Last night, Variety dropped a bomb that echoed throughout the indie film community by revealing that Greta Gerwig — whose roles in films like Hannah Takes the Stairs, Damsels in Distress, and Frances Ha have made her one of the queens of the indie film world — will star in the pilot for CBS' upcoming How I Met Your Mother spin-off, uninspiringly titled How I Met Your Dad.
Since it was first announced, I've been skeptical of How I Met Your Dad — primarily because I think the narrative device driving How I Met Your Mother, which seemed so original when it premiered, has grown extremely tiresome. I still have those doubts. But despite the cries of "sell-out" and the hand-wringing over the future of her career, I don't see how Gerwig's presence in the sitcom can be anything but good news.
According to Variety's report, Gerwig will star in How I Met Your Dad as Sally, "a female Peter Pan who is on the verge of breaking up with her husband after less than a year of marriage." Forget, for a moment, that the project in question is a How I Met Your Mother spinoff. If you were casting that project, isn't Greta Gerwig the first person you would call? The project is so clearly in her wheelhouse that you could probably re-title it and pass it off as a sequel to Frances Ha or Damsels in Distress.
As it turns, out, there's a reason that the role seems so tailored to Gerwig's sensibilities: CBS has been desperately courting her. Variety reports that Gerwig will also serve as a producer and, if How I Met Your Dad makes it to series, as a writer. Deadline adds that Gerwig's presence was so important to CBS that they're "willing to move production of the series to New York for her after the pilot, which will be shot in Los Angeles."
That doesn't sound like a network that wants to use How I Met Your Dad to shave off everything that has made Gerwig a reliably appealing indie actress; that sounds like a network that wants to infuse How I Met Your Dad with Gerwig's voice at every level of production. The last time Gerwig was this intimately involved with a production, we got Frances Ha. I don't think it's wise to set the bar anywhere near that high for How I Met Your Dad, but with the sheer number of funny, intelligent sitcoms currently on the air, why dismiss the possibility that How I Met Your Dad could join them before a single scene has been shot?
If you're still not willing to give How I Met Your Dad the benefit of the doubt, remember: This is a pilot, and the majority never even make it to air. Do you remember all the hand-wringing over CBS' small-screen adaptation of Beverly Hills Cop? NBC's Wonder Woman reboot with Adrianne Palicki? HBO's Noah Baumbach-helmed adaptation of The Corrections, which was set to star Ewan McGregor, Dianne Wiest, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and — yes — Greta Gerwig? All those pilots (and dozens more like them) were met with feverish speculation every step of the way — and not one of them made it to air.
At this point, How I Met Your Dad is far likelier to get a series order than those other failed pilots, if only because How I Met Your Mother is one of CBS' flagship comedies, and the network will need something to fill the hole it will leave in the schedule. Yes, How I Met Your Dad sounded derivative and mercenary from the word "go" — but it's also offering the very real possibility that we'll get to see an actress as talented as Gerwig on TV every week. Why not keep an open mind about it?
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