The hit comedy, “How I Met Your Mother” left television in 2014 with a finale that could generously be considered “divisive.” Eight years later and after a few false starts, a spin-off series, “How I Met Your Father,” has finally been released for streaming on Hulu. Based off of the first two episodes, the new show has definite promise, but still needs to grow into the shoes left behind by “How I Met Your Mother.”
Hilary Duff’s Sophie is the new Ted Moseby, a starry-eyed romantic convinced that her happily ever after is out there. In one of the series’ first twists from the “How I Met Your Mother” format, the narration is grounded by footage of Future Sophie, played by Kim Cattrall, talking to her off screen son, rather than the other way around. This change was presumably done to prevent the show from falling into the same trap that “How I Met Your Mother” did—having to frequently reuse footage of Ted’s future children because the actors grew up. In the show’s present, Sophie is first introduced while running late to a Tinder date. Along the way she meets Jesse (Christopher Lowell), her Uber driver, and Sid (Suraj Sharma), who is planning to propose to his long distance girlfriend that night. During the rest of the episode, the audience is introduced to Sophie’s date, Ian (Daniel Augustin), her roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa), Jesse’s recently divorced sister, Ellen (Tien Tran) and Valentina’s new boyfriend Charlie (Tom Ainsley).
Nobody should be surprised by the fact that the episode ends with a twist, after all, “How I Met Your Mother’s” pilot ended with the twist that Robin was not the mother, and the team behind “How I Met Your Father” delivers, but continues to add their own flair. The first episode ends with the reveal that Sophie did meet the father during the events shown, but leaves the actual identity still a mystery, identifying at least four potential suspects, with more sure to be revealed through flashbacks in the future.
Although there are no character crossovers from the original show so far, it is clear that “How I Met Your Mother’s” DNA is an intrinsic element of “How I Met Your Father.” The show has managed to recreate the same feeling of warmth that each episode of “How I Met Your Mother” permeated. The new gang of main characters appear to have remixed traits of the originals. Sid gets engaged to his significant other in the pilot just like Marshall did all the way back in 2005, but his fiance is forced to go back to Los Angeles in order to save a life. Valentina has elements of both Marshall and Lily, with her being the main character’s best friend and having big dreams. Jesse is pretty clearly a version of Ted if Ted had lost hope in happy endings, while Ellen has Ted’s hopefulness and Robin’s new to New York vibe. Charlie, by far my favorite of the bunch, shares that trait with Ellen and has also inherited Barney’s slight disconnect from reality. In the first two episodes all of the characters meet and become friends, quickly forming relationships that are both heartwarming and definitely designed to create the largest amount of comedic tension. The reveal of a certain returning location from the original series at the end of the pilot is unexpected, but definitely tugs at the heartstrings.
Now for the less effective aspects. The vast majority of sitcoms usually take at least their first season to really get in the grove. That is why it’s not surprising that so many people online feel disappointed by these first two episodes. Both are decent early sitcom episodes, however the second one also uses the cliche of an easily avoidable misunderstanding that could have been solved quickly if characters had just spoken with each other. Although all of the actors are great at playing their characters, and their interactions with each other are charming, the fact that this group of friends is still getting to know each other does create some growing pains which could have been avoided if the group had already existed at the start of the show. The character pairings in the first two episodes are pretty static, with Sophie always being paired with Valentina or Jesse, with the others moving around them. Hopefully future episodes will play with different interpersonal dynamics.
“How I Met Your Mother” featured a significant amount of inside and recurring jokes over the course of nine seasons, and “How I Met Your Father” clearly has a desire to do the same. Some jokes that seem to be the beginnings of recurring punchlines such as Sophie and Jesse’s comfort song being “Drops of Jupiter,” Valentina’s efforts to make a decent cup of coffee and Charlie’s general befuddlement with the workings of New York life are genuinely amusing. Some of the other attempts come across as a little shallow and would probably benefit from giving the audience some space to breathe. Of course, at some point “How I Met Your Father,” is going to have to survive without constantly being compared to “How I Met Your Mother,” but the series is not quite there yet.
“How I Met Your Father” still has some growing to do before becoming a great sitcom, but I think the first two episodes do an excellent job of laying the groundwork for it to do so. The characters are all relatable and have great dynamics with each other, the tone is heartwarming and the comedy is genuinely hilarious most of the time. Once that growth is accomplished, “How I Met Your Father” will probably be legendary. We might just have to wait for it a little.