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‘How I Met Your Father’ doesn’t capture the magic of its predecessor

Movies & TV

“How I Met Your Father” tries. It brings back the formula of a young, attractive New Yorker looking for a soulmate. It brings back the idea of a group of young friends having misadventures. It appropriates the idea of a parent telling their child a love story. It even brings back Pam Fryman, the director who helped perfect the sitcom magic she was instrumental in creating.

But in spite of all that, “Father” fails to recapture what made its predecessor, “How I Met Your Mother,” work so well.

“Father” is a spin-off/loosely connected sequel to the long-running “Mother.” It focuses on Sophie (Hilary Duff), a photographer and hopeless romantic looking for her soulmate in New York. Sophie gets an Uber ride from Jesse (Christopher Lowell), an aspiring musician recovering from a recent breakup. It doesn’t take long for them to start exhibiting signs of interest in one another.

Meanwhile, Sophie hangs out with her best friend and roommate, Valentina (Francia Raisa), who happens to have just gotten into a relationship with British pretty boy Charlie (Tom Ainsley). The second episode revolves around Sophie and her friends forming relationships with Jesse and his friends. Cell phone hijinks also play a large role in the first two episodes. Because what’s modern life with phones, right?

The show uses the same framing device “Mother” did, with an older Sophie (Kim Katrall) telling an offscreen son the story of how she met his dad. The goal of all this is clearly to recreate the blend of humor, charm, nostalgia and emotional character moments.

But through its first two episodes, it fails miserably to do any of this. The main reason? Bad writing.

The writing is “Father’s” fatal flaw. While the show was inspired by its predecessor, “Mother” showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas aren’t involved with the writing here and these characters could use the duo’s knack for creating quirky, interesting characters.

Instead, the writers on “Father” have mostly created a group of bland, uninteresting characters that don’t draw you in. Instead of giving the characters individual personalities that stand out from one another, the writers have chosen to lean on quirks, like the fact that Sophie listens to the Train song “Drops of Jupiter” when she’s sad. Heck, so far the only thing we know about Jesse’s friend Sid (Suraj Sharma) is that he’s engaged to a woman who’s a surgeon in Los Angeles.

Because the writing is so threadbare, the actors have to search for their characters without much direction. The cast is so busy flailing about trying to find interesting traits to define their characters that they fail to develop much chemistry as a group. The only character who really stands out is Charlie, who is clearly intended to be this series’ Barney Stinson.

Put all this together and you have a show that is astoundingly flat and joyless. Fryman does her best to give “Father” that same old “HIMYM” energy visually and through editing, but she can’t keep this ship from sinking.

There is one moment in the pilot that makes you feel something. It turns out that Jesse and Sid live in the apartment that was the main setting for “Mother.” Seeing Ted, Marshall and Lily’s old place is like seeing an old friend after years and years. That moment brought some warm fuzzies and goosebumps with it.

Unfortunately, that’s the only emotionally affecting moment of “How I Met Your Father.” The rest of the show is jokes that don’t land delivered by a cast with no cohesion working its way through plots built out of tired tropes. Not even Neil Patrick Harris could save this pile.

”How I Met Your Father” is available to stream on Hulu, with new episodes dropping every Tuesday.

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