Ways How I Met Your Father Succeeds Where How I Met Your Mother Failed

"How I Met Your Father" made its Hulu debut this week, nearly eight years after its companion series aired its final episodes. Though only two episodes of the new show are available, it's already clear that the team behind the sitcom have learned from their past mistakes. Despite its strong nine-season run, "How I Met Your Mother" gained criticism for a divisive finale that undermined a lot of the core characters' progress. In the years since it's aired, the show has shown some signs of age, especially when it comes to the duplicitous and romantically aggressive ladies' man character, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris).

The early episodes of "How I Met Your Father" don't call attention to the problems of its predecessor, but they do seem carefully designed to side-step them this time around. In them, we meet Sophie (Hilary Duff), a romantic whose pursuit of love is thwarted when her seemingly perfect match, Ian (Daniel Augustin), moves to Australia right after they meet. That same night, Sophie makes friends with her rideshare driver, Jesse (Chris Lowell), and his best friend, Sid (Suraj Sharma). Sophie's housemate Valentina (Francia Raisa), Valentina's posh new British boyfriend Charlie (Tom Ainsley), and Jesse's sister Ellen (Tien Tran) round out the new cast.

Sitcom pilots have a tough gig, as they need to introduce a core cast, familiarize us with their personalities and motivations, and also let us know the show is capable of being funny. "How I Met Your Father" has an even tougher job, as it has to strike a balance between nostalgia for the original series and its own originality. So far, the series seems to be walking the line well, and correcting some of the original show's missteps in the process.

It's Being Careful Not To Write Itself Into A Corner

When Ted sat down with his kids in the pilot, "How I Met Your Mother" writers couldn't have known that the show would run for nine seasons. The result of this impressive 208 episode run is a frame narrative that no longer fit its characters. Viewers lamented Tracy's death (Cristin Milioti), but it was Ted's last minute return to Robin (Cobie Smulders), an idea that the writers room apparently came up with in the early days of the series, that rang most false. Couple that with a season that spent 22 episodes at one wedding, only to have the couple unceremoniously divorce in the finale, and "How I Met Your Mother" ended up with some rightfully angry fans on its hands.

The new series seems to very deliberately leave more narrative options open. It doesn't immediately tell us who the father of Sophie's child is. In the future, Sophie (Kim Cattrall) is alone and wine drunk when she calls her apparently grown son to tell him the story, so there's no reason to assume she and the father get their happily ever after. The show also doesn't show us Sophie's son yet, so there's no way for viewers to guess at which character he resembles.

It's also built for the long run, only doling out small bits of information about its characters at a time so its creative well won't run dry too early. We know a few things about each member of the new group, like that Jesse is fresh off an embarrassing rejected proposal, and that Ellen is divorced, gay, and enthusiastically awkward. Still, everyone we've met so far has plenty of room to grow, and plenty of space to reveal their backstories and idiosyncrasies as the show unfolds.

There's No Barney Stinson Type

If you love Barney Stinson, that's fine. He's a beloved sitcom character. But he's also not a real person, so he won't mind either way if I say that his dating tactics and ideas about gender are much grosser than "How I Met Your Mother" ever seemed willing to reckon with. Sure, his friends questioned his behavior, but the series also promoted him as a scene-stealing favorite, giving him his own real Playbook and creating a 100th episode entirely dedicated to celebrating the suit-obsessed lothario.

Barney's list of offenses is long and, for fans of the series who are re-evaluating his role in it, disheartening. He's frequently fatphobic, and at one point, he makes a prenup that involves "weekly weigh-ins" for his bride-to-be. One of his go-to dating tactics is surprising women by exposing himself to them, while many more involve disguises and fundamental lies. In one episode, he even references exchanging a woman for a Mercedes while on foreign soil. The dude sucks, and sucky characters are fine, but the show never really seems to grasp or acknowledge the depths of his awfulness.

Thankfully, no one in "How I Met Your Father" seems poised to take on the Barney role. The closest we have so far is Valentina, Sophie's casual-dating roommate who loves referencing "crushing d***." Valentina seems relatable and thirsty, but by no means predatory. Everyone else in the show seems nice enough, except the guy who starts his date with Sophie by telling her he just had sex with someone else. The show has already proven that it's possible to joke about casual sex without turning it into an extreme sport. Hopefully, it remains less disgusting than its predecessor.

The Characters Are More Representative (In More Ways Than One)

For all its great qualities, "How I Met Your Mother" was a very homogenous show. Its core characters were all white, and while the show occasionally explored money problems, most of them had jobs like architect and lawyer and businessman. Aside from Lily's (Alyson Hannigan) mostly unexplored bisexuality, they're also super straight.

The new series is more diverse on all counts. Jesse is a rideshare driver, while Latina character Valentina works as an assistant. Ellen, whose career hasn't been revealed, is a lesbian Asian-American woman, and Sid is played by Indian actor Suraj Sharma. There's no guarantee the series will meaningfully engage with all the aspects of its characters' identities, but given how often the original series was able to bring up Marshall's Minnesota pride, it should be easy enough to explore culturally specific backstories for these characters. Either way, it's pretty cool to see a group of friends who look more like my own than most sitcom ensembles do.

With only two episodes under its belt, "How I Met Your Father" has plenty of room to grow and distinguish itself from its parent series. If we're lucky, it'll continue to course correct and set a rom-com sitcom standard all its own.