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Hulu’s 10-episode, How I Met Your Father review: stale sequel is for nostalgia fans only

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How I Met Your Father review

How I Met Your Father review: Hulu’s 10-episode standalone sequel to the beloved sitcom How I Met Your Mother, How I Met Your Father, will rely heavily on nostalgia for the original.

How I Met Your Mother (commonly abbreviated as HIMYM) was a CBS sitcom that aired from 2005 to 2014 about a group of white twenty-somethings, then thirty-somethings, living and dating in Manhattan. Everyone’s taste in TV comfort food differs (I just swallowed Emily in Paris), but I found HIMYM with its hopeless romance to be too corny and sweet for me.

Its fundamental idea, that a middle-aged Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor, with the late Bob Saget as narrator) tells his children the narrative of how he met their mother in the most confusing way conceivable, might have started out fresh. Even for a multi-camera network sitcom with a laugh track, it felt overdone by the early 2010s.

How I Met Your Father review: Bridget Everett leads an engaging comedy in Somebody Somewhere

How I Met Your Father review

This sequel, with Hilary Duff as the lead hopeless romantic, adds some diversity to the group and updates the timeframe (Duff’s Sophie is bumbling through 2022), but it scarcely warms over anything else, laugh track included.

The pitched, cheery performances and cosy sets harken back to the original (there are other, more overt links that Hulu has asked us not to reveal), as do the anodyne punchlines, which only make it into two episodes.

The four 25-minute episodes available for review include Tinder, Uber, and the ghosts of past popular videos, but it’s a mechanical, stale simulacrum of buddy hangs and dating in 2022, a relic of a bygone era that enters the comedy uncanny valley. Unless the beats reminded you of a period when you were curled up in front of the TV, there’s no incentive to keep listening.

HIMYF’s pilot, written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger and directed by Pamela Fryman (who helmed all but 12 episodes of the original), takes place in the future, like as HIMYM. In 2050, an older Sophie (Kim Cattrall) regales her son (a disembodied voice on the phone) with the storey of how she met his father in New York in the 2020s (with help from an uncooperative digital assistant and wine).

Sophie is a 29-year-old photographer living in Queens with her trendy, libidinous roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa) and Valentina’s brand-new hunk boyfriend Charlie (Tom Ainsley), a posh and cartoonishly ignorant Englishman she persuaded to cross the pond on the spur of the moment. (In the fourth episode, Sophie celebrates her 30th birthday with a party she throws quickly to impress a suitor played by Josh Peck, a familiar face to the Buzzfeed Where Are They Now?-era millennials this show appears to target.)

Sophie is single-mindedly intent on finding her future husband, and she’s been unsuccessful on 87 Tinder dates in a row. Sophie — irritated and starry-eyed, confident she’s found the ideal person after two weeks of Tinder chatting – hits it up with beautiful driver Jesse (Chris Lowell), the Robin to Sophie’s Ted, while Ubering to a first date with potential suitor Ian (Daniel Augustin).

And, like the original, HIMYF features a marriage proposal – Jesse’s closest friend Sid (Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma) proposes to his long-distance girlfriend Hannah (Ashley Reyes), a bar owner – as well as a major romantic gesture. The motley friend group walks the Brooklyn Bridge at the close of the episode, something Sophie promised she’d do only once she met “the one,” but has since changed her mind due to whimsy.

For anyone unfamiliar with HIMYM’s rhythms – although, again, I’m not sure why you’d care if you weren’t — As a result, a soft-boiled knot of entanglements emerges. Valentina and Charlie fight and make up (the two adore sex in cramped quarters, a running gag); Valentina and Sid flirt; Charlie befriends Jesse’s adopted sister Ellen (Tien Tran), a recent arrival from Iowa, divorced, and the only queer member of the core group (at least so far). All efforts to improve Jesse’s dating life following a viral rejection of a marriage proposal.

As an OG Lizzie McGuire fan, I’m rooting for Hilary Duff, but as endearing as she is, there’s only so much an actor can do with a character whose personality boils down to finding the one; the show mostly served to remind me how disappointing it is that Disney cancelled a planned reboot of Lizzie as a 30-cusp woman dating in New York. Still, Duff – doe eyes, open face, innocent – grounds the shallow Sophie as much as she can, and Lowell, as the warm-eyed, protective Jesse, offer the show’s little fire; their sparks generate the show’s little heat.

That might be enough to get people to watch a few of episodes, but it’s unlikely to persuade those who are unfamiliar with HIMYM’s tone to subscribe. Why bother when appreciation is based on recollections and old habits from previous phases? There’s a lot of light and snacky food out there, but HIMYF feels more like a reheated, juiced-up leftover than anything else.

Hulu has released How I Met Your Father review, with a UK release date to be confirmed

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