I spent a significant portion of my evening shower on Friday thinking about this How I Met Your Mother spin-off business. (You didn’t really need to know that, but in the spirit of open idea exchange, I was compelled to put my thoughts into proper context.)
I know the idea for How I Met Your Dad, the series that on Friday was ordered to pilot by CBS, has been met with a chorus of negativity. But as a person who hates being wrong about things — especially related to television — I try to wait a beat before joining a mob of naysayers. (Or any mob, for that matter.)
I shared with a friend my intentions to approach the idea with optimism but was promptly asked a loaded question: “Do you really think this could this work?” The question stayed with me all day until I arrived at this: There’s no way for me to know if a female-led spin-off of HIMYM will work, but how great would it be if somehow the crazy idea did work?
I’m as sad as anyone to be saying farewell to the gang at MacLaren’s in 2014, but I also acknowledge that it’s time. That said, more than the gang themselves, I’m going to mourn the experience of watching. I’ve so enjoyed becoming part of what I considered to be a very cool segment of people who salute when someone uses the world “general” or understand what it means to be “lawyered.” That special language is all part of a world-building that is, quite honestly, a rarity. And while I know the spin-off would not exist in the same world, I’d love nothing more than to visit another planet in the HIMYM galaxy and find it to be just as magical.
So, with that preamble — which went through my head during the shampoo phase, in case you’re wondering — here’s what I see as the biggest challenges and some ideas on how the spin-off could overcome them.
The challenge: A fresh main character. As has been widely reported, HIMYD will be told from the female point of view, feature new characters, and have a fresh new voice. That in itself is a very tall order, considering the HIMYM voice is pretty iconic. So how could the spin-off establish a clean slate? First, I think the girl at the center of the story could, for example, be an anti-Ted. Perhaps it’s just the company I keep, but more and more, my female friends are less interested in settling down. And since I’ve long resented the idea that every woman is looking for a mate, I’d love to see a female character who is happy alone or consumed by other duties or ambitions. Of course, we’d know the marriage thing is in the future, but the question would be what made this person change their mind. Or, rather, who. Or how you get from one point to the other without losing yourself. Is that something that happens suddenly or gradually? Is this too much like Barney’s evolution minus the promiscuity? I DON’T KNOW! But speaking of Barney, that brings me to…
The challenge: The new gang. While details are scarce on the in-the-works show, we can safely assume that HIMYD would be an ensemble. But considering how perfect our current gang is, there are several questions here: Should there be fewer or more people in the gang? Should the balance (three dudes, two girls) be adjusted? Maybe an additional female voice? Is that too Friends-like? Is anything less than five an HBO comedy? I’d personally be in favor of five because that’s sort of a magic number, but I would also like to see a little more diversity. Maybe someone who’s a little older or younger than most of the group. Or a gay character. Or someone of a different ethnicity or race. Or, better yet, write five compelling, fresh characters and don’t write any descriptions. Simply decide all that based on the actors. Hey, that’s how Shonda Rhimes does it.
The challenge: The story. Would we roll our eyes if the pilot for HIMYD opened with two kids on a couch? Probably. Does that mean that couldn’t work? No. But I’d love it if the show changed up this trope. What if the first season was the main character talking to a baby? Then each season, we’d be in a different setting that somehow tied back to the story we were telling? Or, let’s go nuts, what if the last shot of the pilot is the main character telling her children the story through prison glass? Wait, that’s definitely an HBO show. Never mind.
So, let’s chat: Is the story format something you’d want to see changed? How would you handle building a new gang? What kind of main character would you want to see? Does any of this matter to you? Do I just need to take shorter showers? The only solid answer I have is to the latter question…and it’s yes.