How I Met Your Father is legend—wait for it—…I feel like I am still waiting for it. As a fan of How I Met Your Mother, I was on the edge of my seat with the announcement of this gender-flipped spin-off coming to Hulu. The first episode of the sitcom presented a familiar set-up as future-Sophie in 2050 relays to her son how younger-Sophie—Younger’s Hilary Duff—met his father in 2020.
I admittedly had high expectations of allusions to the original show, hoping even for cameos from the original cast. The conclusion of the premiere gave me a taste of that when Sophie and her gang ended the night in Ted, Marshall, and Lily’s old apartment. As the second episode began and ended, I enjoyed the show and its emphatic sweetness. Yet, I also felt that it lacked a certain something that gave its iconic predecessor such fame and fortune.
However, as I continued to watch, my initial reaction overlooked what the show is actually about. How I Met Your Father is not a reboot, meaning that I should not expect it to mimic its namesake. Instead, it is carving a new path in a new generation of television and television viewers.
The rise of streaming platforms in recent years has drastically changed television. How I Met Your Mother was made in an age of sitcoms, airing for eleven years alongside other staple sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Certainly, the early 2000s cannot be heralded as the Golden Age of Television, but it does hold a sense of nostalgia for gathering weekly with friends and family around a television set and tuning in to a show, counting down the days until the next week when it would air again.
While How I Met Your Father does mirror traditional sitcoms of the 2000s in its weekly releases—a strategic move that platforms such as Hulu and HBO Max have employed recently, much to the chagrin of bingers—it is a show that is made for streaming. Streaming changed the world of film and television and while it is certainly popular, it does not and cannot hold the same sense of familiarity and comfort as traditional television. But instead of judging the show for not holding true to how sitcoms used to be, it is important to analyze its adaptation to the new age, not just in distribution, but also in the narrative.
At its root, How I Met Your Father is a more diverse and accepting show than How I Met Your Mother ever was. Admittedly, I have not watched How I Met Your Mother since its disappointing series finale—which is the subject of an entirely different article—but it is not hard to assume that Barney’s womanizing ways probably have not aged well, especially in the era of #MeToo. While How I Met Your Father does employ the idea that Sophie has dated or encountered a seemingly endless train of men—88 dating app failures!—it is not treated as maltreatment of relationships or intimacy. Rather, it highlights the fragile vulnerability it takes to open yourself up to find and accept love in a world that has turned digital and prioritizes instant connection rather than lasting comfort.
Additionally, How I Met Your Father addresses sex and sexuality in a way consistent with how our new generation does: as something not to be ashamed of, but rather to embrace. Whether it is the presence of Ellen (Tien Tran), a lesbian whose personal narrative arc extends far beyond the simple fact that she is a member of the LGBTQ+ community—or the casual conversations about sex tools and sex toys—pause while I frantically search Urban Dictionary for what ‘lucky-charming’ is—How I Met Your Father favors openness rather than subtext.
Keeping all of this in mind, it is clear that while How I Met Your Father does owe its concept to How I Met Your Mother, it is not relying on it to gain popularity and a following. Instead, it is appealing to a new generation that will easily be able to identify, sympathize with, and champion Sophie as she navigates online dating and connection in the 2020s.
Just as Sophie’s mantra proclaims that each day could be the start of her new love story, perhaps How I Met Your Father is also the start of a new era of sitcoms emphasizing sexuality, acceptance, flexibility, and, ultimately, the vulnerability of love. It may take a while to find its footing—after all, we’re only in the first half of the first season—but I, for one, am going to shed my expectations and instead embrace wherever the show takes me next. Though, to be honest, I hope it takes me to a relationship between Jesse and Sophie!
The first five episodes of How I Met Your Father are available on Hulu. The rest of Season 1 will release weekly on Tuesdays. Watch the trailer below.