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Hein's Picks: TV Can't Stop, Won't Stop Recycling Ideas

PLUS: Ozark Season 4, Billions Season 6, Borderland revisited, and more.
  • Everything old is new again: Hilary Duff stars in Hulu's How I Met Your Father. (Photo: Hulu)
    Everything old is new again: Hilary Duff stars in Hulu's How I Met Your Father. (Photo: Hulu)

    Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.

    How I Met Your Father makes its long-awaited debut this Tuesday on Hulu. But do we really need to know out how she met Dad?

    The original How I Met Your Mother was a success for CBS. It was a smart show that generated a lot of laughs and was a quality comedy (until it wasn't). The premise was right there in the title for all to see, and throughout the 2000s we enjoyed the tenuous journey to find out who mom was only to be dealt a morbid plot twist that didn't work out so well.

    Before the series concluded, CBS shot a pilot for a How I Met Your Dad spinoff starring Greta Gerwig in hopes of keeping its HIMYM mojo (and ad dollars) going. Just switch the parent and keep those laughs coming. That show never got beyond the pilot stage. If the title had simply been Dad, it might have had a shot in the land of three letter spinoffs. No dice.

    Viewers crave familiarity, and networks (and streamers) crave viewers. Swapping gender (Battlestar Galactica) or ethnicity (One Day At A Time) on a known program title is a technique that's worked in the past, so it made all the sense in the world for Hulu to pick up the CBS tale and embark on a new parent search.

    The title was a no-brainer, but how do you build upon the established premise? HIMYM consisted of flashbacks leading up to the big reveal of what happened to mom in present day. The late Bob Saget was heard, but never seen. The cast was a funny ensemble that got a bit caught up in its cuteness at times but generated a lot of laughs with their hijinks.

    The new Hulu series features plenty of twists on what made the original work. Ted is now Sophie, who's played by Hillary Duff. I would have preferred the Lizzie McGuire update, but it's nice to see her return to the family sitcom world.

    Naturally the narrator is female, and so just like that Kim Catrall provides the voice. But future Sophie is seen on camera right from the get-go, speaking to her unseen son. If it ain't broke, why exactly are we fixing this?

    Sophie hangs out with her group of friends and is constantly searching to find "the one." Criss-cross cast romances predictably ensue. We can anticipate the misdirection and plot twists ahead, but the HIMYF creators insist this is not HIMYM. And they're right – the original was funny. There's no breakout character like Neil Patrick Harris' Barney. The laughs aren't here and it's difficult to care why Sophie met anyone let alone the father of her child.

    The bar is set high for any modern-day remake. The more reboots I see, the more disappointed I am. Let's give these slots to new ideas and programming that takes some chances. I've met the mother. I don't need to greet any other relatives on my screen.

    GREATEST HITS
    (All-Time Favorites You May Not Have Seen)

    This Week - Bordertown (Netflix)
    Excellent drama about a Sherlock-esque Finnish police detective who moves to the Russian border to clear his head. 

    Last week - Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

    FOREIGN AFFAIRS
    (International Hits)

    The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman (NETFLIX) – True-crime documentary about a British imposter who posed as a government agent and stole close to one million pounds. Wednesday.

    THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
    (Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

    La Fortuna (AMC+) – A inexperienced diplomat goes sailing to recover a stolen treasure. Thursday.

    Single Drunk Female (FREEFORM) – A young alcoholic starts over by moving back in with her mom (Ally Sheedy). Thursday at 10pm.

    True Story with Ed and Randall (PEACOCK) – Ed Helms and Randall Park lead re-enactments of everyday life occurrences played by great actors. Thursday.

    Fraggle Rock: Back To The Rock (APPLE TV+) – The music plays once again in this reboot of the Jim Henson series. Friday.

    As We See It (AMAZON) – The creator of Parenthood and Friday Night Lights adapts an Israeli series about roommates with autism. Friday.

    THIS WEEK'S PICKS
    Crooks in the mountains and the big city…

    Ozark (NETFLIX)
    Friday, January 21st

    Marty and Wendy are far away from their place in the Ozark mountains, and they've still got a lot of explaining and money laundering to do. This series gets the critical love but flies under many people's radar. Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and Julia Garner lead the excellent cast which thins out every season as bodies fall by the wayside.

    The fourth and reportedly final season is split into two parts of seven episodes each. The Byrdes have gotten themselves out of some crazy situations but can only zig and zag with the family so much. We last saw Marty and Wendy in Mexico, and who knows what danger awaits the temperamental couple this time around.

    Billions (SHOWTIME)
    Sunday, January 23rd

    There's a new king at Axe Capital, but how long will he sit on the throne? Last season ended with Axe cutting a deal for his company and heading off to Switzerland as Chuck seemingly slayed his elusive dragon. But we know how Chuck feels about those with too much power, so Mike Prince better watch his back as he plans to change things up.

    The COVID-ravaged split fifth season ended in October, and we are welcomed back with a new season to start the year. The cool NYC locations, dialogue that you'll never hear in real life, and character development continues and a breakneck pace. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride while listening to one of the best soundtracks in the business.

    If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

    Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe!

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: How I Met Your Father, Billions, Ozark