How I Met Your Mother's terrible ending overshadows its terrific beginning.
The sequel series, How I Met Your Father, is off to a far less promising start.
If I could only use one word to describe the series so far, it would be tepid.
It's reassuring How I Met Your Father is aware of the How I Met Your Mother backlash and seems intent on avoiding its predecessor's mistakes. However, the fear of making those mistakes is preventing the show from being good.
A large part of it is because the characters are robots going through the motions rather than humans. It's not the actors' fault. It's the anemic material they have to work with.
In contrast, How I Met Your Mother's pilot was successful because of the vibrancy of the characters, especially Barney Stinson.
It's true Barney's womanizing hasn't aged well, but the real appeal of Barney is his joie de vivre. Besides making him legen -- wait for it -- dary, his over-the-top enthusiasm for anything from licking the Liberty Bell to creating the perfect playlist injects life into How I Met Your Mother.
How I Met Your Father needs a character like that.
The good news is How I Met Your Father already has a couple of characters who could step in to play the Barney role.
Ellen seems like the most natural fit.
She already has a lot in common with Barney. She made a drastic lifestyle change after a failed relationship. Even though she is Jesse's brother, she seems to occupy the outsider role within the group. Her goal of wanting to ask out Kate McKinnon is very Barney-esque.
Perhaps most importantly, she seems the most interested in having adventures for the sake of the adventure. On How I Met Your Father Season 1 Episode 2, she realized the experience of being rejected over and over was as valuable as scoring a date.
Charlie is another possibility.
Like Ellen, he is also interested in trying out new things and having experiences for the sake of the experience. He hangs out with the yentas in his building, for instance. He's the most out of touch with reality.
One of Barney's most essential roles on How I Met Your Mother was convincing other characters to do things they wouldn't normally do. Charlie also seems to have a knack for pushing the other characters out of their comfort zones.
On How I Met Your Mother Season 1 Episode 5, he spearheaded the effort to help Sid overcome his awkwardness around Sophie's mom and for Jesse to return to where he humiliated himself with the failed proposal. This has the added benefit of making Jesse and Sid more interesting as well.
Another similarity both Ellen and Charlie have to Barney is they tend to have more surreal plots, which are relatively more interesting than the A-stories. One of the smarter moves How I Met Your Father made so far is to make them and allow them to bounce off each other.
So the potential for How I Met Your Father to have character(s) as vivacious Barney exists; it's the writing that needs to get up to par. Even though it seems unlikely based on what's aired so far, it's not out of the realm for How I Met Your Father to improve drastically.
Comedies often need more time than dramas to figure out the characters and find their identity.
Parks and Recreation didn't figure out what made Leslie Knope a watchable character until the end of its first season.
Remember how cringey Cougar Town was until it dropped the cougar on the prowl premise and found life as a hangout comedy? Some say Seinfeld didn't become Seinfeld until its fourth season.
Sadly, the current age of TV doesn't favor giving time for TV shows to find their identity. Who knows if I How I Met Your Father will get another season. It wouldn't be the first time a TV show fails to live up to its promise before cancelation.
Still, if I How I Met Your Father wants to have any chance of becoming a good show, it needs to lighten up. It needs to wholeheartedly embrace the strange and surreal like its predecessor did. No character represented that aspect of How I Met Your Mother better than Barney Stinson.
How I Met Your Father shouldn't take every page from Barney Stinson's playbook, but there are a lot of pages they can use for inspiration.
Otherwise, it's a dull TV show, which is arguably worse than bad.
Despite the decline, or maybe because of it, of How I Met Your Mother quality in later years, people still remember it and discuss it passionately because it was memorable.
One of the best ways for a TV show to be memorable is to create memorable characters like Barney Stinson -- something How I Met Your Father desperately needs.
Over to you, TV Fanatics!
What are your thoughts on How I Met Your Father so far?
Do you think any of the characters can step up to fill the Barney void?
Hit the comments below.
Becca Newton is a staff writer for TV Fanatic.