There are few success stories in sitcom TV history as major as the success of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). Beginning in 2005 and running for 9 seasons, HIMYM ran over 200 episodes, had critical acclaim (winning 10 Emmys and being nominated for 30) and its final season was the highest-rated in its category on TV. So to say its Hulu produced sequel, How I Met Your Father, had big shoes to fill is the understatement of a decade of TV.
With major shoes to fill, I took my time on this review giving the series a few solid weeks to see where it was going to land.
With that, the Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? And Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: How I Met Your Father
Overall rating: Potential
How I Met Your Father (HIMYF) did not start strong. The premise is pretty basic much like its predecessor, a woman (Sophie played by Kim Catrell) with a grown son tells the story of how she met his father while flashing back to herself (Sophie played by Hilary Duff) in her 30s navigating love and friendship and life in New York City. But unlike its predecessor who meticulously cast some of the brightest talents in a decade who magically meshed into chemistry gold within the first five episodes, HIMYF seems to have assembled a frankenstein of millennial child stars and very rocky no-names who have very little chemistry and if they have talent are not able to demonstrate it because of the clunky writing and heavy-handed laugh track.
However, for all its problems none are insurmountable. If the creators can take feedback and make some critical edits, the show can find its way. The format is still fun, Kim Catrell is funny and perfect, and the storylines are the exact kind of sitcom fodder viewers have loved for generations. Hilary Duff has enough charm to carry even the worst material and if the show can hone its focus onto her sunny glow, it can save itself. It will, however, never be legen-wait for it-dary.
Is it entertaining?
It has charm but it’s not yet funny. The plotlines are formulaic from sitcoms past, drawing from the greats including HIMYM. There is nothing wrong with formula, what works works. But as of now, it’s not quite working. The cast (and likely the directors) have not figured out the pace or comedic timing. Jokes that might have landed are not landing because the audience is not given the right time to process the comedy. They say timing is everything and they’re not wrong. Without figuring out the pace, the comedy simply won’t exist and does not exist now.
The story itself is far less compelling than the original. The mystery of who Sophie ends up with so far is not particularly compelling. She has yet to meet someone who viewers can particularly root for as her future husband and her flightiness, though a total mirror to Ted Mosby (played by Josh Radner) of HIMYM, is a bit more chaotic and less sincere than Ted of 2005 (Ted might have been insufferable but I did believe him).
That being said, it’s a perfectly fine watch and again Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire, Younger) is so charming that she could just stand still and smile and viewers would be captivated. It’s easy to root for Hilary and therefore it is easy to root for Sophie.
Does it have intellectual/artistic value?
Rating: Fixable problems
The primary issue with the show is the acting. A sitcom starring six main characters and at least three very involved side characters is obviously leaning hard on the acting. But the current cast of talent simply is not cutting it. Whether or not that is the fault of bad direction or bad writing or bad acting, it’s hard to tell. But what is certain is that if the show wants to survive, some characters have to go and others need to move into the spotlight.
Specifically, Christopher Lowell (Promising Young Woman, Up In The Air) as Jesse and Tien Tran (Candyman, Work in Progress) as his sister Ellen have to go. Lowell is not good in the role. It’s difficult to be so blunt when someone is presenting their art, however, facts are facts and it is not working. He has no chemistry with Duff, he has no chemistry with any of the cast, his timing is terrible and he has fallen deeply into ham but not so deep its slapstick. There is nothing sincere about the character, I don’t believe him. He has to go. Tran is just as bad. She has yet to deliver a line I believed. She only has one intonation. She is totally uncommitted. She has to go.
Meanwhile, Suraj Sharma as Sid has definitely given the strongest performance of the group. Not only is he funny, he understands subtlety. He seems to understand we have to love the character, not just laugh at him. He should be moved into a more central role, filling the void of Jesse who needs to be written away.
So far more of a side character, Josh Peck (Drake and Josh, Turner and Hooch) as Drew is not at his strongest yet. Peck is actually extremely funny. His physical comedy and wit as displayed in Drake and Josh holds up against most writing. He definitely can create a lovable persona, but where he truly shines is ‘whacky.’ So far the writers have his character relegated to a very dry sort of casually witty stud and its boring and not quite working. If they would let Peck loose he could really be the Marshall (played by Jason Segal) of the ensemble which could take the show to the level it needs to be. Check out this compilation of moments from Drake and Josh compiled by a random YouTube user to see how good Peck can be with full body comedy and with timing. The HIMYF showrunners have a Lucille Ball on their hands but they’re using him as a Dick York (the Darren who got replaced on Bewitched).
Of course, Hilary Duff is the light of the show and must be kept central. She also is not much of a comedian by trade. The attempts so far at having her provide zany or quirky dialog have been failures. Better to just keep her wonderful.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: No agenda
Like most shows of its kind who know anything, HIMYF has thus far avoided politics altogether and not wandered into any particular wokeness. Agenda Free.