was that the writers had difficulty creating an extensive storyline. The ninth season of the original series ended with all of its loose ends tied up, so there was nothing else to do but end it. It wasn't until 2021 when Hulu created its own reboot with a new set of writers and actors.
The series stars none other than Lizzie McGuire herself. Hilary Duff is a surprising choice for the show's lead; she hasn't starred in anything notable in several years. She plays Sophie, a hopeless romantic and aspiring street photographer living in New York City. The pilot's premise is that Sophie is on her way to a Tinder date. She chats with the Uber driver, Jesse (Christopher Lowell), and his friend Sid (Suraj Sharma) about her upcoming date. Sophie hits it off with her Tinder date, but the guy is leaving for Australia that night. She comes home to find her roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa) with her new British boyfriend Charlie (Tom Ainsley), who, to her surprise, is moving in with them. Sophie realizes she took the wrong phone in the Uber, so she hunts down Jesse and meets his adopted sister Ellen (Tien Tran), who makes a big deal about owning a farm in Iowa for some reason. They then all go to JFK so Sophie can confess to the Tinder guy she met an hour ago that she thinks he is her soulmate. And somehow, along the way, they all become friends.
Did that confuse you? Yeah, me too. It's an absolute mess, and the characters are all forgettable. I had to look up their names numerous times while writing this review. The pilot should have spent time establishing the characters, but instead, we get thrown right into Sophie's problems from the get-go. Part of the charm of HIMYM was that it wasn't entirely about the main character, Ted Moseby. Every character had a strong personality that complemented the others. The characters have nothing in common in the reboot, and they all revolve around Sophie. It isn't necessarily bad when a show revolves around a single character if that character is interesting, but Sophie is very one-dimensional. Her only personality trait is that she really wants a boyfriend.
The writing is also cringe-inducing. I actually found myself wincing at some of the lines. At the same time, the plots of the first five released episodes are unnecessarily serious. For a show claiming to be a reboot of a sitcom with some of the most slapdash, inane humor ever aired on television, How I Met Your Father takes itself way too seriously. Because the writing is so shallow, I can't even sympathize with any of the characters. When Sophie gets into predicaments, I often root for the opposing character, simply because she is downright annoying. Sophie and I have the same name, so initially, I felt obligated to root for her, but she disgraces the name.
My main grievance is that How I Met Your Father is simply not a reboot. The only allusion to its predecessor is that Jesse and Sid's apartment is Ted's old apartment. They actually make a mistake in the show and say they bought the apartment from Marshall and Lily. A real HIMYM fan knows that Marshall and Lily bought their own place in season three, leaving the apartment to Ted. It makes you question if the writers even watched the original series.
The show itself is not all bad. The shenanigans are somewhat amusing, and I regretfully chuckled at some of the jokes here and there. I would love to see Kim Cattrall given some better material for her narrations and to see more flashbacks. Flashbacks are an easy, tried-and-true way to add depth to characters.
How I Met Your Father parallels Freeform's Young and Hungry more than it does How I Met Your Mother. HIMYM’s demographic was young to middle-aged adults. The reboot has juvenile qualities, like its continuous attempts at Gen-Z humor, but it also contains extremely raunchy innuendos. It isn’t clear who the show's target audience is. In comparison, the iCarly revival was able to successfully adapt to the characters' ages, and it appropriately catered its jokes to their original audience while keeping the same loveable qualities of the Nickelodeon version.
As someone who loves How I Met Your Mother, it's a bit disappointing seeing the potential for a hit reboot turn into a cringefest. First seasons are often awkward because they are trying to figure out what works and what doesn't, particularly for multi-camera sitcoms. The series was just renewed for a second season, so perhaps the writers will be able to develop the characters more and find the show's stride over the next couple of months. How I Met Your Father has a lot of room to grow into something of its own.