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Are We the Only Ones Who Like How I Met Your Father?

Why Hulu's critically maligned sequel does HIMYM justice.
  • Tom Ainsley, Hilary Duff, and Francia Raisa make up one half of HIMYF's new "gang." (Photo: Hulu)
    Tom Ainsley, Hilary Duff, and Francia Raisa make up one half of HIMYF's new "gang." (Photo: Hulu)

    As reboots go, Hulu’s How I Met Your Father has had a difficult journey finding its way to the screen. At the tail end of How I Met Your Mother’s run in 2014, CBS announced it was developing a female-centric spinoff starring Greta Gerwig, only to pass on the pilot and ultimately drop the project. 20th Century Fox Television later announced its own plans for a sequel, only to later shelve it themselves. Finally, in early 2021, Hulu gave HIMYF an official green light, with Hilary Duff taking the reins from Josh Radnor as the show’s unlucky in love lead.

    Clearly HIMYF has a lot to live up to — and if you've read any of the early reviews, you might be led to believe that the show's curse lives on — but I'm here to tell you that by and large, the new series does its predecessor justice. The sequel (Hulu insists we not call it a reboot) has no problem fitting into the franchise’s existing format, and creators Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (This Is Us, Love, Victor) succeed in bringing its reflections on dating and single life into the present day.

    Like HIMYM, which ran from 2005 to 2014 on CBS, HIMYF frames its narrative around the story of how its protagonist met their eventual spouse, and the many detours and wrong turns it took to get there. The sequel begins in the year 2050, with Kim Cattrall stepping into the Bob Saget role as future Sophie, who quickly takes us back to 2022, where 29-year-old Sophie (Hilary Duff) and her friends are struggling to figure out who they are and what they want out of life.

    After dozens of terrible meet-ups, hopeless romantic Sophie has begun to question whether her true love is really out there, but things start to turn around as she heads out on her 87th Tinder date. In the Uber to the bar, she meets Jesse (Chris Lowell) and Sid (Suraj Sharma), best friends dealing with their own romantic issues. For Jesse, that means moving on after his disastrous proposal went viral (and not the good kind of viral); for Sid, it involves managing a long-distance relationship with his new fiancée.

    By the end of the first episode, Sid, Jesse, and Jesse’s sister Ellen (Tien Tran) become integrated into Sophie’s friend group, which also includes her roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa) and Valentina's British boyfriend Charlie (Tom Ainsley). Together, this newly formed gang sets out to conquer New York City's dating scene, a venture that we know will eventually culminate in Sophie finding the father of her child.

    If HIMYM approached its story from a mid-2000s perspective, HIMYF goes to great lengths to bring its conflict into the modern era. Though its punchlines can sometimes feel clunky — the writers seem to love making Grindr jokes — the series is funniest when it’s riffing on hyper-specific 2020-isms, from virtually-controlled sex toys to terrible dating app photos. A particular highlight from the first four episodes involves Sophie throwing a “Dirrty” themed party for her 30th birthday, which she justifies by explaining that “the early aughts are back.”

    This modernization effort helps to establish HIMYF as tonally distinct from its predecessor. There's no Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) here, with his womanizing and misogynistic language; instead, the sequel approaches dating from a distinctly sex-positive point of view, and it’s the show’s female characters who hope to “crush dick” and openly discuss oral sex. With its more diverse makeup, the gang also offers a much more realistic depiction of actual New Yorkers, and storylines involving Valentina and adopted siblings Jesse and Ellen embrace their characters’ differences, rather than whitewashing them.

    While Hilary Duff’s effervescent charm makes her the ideal candidate for the lead role, it's the strong ensemble around her that really makes HIMYF sing. In the show’s most exciting performance, Raisa, best known for her role in soapy drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager, brings a fantastic energy to her role as Sophie's sex-loving sidekick. Elsewhere, Tran and Ainsley have an oddball chemistry that develops nicely over the course of the first few episodes, while the more earnest Lowell and Sharma ground the series with their comedic timing. Of the main cast, only Cattrall struggles to find the right lane, although it’s hard to fault her, as she has the unfortunate task of performing alongside the disembodied voice of her character's son. (For the record: no matter how stilted she may be, Cattrall is still delivering a better performance than her former Sex and the City co-stars in HBO Max’s And Just Like That, so who’s the real winner in the sequel wars?)

    At a recent TCA panel for the series, Sharma said that How I Met Your Father is “holding onto the legacy” of How I Met Your Mother as it tells an entirely new story. That certainly rings true in the show's first four episodes. Whether you watched the original or not, there's much to enjoy in Hulu’s sequel, an easy, breezy sitcom that brings How I Met Your Mother into the present day, and forges its own path in a different direction.

    The first two episodes of How I Met Your Father stream on Hulu Tuesday, January 18, with subsequent episodes dropping weekly.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: How I Met Your Father, Hulu, How I Met Your Mother, Chris Lowell, Francia Raisa, Hilary Duff, Kim Cattrall, Suraj Sharma, Tien Tran, Tom Ainsley