As a fan of How I Met Your Mother, why I will find it hard to watch its reboot
How I Met Your Father will either turn out to be an inadequate attempt at capitalising on a fanbase that the show will not actually be relevant to. Or it might turn out to be an unlikely winner, albeit one that is relevant to a whole new generation of fans.
In the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, with about five minutes left for the show to end, Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) describes Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) as a man with more emotional endurance than anyone she knows.
It is a beautifully appropriate phrase, 'emotional endurance.' Because when those words are spoken, they also instantly apply to those that undertook an almost decade-long journey with Ted and his friends. The decade of their lifetimes that we witnessed happens to be the most eventful for us here in the real world as well – one’s 'prime,' if you will.
There are exceptions to every rule. But for most regular folk, the mid-20s to mid-30s are when everything changes. It is a period littered with milestones, a time when a person tends to gain the most. Forever-partner, kids, appreciation for one’s parents, big career moves, the works. But it is also a piece of one’s lifetime that weighs heavy with loss. The dearest of friends tend to drift apart. You begin to learn not to take your bones, joints, and nerves for granted. For some, it is also when you lose your parents — the only constant up to that point in life. And suddenly, the inevitability of the end becomes a little too real.
Because it revolved around precisely those fundamental issues in that monumental phase of one’s existence, tackling some deep issues with a light hand, HIMYM was an unlikely trove of life lessons. Sure, it might have been audacious, hilarious, over-the-top, and sometimes even exasperating. But it was also an undeniable tear-jerker, with devastating as well as momentous emotional peaks that one is unlikely to forget.
Ted and Robin in the rain at Central Park, digging for a long-lost locket? Goosebumps. Ted watching Robin and Barney fall in love and get married? Gut-punch. Marshall losing his dad? Crie. Ted sitting alone with a solitary ticket to Robots vs Wrestlers in the Time Travelers episode? Adulting woes for the ages. Even though it has been a while since I last watched the show, I can pull moments like these out in my sleep.
The show also aired during a particularly curious decade in recent history. When HIMYM began, the world was embarking upon an unprecedented transformation. Back in late 2005, Facebook was just about a year old. Twitter would launch the following year. The show would complete over half its run before Instagram and Snapchat began their journeys, in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Within just a few years, millions across the world had personal virtual megaphones that they could wield with ease. Consequently, the wool was shorn off the grotesque underbelly of the human psyche like never before.
When the show began, Ted Mosby seemed like the relatable cutie on a perpetual quest for his soulmate. Everyone who watched and loved the show probably recognised a Ted in their own life. Barney Stinson’s attitude towards women was par for the course back then, but he made it almost aspirational. By the time the show ended, we would be able to recognise Ted’s behaviour in romantic relationships as toxic. We would also see Barney Stinson for what he was; and there was a new, elegant word to describe it as well – 'fuckboi.' The stereotypes embedded into the fabric of the show were laid bare for discerning fans to behold and mull over.
And thus, somewhere between Robin walking into MacLaren’s Pub for the first time and Ted walking up to the girl with the yellow umbrella on a rainy night in Farhampton, a generation and a half grew up.
It is the magnitude of emotional investment that HIMYM demanded of the viewer who grew up with it that makes the idea of the reboot/spiritual sequel seem irrelevant. One of the things that HIMYM taught me is to not rule out any possibilities. So I cannot say I will never watch How I Met Your Father. It will doubtlessly incorporate all that we have learned as a people over the past decade. It might even turn out to be halfway decent, if we are lucky. With the ubiquity of smartphones, the language of love and relationships has changed dramatically, so the possibilities with the new show are immense.
Personally, I see the new series going one of two ways.
Either it will turn out to be an inadequate attempt at capitalising on a fanbase that the show will not actually be relevant to. Or it might turn out to be an unlikely winner, albeit one that is relevant to a whole new generation of fans.
It might do for them, what the original show did for those enduring love, success, failure, and heartbreak back then. (I would love for it to be the latter, but I am not holding my breath.)
One of my favourite episodes of How I Met Your Mother is titled 'How Your Mother Met Me.' It comes about two-thirds into the final season of the show, giving us a condensed version of the life and times of Tracy (Cristin Milioti) – the ‘mother’ in the title. In an alternate universe, her journey with love and relationships would have been depicted in a series titled How I Met Your Father. With that name, that is the show I would have wanted to watch. At least for the time being, I would rather just leave this new show for the kids to watch.
How I Met Your Father is now streaming in India on Disney+ Hotstar. A new episode will drop every Wednesday.
Pradeep Menon is a Mumbai-based writer and independent filmmaker.
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