How I Met Your Father review: Is the spin-off worth the watch?

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Photo credit: Hulu - YouTube
Photo credit: Hulu - YouTube

Note: This review is based on the first four episodes available at the time of writing.

When How I Met Your Mother launched in 2005, it provided a plug for the Friends-shaped hole in the telly schedule of twentysomethings. Like its predecessor, it hasn't aged particularly well, but the concept of a group of pals making their way through love and life in The Big City continues to stand the test of time.

So does its spin-off, How I Met Your Father, bring back the golden age of sitcoms?

Short answer: No, not really.

In this iteration of the story, Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall plays Sophie, a wine-lush mum in a swanky apartment, cornering her son to tell him about the ups and downs of her love life en route to finding the man who would become his father.

Photo credit: Hulu
Photo credit: Hulu

Shooting back to modern day, Sophie (now played by Hilary Duff) is a hopeless romantic in search of The One, which includes rounds of awkward Tinder dates (88 and counting) that never quite work out.

On route to her next potential The One, she's picked up in Jesse's Uber. He's sworn off love after going viral for a rejected proposal. Alongside him is pal Sid, who is about to get engaged to girlfriend Hannah.

While the date eventually ends up a bust, it becomes the day that she meets a group of friends that form the new 'gang' the show will centre around. And one of the men she meets that day, we're told by the end of the first episode, is The Father.

Most obviously, there's Jesse, whose connection with her is instant, and then Sid, who may have his relationship fall apart in the 30+ years between past and future. There's also Ian the Tinder date, and Charlie, her best friend's out-of-touch, posh new English boyfriend.

The show does its best to be self-aware, with the off-screen son immediately telling his mother how awkward it is he's being forced to listen to her conquests, but Sophie dismisses it and pays him no mind, presumably in the name of comedy.

Photo credit: Hulu - YouTube
Photo credit: Hulu - YouTube

However, these kinds of all-knowing jabs at the former How I Met Your Mother, for whatever reason, just don't seem to work, at least in the first two episodes.

On positive notes, the central group of friends is a little more diverse than the original. Alongside Sid and Hannah, there's Valentina (Francia Raisa), Sophie's Mexican fashionista bestie, and Ellen (Tien Tran), Jesse's adoptive sister who is starting life afresh in New York after her divorce.

The eclectic mix of friends and their respective backgrounds does allow for more of a playground for the show to progress. It does, eventually, at around episode three. But that might be a little too late for viewers to stick around if it's not what they're wanting.

At times, the jokes and plot beats can come off as well-worn territory for the format ("they have the same comfort song, they're meant for each other!", "Tinder date brags about his sex life!" "Out-of-touch British boy doesn't understand the subway system!"). Whether you think that's part of a sitcom's charms or a bit all been-there-done-that we guess will be left to the viewer.

Photo credit: Hulu
Photo credit: Hulu

But there is some heart in the show, if you give it the opportunity. While Kim Cattrall has been used a little bizarrely and not to her full potential, she only serves to guide in each episode. Hilary Duff, as always, is the perfectly charming, if somewhat naive, leading lady looking for the love of her life. She's a perfect casting choice for an audience that has essentially watched her grow into adulthood on screen. With a few key tweaks, How I Met Your Father could be considered in some ways the Lizzie McGuire reboot that never quite got off the ground.

By episode four, the show is more in the swing of things and where it wants to be. We are introduced to a dashing teacher (played by Josh Peck) who has Father potential, and they share that kind of sweet, innocent chemistry of a couple who might become something. The cast in turn have fallen into their place within the group and it feels a bit more of the comfort watch we hoped it would be.

Photo credit: Hulu
Photo credit: Hulu

But then you notice that episode four is a version of what How I Met Your Mother did in its second ever episode, and you can't help but find yourself reflecting on the show that was, rather than the one in front of you.

How I Met Your Father does a good job of nodding to its source material without outright copying it, but ultimately it feels like the apartment formerly owned by Marshall and Lily – it's the same thing, but given a quick lick of paint.

Let's hope the show maintains its upwards trajectory, or it'll be too little too late.

How I Met Your Father airs Tuesdays on Hulu in the US, and is streaming on Disney+ in the UK with new episodes every Wednesday.

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