The 2022 of “How I Met Your Father” feels like an alternate universe, not just because of the lack of Covid as much as all the other things about it that feel totally untethered from reality. It’s a 2022 where a video of a public mortification still goes viral on Youtube, not TikTok; where hopeless romantic Sophie, a 29-year-old long-time resident of New York City, is constantly looking for Her Person—on Tinder. I believe every single episode screened for critics repeats a joke about Sophie having gone on “87 first Tinder dates” in the span of a year, as if the absurdity there was the 87 and not the fact that in the year 2022 a tech-aware Millennial is looking for a Serious Boyfriend on Tinder. It’s like going to a cabbage patch and being surprised when you can’t find a pumpkin.

Perhaps one of the most significant differences between the “sequel” and the original series is that instead of centering a longstanding group of friends, “How I Met Your Father” features two friend groups who promptly merge after best friends and roommates Sophie and Valentina (Francia Raisa) cross paths with fellow best friend-roommate pair Jesse (Christopher Lowell) and Sid (Suraj Sharma). While modern dating is Hell on earth, making new friendships as adults is hardly the easiest thing either. However, through its choices, “How I Met Your Father” quickly crushes one of its few avenues for significant divergence into something of significance. In the pilot, the foursome are strangers, but in the blink of an eye they’re the chummiest of old pals, organizing each other’s birthday parties and their go-to SOS call in times of trouble. The show just tosses all of the material it could have worked with—the merging of two friend groups into one, the opportunity to explore a dynamic that actually set itself apart from its predecessor—straight into the scrap heap. What it does explore is an entire episode built around the premise of a club in Manhattan featuring a seemingly infinite number of themed rooms. In Manhattan, where space is so famously easy to come by.

The funniest character in “How I Met Your Father” is Valentina’s recently disowned aristocratic boy-toy Charlie (Tom Ainsley), a solid new entry in the himbo canon. When Valentina advises him to tone down his posh-ness to try to blend in with average American guys, he attempts to start a conversation with the opener, “What’s your favorite entry-level sedan?” It’s hardly groundbreaking stuff, but at least it does not feel quite as derivative as the rest of the show.

While “How I Met Your Mother” also had plenty of multi-cam sitcom cheese to it, there was authenticity, a connection to reality buried deep beneath the laugh track when the show was at its best. “How I Met Your Father” misses all of that spark and feels like watching the copy of a copy of a copy. It’s enough to fulfill a nostalgic craving in the most superficial sort of way, but far too flimsy to do anything else.

“How I Met Your Father” premiered on Hulu on January 18th. The first four episodes were screened for review. 

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