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TV review: 'How I Met Your Father' introduces an endearing new gang

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TV review: 'How I Met Your Father' introduces an endearing new gang
Hilary Duff tells the story of "How I Met Your Father." Photo courtesy of Hulu

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- How I Met Your Father is the second attempt at a gender swapped followup to the hit series How I Met Your Mother. If the CBS incarnation had been half as charming as this, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't have made it on the air. The Hulu series nails the tone and format with a brand new story for 2021.

In 2050, Sophie (Kim Cattrall) tells her daughter the story of how she met her husband over a video call. In the present Hilary Duff plays Sophie who's on her way to a Tinder date with Ian (Daniel Augustin). They hit it off, but Ian is leaving for a job abroad. Sophie still wants to try to make it work. Her Uber driver Jesse (Chris Lowell), a passenger Sid (Suraj Sharma) about to propose to his girlfriend Hanna (Ashley Reyes), and Sophie's roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa) become ensemble characters, too.

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In the eight years since How I Met Your Mother ended, the dating world has already changed enough to make a new romantic-comedy different. Tinder didn't exist when Ted Mosby was looking for love, and rideshare wasn't widespread yet either. Smartphones become more of a plot device than they ever were on Mother, too.

But, How I Met Your Mother was about more than just the romantic story. The show had a style that blended traditional sitcoms filmed in front of a studio audience with cutaways, narration and jokes constructed with editing. How I Met Your Father captures that style, and has enough Easter eggs for the original to make it a sequel.

What made viewers invest in spending nine seasons to learn How I Met Your Mother was the endearing group of friends they got to know along the way. That group had their own inside jokes and running gags like real groups of friends have. How I Met Your Father establishes some fun running gags in early episodes that will hopefully pay off in subsequent episodes.

Sophie and her friends are also an endearing gang to spend a half hour with at a time. There are some parallels to the original cast. Sophie is optimistic despite plenty of awful first dates, and believes she can make long distance work with Ian, who may or may not be the father. Hannah and Sid are so committed to each other, they are the relationship goals like Marshall and Lily were. Jesse is so heartbroken by past relationships that he may never believe in love again. Valentina is spontaneous, but supportive of Sophie.

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On Hulu, How I Met Your Father can have language a bit edgier than CBS, and they use it. But, they don't go all the way into HBO or FX territory. It's just enough to remind you this isn't a network sitcom anymore.

How I Met Your Father will be 10 episodes in its first season, so even if it lasts nine more seasons, it won't drag out the identity of the father for quite as long as Mother ended up doing. Even so, identifying the future parent was never the point of either show. They're both about what life is like until you meet that person, and How I Met Your Father captures it beautifully.

How I Met Your Father premieres Jan. 18 and new episodes premiere weekly on Hulu.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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