Conversation is floating around for the How I Met Your Mother spin-off, here’s why it should never be
On March 31st of this year How I Met Your Mother finally called it a day. Now the dust has metaphorically settled, fans haven’t been given much respite as a curious announcement has been bestowed upon them: the sitcom may be revived in a spin-off ingeniously entitled How I Met Your Dad. To throw a spanner in the works, though, it was announced just over six weeks later that CBS would not be picking up the show. As it floats around, bouncing from studio to studio, it’s important to ask: is this venture worth pursuing? Should the creators move on, or will this be a refreshing new take on the successful original? Sadly, there’s a good chance it will be sub-par. Here’s why.
They’ve done nine seasons already, surely they’re out of ideas.
Now, Thomas and Bays are probably not creatively spent in general, but there is no way they’d be able to attack a premise so similar with the same flair or relish. Looking at the final season of HIMYM as an example, many TV critics felt it was the weakest as it followed a different narrative format, revolving around Barney and Robin’s nuptials rather than its usual New York setting.–Whilst the concept of keeping the final series in one location was lauded for being ambitious – and there were moments when it did work – the creators admitted themselves that they came up with the idea after a brief spell in which they thought that CBS wasn’t going to renew it due to Jason Segel almost departing. And thus, with the go-ahead to start writing, they continued to drag 24 episodes out of a wedding weekend, which left many pondering: if they didn’t have faith in their final season, why do they think they can start over with a parallel concept?
The importance of ‘finding that special someone’ has always been typically a feminine issue in television – Sex and the City being the shining, most successful example. But creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays rightly felt like this was bromidic, and so conceived a situational comedy where the main narrative revolved around the romantic pursuits of a male figure. There was a refreshing honesty to Josh Radnor’s Ted Mosby. He pined, overthought signals and was frequently on the verge of giving in and settling for a collection of cats for companionship. Alongside this, the character of on-off love interest Robin Scherbatsky was plucky, independent and career-focused – the perfect antidote to Ted’s periodic bouts of schmaltz.
It would alienate Greta Gerwig’s fans
Having co-written the indie gem Frances Ha last year, Greta Gerwig could be on the cusp of being the next big thing in the world of independent cinema. There have even been – admittedly premature – whispers that upcoming work is heading into Woody Allen territory, stylistically and comically. However, by taking up a sitcom that is known for such broad comedy, Gerwig would have had two options: smile and put with the usual 30-gags-a-minute format, or be an instigator in the alteration of the show’s format. Sadly, there isn’t much chance of this happening. Yes, Gerwig has said in several interviews that she would be part of the writing team, or at least will be for the pilot, but with gargantuan money machine 20th Century Fox producing it, there surely wouldn’t be be too much leeway on changing the format. In reality, a viewer would probably need to expect 22 minutes of sexual innuendoes interspersed with a laughter track, ending with a sentimental life lesson. I imagine if this pilot had aired, and the audience had looked closely into her eyes, they would have been able to see Gerwig’s flickering hope of winning an Independent Spirit Award fading slowly away.
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Would the fans want to go through it all over again?
Let it be clear, for its faults, How I Met Your Mother had some deeply moving moments, innovative storytelling, hilarious running gags and snappy dialogue. The characterisation felt fresh because it was, at times, influenced by the actors themselves (like Neil Patrick Harris’s magical abilities or the fact Josh Radnor is a real-life studious goofball), resulting in a cast that felt comfortable in themselves and around each other. So when Ted’s inevitable meeting with ‘the mother’ drew closer, there was genuine excitement, despite the show’s quality waning. The episode in which the mother, Tracey (whose apartment is adjacent to her future husband’s), sits outside on the terrace whilst performing a rousing version of La Vie En Rose on a ukelele, with Ted quietly listening on, had me choked up. As sappy as it was, there was a poignancy that the sitcom had earned because we had stayed and grown with them.
But then came the finale. That shocker of a ending. A conclusion that infuriated its fans so much that many online petitions cropped up, demanding CBS reshoot a better, more satisfying ending. In one bumper episode it felt as if the writers had unpicked everything that the show had worked so hard in creating. Perhaps it was an attempt to enact the ultimate double bluff, except that it felt crowbarred in and unrealistic. SPOILER TIME: The mother that we’d invested time in dies and is brushed over very quickly, Barney and Robin got divorced even after fashioning a whole season around their wedding, Marshall and Lily continue being boring married couple with kids, and Ted decides to attempt to rekindle his love affair with Robin during the closing moments of the episode. So the question the studio execs, the writing team and the creators need to ask themselves is: would their fanbase really want to go through all that again for such a damp squib of a climax?
How I Met Your Mother was a comedy series that started out well, became a cut above the rest in its midway point and ended up a little bit burnt out and confused. Those who were devotees, like myself, will remember the good times: the slap bets, the dread of becoming The Blitz, Ted’s nerdy ticks, Barney’s inventive pick-up techniques, Robin’s haunting Canadian past and the writers’ inspired ways of obscuring Alyson Hannigan’s pregnancy belly. HIMYM wasn’t perfect, but sitcoms rarely do reach the Seinfeld watermark. If its offshoot ever does manage to get picked up, however, it is in danger of spoiling the legacy even further than the finale did.
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All images: CBS