'How I Met Your Father' delivers stale gender flip on the 'Mother' format

“How I Met Your Father” is billed as a sequel, not a reboot, since it incorporates a few elements of the original CBS series that ended in 2014, as opposed to just flipping the gender on it. Whatever one chooses to call it (and it’s a distinction without much difference), this Hulu series feels particularly stale, with its modest wrinkles failing to offer enough to merit starting a new relationship.

The main twist involves showing the mom this time, in 2050, played by Kim Cattrall. She’s recounting the how-I-met-your-dad story to her unseen son, which raises some additional possibilities about who his father might be.
Beyond that, the show rather dutifully goes about assembling a new cast of pals around the younger version of Cattrall, Sophie, played by Hilary Duff. Desperate to find her soulmate, Sophie has been relying on dating apps when she’s introduced, dragging an Uber driver/teacher, Jesse (“Private Practice’s” Christopher Lowell), and his posse into her orbit, through one of those mixed-up-phone scenarios that only happens in sitcoms.
    It’s a more diverse group, which is welcome, but also has the unavoidable feeling of checking off boxes given the Whiteness of the original show. The extended gang includes Sophie’s sexually adventurous, name-dropping friend Valentina (Francia Raisa) and Jesse’s adopted sister (Tien Tran), who has just moved to New York from a small town.
      Shot in a traditional sitcom format, the audience laughter frequently sounds more appreciative than the jokes deserve, which only reinforces the sense that Hulu is a strange venue for this exercise.
        Duff does make for a likable lead, landing here after Disney+ backed out of a planned “Lizzie McGuire” revival. For her part, Cattrall skipped out on the “Sex and the City” reunion “And Just Like That,” which provides an odd sort of symmetry.
          The show does possess a certain universal quality in the ongoing search for love and romance. Yet while the mystery surrounding Ted’s dating journey became just a part of “Mother’s” appeal, having experienced that scenario once, there’s a strong inclination this time around to wish Sophie good luck with her quest, and ask her to wake me when it’s almost over.
            “How I Met Your Father” premieres Jan. 18 on Hulu.

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