As a “How I Met Your Mother” fanatic, I was excited to hear Hulu was creating a sequel to the beloved nine-season sitcom. Since watching the recreation, however, I wish they would’ve taken Robin’s advice: “You can’t just run back to the past because it’s familiar. Yes, it’s tempting, but it’s a mistake.”
I shall preface this by saying the show has only released three episodes, so some may choose to reserve judgment until seeing more of the season. But I have seen enough. The attempt to capture the magic of the former series in the new Hulu original aptly named “How I Met Your Father” falls short of what any true HIMYM fan would expect. The new show’s aggressive and overly-explicit content serves as an unbecoming cover for the show’s failure to create characters whose depth and relatability provide the comedic value necessary to drive the series.
The basis of the new show is similar to that of its predecessor: six friends (the former had five) in their late 20s living in New York City and trying to glean satisfaction in their love lives with sometimes less than satisfying work lives.
The friend group, the origin of which is explained in the first episode, passes time in a bar that one of the characters, Sid, just bought. I appreciated this deviation from the original show’s go-to bar, MacLaren’s Pub. None of the characters owned MacLaren’s but all the guys occasionally joked about buying a bar, so the new series’ nod feels like a fulfillment of that dream.
The show also takes place in the same apartment where the former cast made so many memories. At least some of the new characters also attended the oft-referenced yet nondescript “Wesleyan,” as they found the apartment through the college’s alumni group, almost certainly from former main characters Lily and Marshall.
Bad Writing Makes the Show Something It’s Not
Aside from some friendly references to the older show and a few potential storylines, however, I found the two series have little in common. The old show is known for absurd, niche circumstances that leave viewers wondering how writers could possibly dream this stuff up. For example, Barney’s misguided belief that his father is Bob Barker and his subsequent pursuit of winning “The Price is Right” to be reunited is one of my personal favorites.
Or the episode when they find all of their doppelgangers, including “Mexican Wrestler Ted.” Or the one when Maurie Povich is found at every corner to emphasize how frequently minor celebrities appear in the city. Okay, I’ll stop.
“How I Met Your Father,” on the other hand, lacks the same level of hilarious charm. The show operates more like a soap opera than a comedy. Between main character Sophie’s constant uphill battle to find a successful date off the dating app Tinder, Jesse’s unfortunate view of love as a worthless endeavor, Sid’s love residing on the other side of the country, Ellen’s new exploration of the lesbian dating world, and Valentina and Charlie’s young, dramatic relationship, the show has a lot more tender if not cheesy moments, almost all centered on romantic love.
I didn’t find this very fascinating. I want more weird scenarios and fewer ah-ah moments about the way to keep relationships interesting.
The writers of the original HIMYM wove comedic gold into the everyday-man lessons watchers learned and came to love throughout the course of the show. In an “Independent” article, Adam White coined the show a “pop culture behemoth” for its soaring popularity during its 2005 to 2014 run.
The first series’ characters proved appealing to the mainstream public – Lily’s loyalty and affection for her friends, Marshall’s adorable and altruistic dedication to saving the environment, Ted’s seemingly hopeless search for romance, Robin’s struggle to find meaning in her career, and Barney’s hyperbolic playboy attitude. Each character was understandable and worth rooting for, even Barney at times.
Although a few of the new characters are charming, the group overall doesn’t have the same individual allure or collective off-the-bat connection that the original HIMYM gang did.
Push for Explicit Content Cheapens the Show
In my life, HIMYM has proven to be the single most quotable show ever, with all my peers as witnesses. As a hallmark of the first comedy, I was disappointed to find there was nothing memorable enough to quote in the first three episodes of the new series, nor anything appropriate enough to quote, as the show also missed the mark on the level of explicitness. I had to skip a chunk of episode three because of a sexy facetime call between Sid and his long-distance girlfriend that took me off guard, even multiple episodes in.
It was a stark contrast to the original show where, although Barney more often than not cracked some hilarious but foul-mouthed jokes, the jokes were delivered with such jest that I wasn’t cringing as I often was watching “How I Met Your Father.”
I began watching the show with my friend, and, as another HIMYM devotee, he several times expressed shock at the show’s vulgarity. In what’s deemed socially acceptable in 2022’s Hollywood, Valentina and Charlie start off moving in together, then have sex in the bathroom of the bar before they even go on their first date. Through both the show’s word choice to describe certain innuendos as well as its characterization of “relationships,” the first few episodes set a tone far more R-rated than the original series.
In other attempts to make the show more progressive, Ellen is a recently divorced, newly out-of-the-closet lesbian cheerfully on the prowl. The first night out as a group, she distinctly hits on six different women and strikes out with all of them, yet remains optimistic because “there are so many more out there waiting” for her.
This new era for the show derives from a combination of two things: the freedom from restrictions by streaming services and a degraded society in which a lot of what the show depicts is genuine. The fact that “How I Met Your Father” gets away with this type of explicit discussion on screen is made possible by the fact that it’s not tied to a network like HIMYM was. Being on a streaming service allows for extra sexualized language and content.
Cable television has been plummeting in popularity in recent years because of services like Hulu, which has nearly 44 million subscribers. Many young people opt to never use cable, with easy accessibility to shows like HIMYF elsewhere. With trends like this showing no sign of slowing down, the state of entertainment appears unrestrained for more content such as this.
But to some degree, HIMYM’s level of raunchiness is more than just Hollywood pushing the envelope — it also serves as a magnified reflection of the state of our world in 2022. Tinder is the most popular app in its category by number of users, so hook-up culture is in fact well and alive.
Lastly, both shows are narrated by an older version of the main character. It struck me that, in this case, future Sophie talks to her children without showing their faces. This is the opposite of the way in which future Ted was only ever heard, not shown, while revealing the children’s identity.
Perhaps the most surprising detail of the show came at the end of the first episode, when future Sophie said in her narration that was the night she met the father. This implies the father is either one of the main characters, her most recent Tinder date, or an undisclosed character she ran into earlier in the day. Future Sophie also fully acknowledges the year is 2022, but interestingly she never acknowledges Covid in any sense, even at the airport there were no masks.
The only reason I got a Hulu account was due to the original show switching from Netflix to Hulu nearly four years ago. The minds at Hulu had good reason to believe some sort of HIMYM follow-up would thrive in popularity. This just isn’t it.
Much like the tragic ending of the original show, “How I Met Your Father” looks like it will continue to be a major letdown. For those who haven’t seen the first show and can understand the struggles of modern dating, this series might be a pleasant watch. But for those who miss the original HIMYM heydays, don’t even bother.