Everyone has their “ol’ reliable” show to fall back on. It’s that one show you can’t help but go back to, over and over again even though there are countless other things to watch. Some have The Office, while others Parks & Rec, and for me, it always ends up being How I Met Your Mother. I have watched my ol’ reliable over 30 times by this point. If I’m being honest, I watch it so much that I have started to leave it on while I fall asleep purely to function as white noise. You can imagine both my excitement and skepticism when How I Met Your Father, a spin-off set in the same universe as its predecessor, was announced. I loved the prospect of a new series with the same love and charm that made the original so great. However, I was also worried about the all too common problem of a sequel that either falls into the trap of trying too hard to be the original, or steers so far off from it that the only link is by name. Now, after a long wait since its announcement, it has finally arrived on Hulu. Does it live up to How I Met Your Mother, or is this another sequel disaster in the making?
Thanks to a two-episode premiere, we already have a start to the character and relationship development needed for a romantic sitcom. The show follows Sophie, played by Hillary Duff with Kim Catrall as her future self, as she tells her son the story of how she met his father. Similar to the approach of How I Met Your Mother, we follow older Sophie recounting her memories of the past. However, the show has made some changes to the original formula. Instead of being in the blind on who the aforementioned mother or father is, the new show lets us in on a pretty big secret as of the first episode: the father is one of the men we see her meet in the very first episode.
Another change is that instead of watching the kids react to the story in the future, future Sophie is instead seen telling the story to her son, who is the one kept a secret from the viewers. I feel this was pretty obviously done in an effort to not make it obvious who the father is, considering we are narrowing it down to four gentlemen from the start. I personally love this change. The original was very ambiguous, which made it so any lucky lady could be the mother during the journey. However, I feel like this new approach will make for some tense and emotional moments as the show progresses. We’ll be on the edge of our seats, as four possible suitors are in the picture, all being around Sophie and competing for her attention as the plot unravels.
In the two-episode premiere, I was surprised by how fast I was getting emotionally invested in the characters and their relationships. Jesse (Chris Lowell) is an emotionally damaged character that immediately takes a liking to Sophie. He is charming but awkward, which makes for a great character to cheer for. Sid (Suraj Sharma) seems to be a fun and loving man, who gets engaged to his fiancee in the first episode. It’s a similar scenario Lilly and Marshall’s from the original, but with a twist. Unlike the original, Sid’s fiancee has to leave to work in another city, seemingly not a part of the main cast. This dynamic has led me to believe that while he is engaged now, he is definitely not out of the running to be the father.
Other characters include Valentina (Francia Raisa) who is Sophie’s best friend – a character that immediately made me laugh out loud – and her date Charlie (Tom Ainsley), as well as Ellen (Tien Tran), Jesse’s adoptive sister. I felt the cast immediately had chemistry and seemed like a very easy to imagine as a group of friends. This is largely why I am excited for the future of the show, a lot of shows struggle with introducing a new cast or building them into a cohesive friend group. With this largely already out of the way, more time can be focused on developing the plot.
While the relationships and characters are lovable, the humor felt a bit forced. Multiple times I heard a laugh track and couldn’t help but feel that it distracted from the show rather than back up an actual hilarious moment. I’m not particularly fond of laugh tracks in general, but I will never fault a show for using them considering it is such a standard practice in the genre. However, using them to force a boring moment into being a funny one is never fun. That isn’t to say the show doesn’t have its laughs, there were many times when my fiancee and I audibly laughed out loud. While this was a negative thing for me, I also feel this is a problem with a lot of shows as they start out, so I will reserve judgment on this until the full season is completed.
All-in-all, while I feel like the humor could use some work, the groundwork laid out in the first couple of episodes has me excited for the future. So far, I feel the show lies firmly in the “fans of the original should check this out” category. Sitcom lovers will also probably feel right at home. However, so far, I think the show is not for everyone, but we will see how that changes over the course of the season. Considering the emotional moment at the end of the second episode that ties How I Met Your Father to How I Met Your Mother, I think we are in for a real treat when we see what’s to come.