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Is How I Met Your Father a Covert Lizzie McGuire Sequel?

The nostalgic flashback featured in Tuesday's episode is what dreams are made of.
  • Sophie (Hilary Duff) and Valentina (Francia Raisa) in How I Met Your Father (Photo: Hulu)
    Sophie (Hilary Duff) and Valentina (Francia Raisa) in How I Met Your Father (Photo: Hulu)

    Tuesday’s episode of How I Met Your Father featured a nostalgic flashback to one of Hilary Duff’s most iconic TV roles yet. The episode, “A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Valentine’s Day,” sees the gang revisiting their worst Valentine’s Day experiences to cheer up Ellen (Tien Tran). While everyone else is played by younger actors in their flashbacks, Sophie’s (Duff) memory instead cuts to a clip from the ever-so-beloved teen sitcom, Lizzie McGuire.

    The scene that plays out is taken from Lizzie McGuire Season 2’s Valentine’s episode “First Kiss,” which features a 13-year-old Lizzie experiencing a blissful moment in her young romance, giggling as she does the whole “No, you hang up first!” bit over the phone while her friend rolls her eyes in annoyance. It’s a brief callback, but more than enough to reignite the heartbreak that followed when Disney+ shut down the adult Lizzie McGuire reboot.

    Lizzie McGuire aired on Disney Channel from 2001 to 2004 and was one of the network’s most prominent shows, so much so that it warranted a feature film in 2003. The series was the perfect coming-of-age story for preteens, following a 13-year-old Lizzie (Duff) and her best friends Gordo (Adam Lamberg) and Miranda (Lalaine) as they navigated junior high. The show’s highlight was little animated Lizzie, who voiced Lizzie’s inner thoughts and woes.

    Terri Minsky, the creator of the original series, was set to be the showrunner for the revival, but he exited due to creative differences with Disney. The House of Mouse wanted to limit Lizzie’s grown-up endeavors under a PG umbrella, which ultimately led to the series being scrapped in 2020. Although Duff begged to move the project to Hulu in order to give Lizzie’s adult life the portrayal it deserved, it was to no avail. Nevertheless, HIMYF presents itself as perhaps the next best thing, as it harbors more similarities to the original premise of the Lizzie McGuire sequel than meets the eye.

    HIMYF, itself a spinoff of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, utilizes the same flashback format as its predecessor. Each episode opens with an older Sophie (Kim Catrall) setting up a detailed story of her young adult adventures that led up to the moment she met her son’s father. Duff stars as the younger Sophie, a hopelessly romantic photographer with a deep fear of commitment, functioning almost like a hybrid of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) and Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). She’s desperately trying to find “the one,” but also can’t seem to get out of her own way, which creates a variety of complicated circumstances that make for entertaining television.

    On the other hand, the Lizzie McGuire revival intended to follow a 30-year-old Lizzie dealing with a harsh reset. She was supposed to have everything she could ever want — a dream job, a dream guy, and a dream New York apartment, only for it all to come crashing down. Duff also revealed to Cosmopolitan, “My character was moving back home with her parents because she caught her soon-to-be fiancé cheating on her, and she was falling flat on her face at the moment and being like, ‘I need to pivot because everything that I thought was wasn’t, and I'm turning 30.”

    Adult Lizzie was set to embark on a completely new chapter of her life, struggling with the ups and downs of adulthood alongside her friends, family, and of course, her 13-year-old animated alter ego. In that sense, the narrative journey in both the revival and HIMYF are the same, as Sophie spends the series navigating the dysfunction of her love life with the help of her new friend group.

    Despite the HIMYM nostalgia coating the reboot, HIMYF feels more like an unofficial continuation of Duff’s breakout series. Her signature Lizzie charm remains present in Sophie, who is just as quirky and resilient as her child counterpart. Even Catrall’s Sophie could be considered a parallel to little Lizzie, as they both provide commentary on the questionable behavior each of the characters display.

    Sophie embodies many of the qualities that made Lizzie so cherished in the first place, and it’s comforting to think of adult Lizzie with a sense of justice that she never received. This seeming ode to Duff’s breakthrough role may make a Lizzie revival even less likely, but it also highlights Disney’s missed opportunity.

    New episodes of How I Met Your Father drop Tuesdays on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Dianna Shen is a TV Writer at Primetimer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine and Decider, among other outlets.

    TOPICS: How I Met Your Father, Disney+, Disney Channel, Hulu, Lizzie McGuire, Hilary Duff