When “How I Met Your Mother” wrapped in 2014, I heard from a lot of people here in Utah who were downright angry about the way it ended. They couldn’t get to show’s producers, so they expressed that anger to me – at least in part because I’d almost always written kindly of the show.
But I hated the finale too.
Way back in 2005, I wrote that “How I Met Your Mother” had the best pilot episode of any of the 31 shows that premiered that fall — and I’ll stand by that. I also wrote that I was somewhat worried about where the show would go after that, what with the Big Twist at the end of that pilot. Ted (Josh Radnor) was pursuing Robin (Cobie Smulders) throughout the episode, and then viewers were suddenly told that Robin was NOT the mother of Ted’s children.
As it turned out, for the next eight years, “HIMYM�� was one of the better sitcoms on TV. The format of a future version of Ted in the year 2030 (the voice of the late Bob Saget) telling his two children how he met their mother was intriguing. And, occasionally, annoying. But, overall, the show worked. For eight seasons.
Unfortunately, there was a ninth season. The first 22 episodes were set in the two days leading up to Robin and Barney’s (Neil Patrick Harris) wedding — and then the final two episodes jumped ahead to 2030 and quickly told us that Robin and Barney got divorced; that Ted married Tracy (Cristin Miloti) and they had two children; that Tracy died in 2024; and that Ted was once again interested in Robin.
I hated the finale so much that I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch repeats of “How I Met Your Mother.” And now, after several aborted attempts, we’re getting a sequel series titled “How I Met Your Father.” Which is — exactly what you’d expect it to be.
In the year 2050 — Sophie (Kim Cattrall) is telling her unseen son the story of how she met his father. Those scenes frame the main story, in which Sophie (Hilary Duff) is a single woman looking for love in 2022.
Like the original series, “HIMYF” will feature a group of close friends, including Valentina (Francia Raisa), Sophie’s roommate; Jesse (Chris Lowell), an Uber-driving musician; Sid (Suraj Sharm), a bar owner and Jesse’s roommate; Ellen (Tien Tran), Jesse’s gay, Asian American, adopted sister; and Charlie (Tom Ainsley), a rich, dorky, hot Brit. Recurring cast members include Hannah (Ashley Reyes) as Sid’s long-distance girlfriend, and Daniel Augustin and Josh Peck as possible love interests for Sophie.
Actually, we’re told at the end of the pilot that there are four possible fathers, and we’ve met all of them. The “HIMYM” format is smartly updated for 2022 — beginning with a show that isn’t populated entirely by straight, white people. Just don’t call it a reboot.
“People keep calling this show a reboot. It’s not a reboot,” said executive producer Isaac Aptaker. It is, he said. “a standalone sequel, which means that it’s set in the world of the previous show. But it’s really its own thing.” That should reassure those of you who hated the finale of “HIMYM.”
The creators/executive producers of “HIMYM” are credited as executive producers of “HIMYF,” but the showrunners are Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (“This Is Us,” “Love, Victor”). And, while it looks familiar, it really isn’t the same show.
“This is not ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ and I loved ‘How I Met Your Mother,’” said executive producer Pamela Freyman, who directed 196 (of 208) episodes of that show. “This is ‘How I Met Your Father,’ and it is so spectacular in its own right.”
Well, Freyman kind of has to say that, right? She also directed all 10 episodes of “HIMYF.” Which is not a “spectacular” show. It’s not even the best pilot that’s airing this week. (More on that below.) But it’s not bad. It’s often sweet and heartfelt. It’s also goofy and kind of stupid at times, as opposed to actually being funny. (The obnoxious laugh track makes that more obvious.)
But there’s room for growth. It could end up working.
The first episode of “How I Met Your Father” streams Tuesday on Hulu. The remaining nine episodes will stream on successive Tuesdays.
The best pilot this week
We’ve come to expect good TV from Jason Katims, who was the showrunner on both “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood.” And now “As We See It” on Amazon Prime.
It’s about three people in their 20s who are on the autism spectrum. (It’s actually based on an Israeli series titled “On the Spectrum.”) It’ll make you laugh, make you cry and tug at your heart.
Jack (Rick Glassman), Harrison (Albert Rutecki) and Violet (Sue Ann Pien) are sharing an apartment and trying to become independent. And the actors are all on the spectrum themselves.
According to Katims, there are “neurodiverse people … in the writers’ room, the editing room, the production office, and on set.”
It’s not just about Jack, Harrison and Violet trying to navigate the world, it’s about the people who love them trying to keep them safe and happy — a seemingly impossible task. Sosie Bacon as their aide, Mandy; Chris Pang as Violet’s brother, Van; and Joe Mantegna as Jack’s father, Lou, are exceptional.
It’s not hard to see how difficult Violet, Jack and Harrison are, but you feel for them and hope for them nonetheless. When, in the first episode, Violet expresses how desperately she wants to be “normal,” it won’t just tug at your heart, it will break it.
On “Parenthood,” one of the characters was a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome. Katims was never shy about telling people that his own son is on the autism spectrum, and he readily admits that’s what “On the Spectrum” hit him so hard.
“To say the show resonated with me would be an understatement,” he said in a message to critics. “My son at the time was only a few years away from being the age of the characters in this show, all in their mid-20s, all trying to be employed, find love, friendship, connection, or sometimes just work up the Herculean courage to walk out the front door of their building. I watched the show, wondering where my son might be in a few years. How independent would he be? Would he be able to live on his own? Hold down a job? Drive a car? Have friends? Fall in love?
“This makes this show more than entertaining, more than important, but necessary. More necessary than anything I’ve ever written, or will probably ever write.”
If this was coming from somebody else — if I hadn’t watched “As We See It” — I’d probably think those words are pompous and obnoxious. They’re not.
This show is not just tough but funny. The writing is great, and so are the characters.
If you’ve got an Amazon Prime subscription, check it out.
All eight episodes start streaming on Friday, Jan. 21.