This one’s not so “Legen … Dary.”
“How I Met Your Mother” is back, sort of, in a re-imagined sequel series called “How I Met Your Father.” Premiering Tuesday (Jan. 18) on Hulu, “How I Met Your Father” follows Sophie (Kim Cattrall), who, in the year 2050, decides to video-call her unseen offscreen son and tell him about how she met his father – using that as a jump-off point for the majority of the series.
It’s set in the present day and follows the friendship and dating adventures of Sophie (Hilary Duff) in her 30s. Sophie, a New York-based photographer, is hopeful about finding true love despite having experienced a slew of insipid Tinder dates.
Unlike the original series, Sophie’s group of friends is not built-in when the series begins, but grows along the way. She meets Uber driver Jesse (Chris Lowell, “Glow”) , cynical after a video of his rejected proposal went viral online — leaving him known to the world as “Mr. Proposal Fail”; his pal Sid (Suraj Sharma), who is about to propose to his own long-distance girlfriend at his bar, Pemberton’s; Jesse’s sister, Ellen (Tien Tran), who recently divorced her wife and moved to New York for a fresh start “to ask out Kate McKinnon”; and Sophie’s impulsive roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa, “Grown-ish”), a stylist who returns from a business trip to London with a wealthy British beau, Charlie (Tom Ainsley). Charlie is now Sophie’s surprise second roommate (“One thing led to another and now he … lives with us!” Valentina says).
The original series, which aired for nine seasons on CBS from 2005-2014, followed Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) while his older incarnation (voiced by Bob Saget, who never appeared onscreen the way Cattrall does) narrated a similar premise to his own kids.
“How I Met Your Mother” was a hit — averaging 9.5 million viewers its first season — and used Ted’s story to also follow his womanizing friend Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), who had the catchphrase “legen… wait for it … dary,” power-couple Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan); and quirky Robin (Cobie Smulders). The show stood out from a slew of similar “friends hanging out” sitcoms that all trailed in the wake of “Friends” with its elaborate inside jokes that made the friends group feel authentic — and the viewer feel in on the jokes.
“How I Met Your Mother,” though, had a notoriously awful ending. Its premise, right there in the title, should have been a slam-dunk – but, instead, the story swerved off the rails in the 11th hour, killing the mother and having Ted get a “happily ever after” with Robin. Maybe, in retrospect, they should have called it “How I Got Back Together with Robin After Your Mother’s Death.”
So how do you smooth over that tarnished legacy in a followup series? By awkwardly ignoring it and making a completely different show, as it turns out.
Aside from a similar title and opening theme tune, “How I Met Your Father” bears little resemblance to the original. So far, no characters from the first show appear in this one (although there’s one key location in it) and the characters are different (but, Sophie and Jesse do seem bound for a Ted and Robin style relationship arc).
There’s nothing wrong with being different. “How I Met Your Father” is a fine, if nothing-special sitcom with a winsome cast. Cattrall is a stand-out. As she lounges on her couch with wine, regaling the viewer with tales of her youth, she’s clearly having more fun on this show than all three of the other “Sex and the City” ladies are having on their reboot series, “And Just Like That,” sans Cattrall’s character, Samantha.
“How I Met Your Father” is hampered by its own tenuous and bafflingly unnecessary connection to the original series. The only link between the two seems to be the “brand recognition” of its name and the long flashback premise.
It would be better off trying to stand on its own feet rather than trying to piggyback off another series that’s long dead and buried.