Although How I Met Your Mother’s Ted shaped the show’s world with his voiceover narration, How I Met Your Father was right to drop this once-innovative storytelling trick. Since its debut in January 2022, HIMYF has proven a spinoff follow-up series could successfully reboot an earlier successful sitcom. However, this did require HIMYF to partially change the formula that made HIMYM such a hit.
Although HIMYM was able to pull off ambitious musical episodes and experiments, such as one installment telling its story entirely through rhyme, HIMYF adopted a more traditional sitcom approach to its storytelling in its first season. While later episodes of HIMYF might bring back this sort of playfulness, the reasoning behind the change was likely that the innovations of HIMYM have since become commonplace in sitcoms and are no longer particularly fresh. By the same token, HIMYF was wise not to let the narrator’s perspective shape the story as much as Ted’s did in HIMYM.
Just as HIMYF can’t bring back Ranjit, the HIMYM spinoff can’t center its narrator’s POV to the same extent as the previous show because Ted’s selective view of the world only worked on the original. HIMYM frequently used Ted’s status as the narrator to let viewers inside his head, which at the time meant the sitcom felt less like a conventional hang-out show and more unusual. However, this approach is something that HIMYF has so far avoided and the new show is right not to let Sophie’s fantasy segues, false memories, and self-serving version of events rewrite its narrative.
From imaginary conversations with Victoria in the mirror (before cheating on her) to the cartoony libel of The Wedding Bride, HIMYM’s Ted decided what viewers did and didn’t see in the original show. There was no doubt for viewers of HIMYM that the series took place from Ted’s POV and, as such, the character’s perspective shaped the show’s story. Not only did Ted narrate the series but, as far back as HIMYM season 1, the show’s version of events was colored by who Ted was as a character. Viewers became privy to his fears, dreams, hopes, and fantasies more than any other character’s, with Ted being more akin to JD from Scrubs than, for example, Sam from Cheers. HIMYM was Ted’s show, which worked in its favor and to its detriment.
Sophie is at the center of HIMYF’s events, but the show doesn’t really center her perspective. For example, Sophie’s Drew breakup saw HIMYF depict Josh Peck’s short-lived love interest as something of an earnest bore and Sophie as more of a flighty wild card, but the show didn’t see Sophie’s memory exaggerate Drew into a cartoonish villain as Ted did with Jeanette, Natalie, and Abby (among others). As a result of this hands-off approach, Sophie’s HIMYF narration plays less of a role in the show altogether. This makes it unlikely that Sophie would change the ending of a sad story or avoid recounting an embarrassing memory, as Ted did on occasion. Thus, the show’s plot takes a more even-handed approach, with Sophie getting the most focus and screen time but not getting to frame how the HIMYF story is presented.
HIMYM season 3, episode 12, “No Tomorrows,” managed to pull off an ambitious storytelling trick, telling the story of Ted’s debauched night from two perspectives. The first story made his adventure seem legendary while the retelling revealed what a callous ass he had been. Similarly, in season 1, episode 10, “The Pineapple Incident,” HIMYM made the audacious decision to not show the viewer anything Ted didn’t remember, resulting in an ambitiously weird comedy mystery. Outings like these made HIMYM feel less like a Friends knock-off and injected some Scrubs-style weirdness into proceedings while still keeping the show in the realm of mainstream, laugh-track-backed sitcom territory. However, HIMYF subverted HIMYM‘s story to keep things fresh, and one of the ways that the spinoff series achieved this was by making Sophie a less-involved form of narrator.
The HIMYM spinoff series is not as pressed about proving its indie credentials as the original show had been. As such, having HIMYF split the focus across the sitcom’s central group has made the rest of Sophie’s friends easier to care about because each of the characters has received their own involving subplots in HIMYF season 1. As the spinoff series enters its second season, thanks to its 22-episode season order, HIMYF can actually copy HIMYM‘s pacing, but the newer show doesn’t need to make Sophie’s status as the narrator more akin to Ted’s narration for it to succeed.
Although allowing Sophie’s perspective to shape reality in HIMYF season 2 would make the show feel more like HIMYM, this isn’t a change that the series should make. HIMYF’s early reviews cited the show’s similarity to its predecessor as one of its biggest shortcomings, saying the new series felt like a thin retread of HIMYM. As such, making Sophie’s style of narration more like Ted’s reality-warping retelling of events would only cause critics to bring up this unflattering comparison again. While HIMYF’s cameos from HIMYM’s cast have proven that the spinoff is happy to share creative DNA with its franchise predecessor, taking steps to make the new show feel more like the older hit isn’t going to improve the sitcom’s reception. Instead, How I Met Your Father’s Sophie should continue to diverge from Ted’s How I Met Your Mother style of storytelling to make the series feel fresher and more original.
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