You've probably heard by now that the team behind How I Met Your Mother is back with a new show this week, and depending on your perspective it's either iredeemably awful, or (as we choose to believe) a charming sequel that does its predecessor justice. A large part of that charm comes courtesy of Hilary Duff, who steps pretty seamlessly into the role of the show's unlucky in love lead, played in the original series by Josh Radnor.
Of course How I Met Your Father is far from the first series to attempt the gender-flip hat trick. In fact, if the Peak TV era has taught us anything, it's that aside from rebooting old series, there's nothing networks and streamers like more than gender-fliping the lead while rebooting old series.
Here are just a few other shows that have chosen to gender swap a memorable character:
Perhaps the most famous gender swap in TV history came at the end of 2017, when Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor regenerated into Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor — marking the first time in the history of Doctor Who that the titular character would be played by a woman. While the decision was controversial at the time, Whittaker’s portrayal of the character has been well-received by fans and critics since her debut.
It’s also worth noting that Whittaker’s regeneration wasn’t the first time that Doctor Who has gender-swapped one of its key roles. The Doctor’s gender swap actually came several years after Michelle Gomez made her debut in the show’s eighth season as The Master, the villainous character that had, up until that point, been played only by men. While surprising at the time, Gomez’s memorably eccentric turn made the decision seem like a no-brainer in hindsight.
CBS’ take on Sherlock Holmes boasted one of the more notable instances of gender-swapping in recent TV history, when the series premiered with Lucy Liu as Holmes’ crime-solving partner Dr. Joan Watson.
The decision to change Sherlock’s male partner to a woman had its fair share of naysayers, and had to be defended by the show’s creative team leading up to its premiere in 2012. However, it wasn’t long before Jonny Lee Miller and Liu’s chemistry won over even the most skeptical viewers. In the end, the series was celebrated for its unique portrayal of platonic love between a man and a woman.
When Lost in Space premiered on Netflix in 2018, few fans of the original series knew what to expect. What they got was an earnest, and surprisingly well-imagined take on the classic, which managed to pay homage to the original while throwing a few curve balls. One of the most notable twists was the decision to change the villainous Dr. Smith from a man to a woman, with Parker Posey filling the role in the reboot.
The gender swap was just one of the series’ many pleasant surprises, and allowed for Posey to offer up a unique and unexpected take one a well-known TV villain. It wasn’t long before her presence in the show felt almost as dominant as Will Robinson’s.
When Ron D. Moore rebooted Battlestar Galactica in 2004, he made the unexpected decision to gender-swap not just one role in the show, but two. The rebooted series featured actress Katee Sackhoff taking on the role of Starbuck, and Grace Park as Boomer, roles that had been played in the original 1978 series by Dirk Benedict and Herbert Jefferson, Jr., respectively.
The gender swaps were one of several out-of-the-box decisions that helped to upend preconceived expectations that fans might have had going into the reboot, while jettisoning several outdated, gender-related genre cliches.
This 2015 Marvel series put its female characters front-and-center in the show's narrative right from the start. That choice didn’t just revolve around telling its titular character’s story either, but also the stories of the supporting female characters around her. Notably, that included Carrie-Anne Moss’ ruthless attorney, Jeri Hogarth, who was a gender-swapped version of the male attorney, Jeryn Hogarth, from the Marvel comics.
AMC’s 2016 limited series was an ambitious and artful adaptation of the John Le Carre novel. But while The Night Manager aimed to tell the same story as its source material, it did so by swapping the gender of one of its key characters. Olivia Colman (The Crown) played the character of Angela Burr, a female version of Leonard Burr, a male Secret Intelligence Service agent from Le Carre’s novel.
This entry makes Grace Park the only actress on this list to have played not just one, but two gender-swapped roles on television. Following her stint as Boomer on Battlestar Galactica, Park made her debut on the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-0 as Kono Kalakaua, a character played by actor Gilbert Lani Kauhi in the original series.
This artistic and grotesque adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels offered an ambitious take on its source material, one that wanted to honor, expand upon, and modernize it. Gender-swapping two characters from Harris’ original novels was just one of the ways that Hannibal sought to achieve that latter goal. Caroline Dhavernas made her debut as Dr. Alana Bloom, while Lara Jean Chorostecki played Fredericka Lounds, based on the male characters of Dr. Alan Bloom and Freddy Lounds from Harris’ original novels.
On the surface, Hulu’s one-season wonder High Fidelity had a lot in common with both the 1995 Nick Hornby novel that it was based on and the 2000 John Cusack film that preceded it. The series, like the novel and the film, told the story of a record store owner ranking previous breakups in a top five list, and it even went for an aesthetic similar to that of the Cusack film.
But for all its similarities, Hulu’s High Fidelity also found an immediately apparent, yet simple way of separating itself from the two previous iterations: where the main character in both the High Fidelity novel and film was male, the Hulu series featured actress Zoë Kravitz in what was otherwise, practically, the same role.
From 1985-1989, a fictional vigilante promoted his services via an understated classified ad in the newspaper: "Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer: 212 555 4200." The late Edward Woodward played the title character, aka Robert McCall, keeping himself busy after his retirement from the intelligence field by settling scores — for free — on behalf of his desperate clients. It's a premise so durable that not only has it been turned into a feature film franchise starring Denzel Washington as a new Robert McCall, it's also been rebooted for TV again, with none other than Queen Latifah playing the retiring intelligence agent Robyn McCall.
Fun fact: this isn't Latifah's first gender-swapped role. In 2015's The Wiz Live!, she played the titular Wiz, a role played by men in its two Broadway incarnations, and in the film by Richard Pryor.
The first two episodes of How I Met Your Father are now streaming on Hulu. Subsequent episodes are set to drop Tuesdays through mid-March.
TOPICS: How I Met Your Father, Hulu, Battlestar Galactica (2004), Doctor Who, Elementary, Hannibal, Hawaii Five-0 (2010 series), High Fidelity, Lost in Space (2018), Marvel’s Jessica Jones, The Night Manager, Carrie-Anne Moss, Grace Park, Hilary Duff, Jodie Whittaker, John Cusack, John le Carre, Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Liu, Michelle Gomez, Nick Hornby, Olivia Colman, Parker Posey, Zoë Kravitz, Women and TV