Be patient with How I Met Your Father, a familiar yet refreshing requel series

Now streaming on Disney+, this gender-flipped return to the world of How I Met Your Mother feels much like its predecessor: Claire White, a longtime fan, thinks How I Met Your Father is mostly a success.

The story of How I Met Your Father is a story of failure. But also, dare I say it…serendipity (god, I sound like Ted Mosby). In this age of reboots and sequels, it was only a matter of time before the long-running, cleverly conceptual romance series How I Met Your Mother was tapped. In 2014, the same year the series aired its ninth and final series, a spin-off was already in the works: but the pilot of How I Met Your Dad, starring the one and only Greta Gerwig, failed to impress test audiences and was quickly axed.

More recently, another beloved show was rumoured to be making a comeback: Lizzie McGuire. Starring members of the original cast and slated for Disney+, the series was to be a look at Lizzie’s adult life, all grown up and spending her 30s in New York. However, due to creative differences with Disney, production ceased.

Now, I’m not saying this is the exact cause—effect, but am I wrong? If neither of these projects failed, then we might have never gotten How I Met Your Father, starring Lizzie herself Hilary Duff as Sophie, a New Yorker and avid dating app user, on the verge of 30 and down on her luck in love. With a group of new friends, a new bar where they can all hang out, and Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City) narrating as the older Sophie, we’re off to the races.

Joining Sophie is her best friend and roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa, Grown-ish), an assistant stylist who, on a work trip to London Fashion Week has a whirlwind romance with British aristocrat Charlie (Tom Ainsley, The Royals). After being “Meghan Markle-d” by his parents, who’ve disowned him for wanting to be with Valentina, he moves to New York and moves on in. A bit on the nose as an “entitled rich white male forced to learn what the real world is like” type, but what is 2022 if not the year of the himbo?

Sophie meets Uber driver Jesse (Chris Lowell, GLOW) on her way to a much-anticipated date. Burned from a failed proposal that went viral, Jesse is less optimistic than Sophie, nicely setting up a Robin-Ted-type scenario. His best friend Sid (Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi) owns a bar (fulfilling that one episode where Ted and Barney dream of owning a bar) called Pemberton’s, which becomes the gang’s hang out spot. And rounding it all out is Jesse’s adopted sister Ellen (Tien Tran, Candyman), newly arrived in New York after her recent divorce from her wife.

With all those new characters and all things considered, this new series is probably the best we could have expected. Reboots are notoriously awful. They are either forgettable, or try too hard to correct the mistakes of the past in a cringey, performative way—and just like that, they leave audiences confused and unsatisfied.

This show uses the same crew as the original series, which means it looks like HIMYM, and it sounds like HIMYM (narration, a cover of the original theme song), but it is not trying to be HIMYM. Naturally, Duff’s leading lady Sophie is the Ted Mosby stand-in: not only as our protagonist telling the story, but also because she believes in soulmates and serendipity and the possibility of your next date being the person with whom you’ll end up.

But so far in the series, she doesn’t seem like the type to correct you on the pronunciation of “encyclopædia,” and if she does wear red cowboy boots she’ll actually pull them off, and thus is far less annoying than her predecessor. As for the other characters, no one resembles a ‘Lily’, a ‘Marshal’, a ‘Robin’ or (heaven forbid) a ‘Barney’. There are no Bro Codes nor Playbooks here: they even have their own bar. It’s familiar yet refreshing.

However, a curse I find when it comes to sitcoms is that it takes a while for the show to find its footing, and earn big laughs. What made HIMYM so special and kept my siblings and I watching (and bonding over it) for so long was the show’s recurring hijinks, inside jokes and endlessly quotable dialogue that still makes us laugh to this day. Of course, this cannot be established so early in a series, and is the kind of stuff that takes years to build. How I Met Your Father has big shoes to fill. However, the show has my interest: hopefully it can keep it.