How I Met Your Father has been greeted by fans with great trepidation, and the series premiere doesn’t solidify its fate. The first two episodes rode the line, with some genuinely funny moments alternating with bouts of trying-too-hard. This can often be said of new series, though, so it’s too early to tell what direction the new gang will end up going. I always give new shows at least three episodes, if not more. If you’ve read my writing, you know I love tv, so I’m willing to wait it out in case it becomes a real winner.
I don’t think I need to recap why fans might be uneasy about a new iteration of How I Met Your Mother. Myself and others have spent many, many pages discussing the perceived mistakes that the original writers and producers made throughout the series (and especially near the end).
I think there’s a natural tendency to judge the new show through the same lens, and the reviews I’ve read thus far have been lackluster. So, it almost seems like I should focus on reminding myself, and you, about what was good about the old show, and how that can mean good things to come for HIMYF.
But this isn’t an article about HIMYM. So let’s talk about How I Met Your Father, and how that first episode played out. Kim Cattral as older Sophie is an interesting take that doesn’t seem to match up yet. Older Sophie has a real Samantha from Sex and the City vibe, and young Sophie seems more dorky, unsure, and romantic. But there’s a whole journey between them, so I hope the show develops her character in a way that makes sense for her future self. So far, though, I’m uncomfortable with Older Sophie’s frequent mentions to her son about how she will be discussing her sex life. It doesn’t feel funny so much as inappropriate and unnecessary.
Hillary Duff is the primary reason I gave this show a chance. My sisters were into Lizzie McGuire and then I was subsequently into the show, and she’s got a special place in my heart. It is honestly a bit difficult because Sophie seems a lot like grownup Lizzie. Still a little awkward and a mess, but with a heart of gold and hope in her eyes. If I can’t see her end up with Gordo, perhaps one of these fellows will do.
Speaking of these fellows – we meet four of them in the series premiere. First up is Jesse, the Uber drive that picks up Sophie on her way to a date. Christopher Lowell plays him as jaded and a little snarky but clearly interested in her. He’s accompanied by his best friend Sid, who is riding shotgun and putting the last details on his plan to propose that night. Of all the actors, I think Suraj Sharma as Sid is the most natural. He just felt at home on the set, whereas others still need to settle in a bit.
We also meet, first through pictures and texts and then in person, Sophie’s potential love of her life. Ian, played by Daniel Augustin, is perfect in every way, except for how he’s moving to Australia tonight. This date mishap felt achingly familiar and very much like an old-school HIMYM episode. Sophie goes full-on Ted about the whole thing, and it adds a less appealing aspect to her personality. But, she has to have flaws to be a believable and interesting character, so it’s not like I’m expecting otherwise.
Ted would have gone for the goodnight kiss, despite the impending move to another continent, but Sophie does not. She refrains, and heads home to her roommate, Valentina. She’s played by Francia Raisa, who I also love. They have good BFF chemistry and I think they will foil each other well throughout the show. Valentina is back from London and she’s brought home a souvenir: Charlie.
He’s a handsome, cheeky Brit that has been cut off from the family fortune because he followed Valentina back to New York. Tom Ainsley plays him a bit inconsistently, in a way that mirrors the flow of the show. Sometimes he’s just…golden. He’s so effortlessly clever and appealing, but other times it feels forced and the timing is a bit off. But again, it’s a brand new show.
A phone mix-up in the car brings our characters together again, and introduces us to the final pieces of the puzzle. Jesse’s sister, Ellen, is a divorced lesbian who wants to forget about her ex and enjoy being single in NYC. Tien Tran plays her with a fun ease that suggests she has comedy chops to offer. We also have Sid’s now-fiancé, Hannah, played charmingly by Ashley Reyes, and Jesse’s ex, Meredith, who was surprisingly played by Leighton Meester.
Now, even if you haven’t seen this show, you can guess what happens next. Ask yourself what Ted would do, and then see how Sophie does exactly that. Ted would absolutely go to the airport, confess his feelings, and ask if there’s a way they can somehow be together, even if it’s long distance. Cue Sophie arriving at JKF, with her entire new crew in tow. Sadly, Ian doesn’t think a long-distance relationship is doable, and he turns her down.
Earlier, Sophie explained to Jesse that she’s waiting to walk the Brooklyn Bridge with her soulmate. At the end of the episode, she walks it with her friends, both new and old. That’s also an extremely Ted thing to do. It all felt a little cheesy, but cheesy was part of what made HIMYM work. Cheesy scenes and little callbacks get under your skin and suddenly you’re emotionally connected to these characters on a screen.
The episode closes out with two important twists. The first is that Jesse and Sid open the door to their apartment, and it’s THE apartment. I admit, this got me. I got a little emotional and felt a little bit at home seeing that living room on screen after so many years. There’s a nice callout to them getting the place from an old couple on the Wesleyan alumni group. The nice old couple even left the swords. :)
The second twist is when Older Sophie announces to her son (via video call, and completely off-screen) that she met his father that night. We know it was one of those four men (unless they do something oh-so-clever and annoying) but we don’t know which one it is. Here’s some breakdowns for you:
Jesse: The obvious choice. He’s single, Sophie’s single, they both seem to have some chemistry and similar angst about dating.
Sid: The least likely one. He seems to be happily engaged to a nice woman (I was worried they would make her character superficial, but so far she seems sweet!) so them breaking up would be a major plot development. But also, his best friend has shown interest in Sophie, so it would be even more complicated. Not impossible, though. (See: Ted and Barney and Robin).
Ian: He’s Mr. Perfect, which makes him too obvious, in my mind. He’s also not a part of the core group, and this really feels like it will be one of the main characters in the end. Maybe that’s HIMYM speaking to me, though.
Charlie: The middle option. He’s currently dating Sophie’s best friend and roommate, Valentina, so that doesn’t bode well for the two of them. He’s also very flirty and fun and probably more outgoing than Sophie. But, sometimes opposites attract, so who knows?!
One nice thing about the show is that it isn’t full of white people. This potentially complicates the issue of showing the future son, because his ethnicity could rule characters in or out as contenders for the Father. But, with adoption and sperm donors, etc, this isn’t definitive.
Speaking of those white people, or lack thereof…some reviewers and commenters seem to be real upset about the diversity of the show. Some people seem to think that the actors were hired solely because they’re people of color, and not because they have talent or suit the role or otherwise make sense. I don’t think like that. It’s beyond ridiculous for a show set in New York City to be as white-centric as HIMYM was (and how Friends was, and how Seinfeld was, etc, etc, etc).
The diversity is one of the things that this new show is getting right. Also, let’s be real here – the front runners are still white actors. Hillary Duff and Christopher Lowell are the biggest names on the show, aside from Kim Cattral, and they’re definitely white. So let’s keep things in perspective, shall we?
HIMYF also dared to reference feminism, which enraged some of the masses. I get that there’s a subset of HIMYM fans that probably were/are really antifeminist. Barney Stinson is antifeminist. Bros that enjoyed the show just to see him score are not going to like references to Jane Fonda in a new show. HIMYF may well be aimed at a female audience more so than HIMYM was, but that doesn’t make it inherently good or bad. So I urge you to judge this show on the quality of its content, the strength of its humor, and the attention it pays to continuity.
My final grade for now is a C+. Above average, but just barely. I think it shows potential, and I’m willing to give it another couple episodes to see how things play out. I don’t ever see myself getting as invested in any show again the way I did before, but there’s still room in my life for a good sitcom. What did you think?