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Kids, This Is the Story of Why ‘How I Met Your Father’ Is Just Not Funny. At All.




Kids, this is the story of How I Met Your Mother. No, wait, that’s not right. Kids, this is the story of how How I Met Your Mother was one of the smartest sitcoms of the mid-2000s, then lost its way creatively, then killed off the Mother herself in order to preserve a pre-filmed ending the show had long since outgrown. Sorry, that’s not it either. Though can you blame me for dwelling on the whole murdered Mother thing?

Kids, this is — I promise — the story of How I Met Your Father, a gender-flipped reinvention of HIMYM starring Hilary Duff as our love-starved heroine, Kim Cattrall as her older self revisiting her young adulthood, and the HIMYM creators producing but not writing it. (The actual showrunners here are This Is Us vets Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger.)

Kids, when I heard that people were again(*) trying to spin off HIMYM, I worried I would dislike the new show because I couldn’t let go of how badly the original fell apart by the end. I worried that HIMYF would, like its predecessor, become too cute for its own good, prioritizing plot twists and other surprises over consistent characterization. I worried that Aptaker and Berger might feel compelled from the start to reassure viewers that they would never, ever, so much as think of giving the Father a paper cut, much less kill him, and that the meta humor about that would overwhelm everything else. I worried about a lot of things, really, even as I hoped against all common sense that with a fresh start and a largely new creative team, I would fall for the new show much like I once had for its parent.

(*) CBS already tried it right after HIMYM ended with How I Met Your Dad, an unsold pilot that, had it gone to series, likely would have prevented star Greta Gerwig from directing Lady Bird. So the timeline worked out the way it should have in that case.  

The one thing I did not expect, kids, was that I would dislike How I Met Your Father for a far simpler reason: It is not funny. At all.

But, like many of Ted Mosby’s digressions about how he met his kids’ doomed maternal figure, we first have to start elsewhere in our story, with the HIMYF basics. Duff plays Sophie, a photographer wishing she could find love before she exits her twenties. As she tells anyone who will listen — including BFF roommate Valentina (Francia Raisa), Valentina’s formerly rich British boyfriend Charlie (Tom Ainsley), or her Uber driver Jesse (Chris Lowell), who somehow joins Sophie’s inner circle along with his sister Ellen (Tien Tran) and best friend Sid (Suraj Sharma) — she has been on 87 Tinder dates in the past year, with no serious prospects among them. But because Sophie is a hopeless romantic, she keeps on trying, starting off with Ian (Daniel Augustin), a marine biologist whose DMs make him seem meant for her.

All of this is narrated by the Sophie of the year 2050. In a reversal of how HIMYM used the voice of the late Bob Saget as the future Ted Mosby, HIMYF puts Cattrall on camera early and often, while the son she is boring with her story is a disembodied voice on the other end of a call. “This story is about the journey, not the destination,” this older Sophie warns her son at one point. “I’m gonna get with a whole bunch of dudes before I wind up with Dad.”

The HIMYM pilot created the impression that Ted’s new love interest Robin would be the Mother, only to famously end with Future Ted declaring, “That, kids, is the true story of how I met your Aunt Robin.” It was an unexpected twist that would eventually prove that show’s creative undoing, because it locked the writers into a set of circumstances that in time led them to kill the Mother and anger many of their viewers(*). The HIMYF premiere also ends with a twist, and without giving it away, I can say that it’s one that allows Aptaker and Berger to keep their options more wide open going forward. But it also makes it a bit harder to then stay engaged in what’s happening in the present-day story with Sophie and her friends, because you have to constantly do the math on how Future Sophie’s own declaration could come true. It’s part of the franchise’s DNA, but it’s also more trouble than it’s worth.

(*) HIMYM remains the classic example of why long-term plans for TV series can sometimes do more harm than good. Over time, the show evolved beyond the original plan, but the creators refused to change things to acknowledge that.

But that’s ultimately less of a problem than the comedy. For as much as we now focus on the many romances of HIMYM and the various bad ways they ended, that series initially made such an impression because of how witty it was, how it played around with time and space and perception to pack in even more humor, and, at first, what a comic force of nature Neil Patrick Harris was as Ted’s suit-loving pal Barney Stinson. Barney’s shameless, calculated pursuit and manipulation of women didn’t age well at all. But in those early days, his larger-than-life persona — and the way Harris’ sheer likability cut through some of the character’s most heinous qualities — afforded the writers time to figure out what was inherently amusing about the rest of the cast.

How I Met Your Father -- “FOMO” - Episode 102 -- Determined to try and live in the moment, Sophie and the gang head to an exclusive new club for a wild night out. Valentina has doubts about her relationship with Charlie. Sid pushes Jesse to be open to love. Ellen tries her luck with women at the club. Jesse (Chris Lowell), Sid (Suraj Sharma), and Ellen (Tien Tran), shown. (Photo by: Patrick Wymore/Hulu)

From left: Chris Lowell, Suraj Sharma, and Tien Tran in ‘How I Met Your Father.’

Patrick Wymore/Hulu

HIMYF doesn’t have a comparable figure. Its cast of characters is more inclusive than the HIMYM quintet of straight white people, but with the occasional exception of Valentina, they’re all almost pathologically nice. And their personalities are so generic and fairly one-note — Sophie an optimist, Jesse a pessimist, Ellen awkwardly enthusiastic, Charles ill-equipped to navigate life without his trust fund, etc. — that there’s no humor to be found anywhere. That’s in spite of a cast of game and otherwise appealing performers. Duff has been acting on television for over 20 years, going back to her adolescence; she’s a pro. So are Lowell (GLOW), Cattrall (enjoying herself far away from the clutches of the maligned Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That…), and Josh Peck (in a thankless recurring role as a Sophie love interest who we already know will not be the Father). And even the less well-known members of the ensemble seem likable enough that they could probably wring some laughs out of even mediocre punchlines. But the gags are uniformly lifeless. Specificity is everything in comedy, and there’s none to be found here.

Though the franchise has moved from CBS to Hulu, the only stylistic change of note is some occasional mild profanity, like when Valentina uses the phrase “crushing dicks” in the second episode. (The characters spend a lot more time on their phones, but it’s 2022, so of course they would.) Longtime HIMYM director Pam Fryman takes up the role again here, and continues to use the hybrid format of the original show: lots of locations and flashbacks and cutaway jokes like a modern single-camera comedy, but brightly lit and featuring a laugh track like a traditional multicam sitcom. Multicams can still work these days (see The Conners, for instance), but it’s really hard (Netflix has put out some utterly dire ones of late built around performers like Jamie Foxx, Kevin James, and Katharine McPhee). That laugh track can really grate when it’s trying to prop up jokes that aren’t working.

And if HIMYM could be guilty (especially at the end) of being too clever for its own good, HIMYF barely tries to be clever at all. Outside of Future Sophie’s running commentary, there’s very little of the formal playfulness that could make HIMYM interesting to watch even on nights when the comedy wasn’t quite clicking.

Not only did How I Met Your Father never make me laugh, but the only time I even found myself smiling was when some of the characters arrived at a location I knew well from How I Met Your Mother. And even that nostalgic pleasure only lasted as long as it took me to remember all the ways that HIMYM curdled and stumbled in its later years. This new show feels like dating someone who superficially reminds you of a long-term ex, but without either the exhilarating highs or maddening lows that made the original relationship the kind you would one day tell stories about. It’s just another piece of familiar IP that’s been dusted off without any idea of what to do with it.

Sorry, kids. I wish I had better news for you.

The first two episodes of How I Met Your Father premiere Jan. 18 on Hulu, with additional episodes releasing weekly. I’ve seen the first four of 10 episodes.

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Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson Wax Idiotic on Climate Change and What It Means to Be Black




There is a meditative quality to both Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson’s work that sucks you in. For Rogan, it is his voice — a soft, curious, always credulous murmur that lends itself to explaining complicated topics. Watching Rogan deconstruct a mixed martial arts fight can be a genuine pleasure for fans of the sport, like listening to a close friend really nerd out over something they’re passionate about. Peterson is not as blessed sonically — he sounds like Kermit the Frog as a freshman philosophy major — but he too projects the same blithe confidence in his own words that can make almost any topic sound compelling. 

The only problem is, Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson are two of the dumbest people on earth. The wildly successful podcast host and self-help author’s careers have intersected and built on one another multiple times, as their core audience of disaffected young men is largely the same. Their paths crossed once again this week in a four-hour marathon conversation on The Joe Rogan Experience, during which Peterson bizarrely and very proudly wore a tuxedo. Their topics were varied, but almost all of them were intensely stupid, if not incoherent.

Here is Peterson, for instance, confidently proclaiming a theory on climate change loaded with circular arguments that all come back to the same point: It’s not real. 

Holy moly. I don’t think I can do this. First words out of Peterson’s mouth in the Joe Rogan interview are complete self parody. I can’t even dunk on it.

— bad_stats (@thebadstats) January 25, 2022

Peterson appears to be saying that because there are a large number of variables that influence the climate, it’s impossible to ascribe change to any particular variables (like, say, our massive consumption of fossil fuels). This is false, as the entire point of climate science is to identify which of those variables correlate to statistically significant changes in temperature or ozone levels et cetera, et cetera. And yet, Peterson talks on, saying the word “everything” multiple times without actually saying, well, anything. “Mmhm,” Rogan responds. “What do you mean by, ‘everything’?”

This sort of credulity is both Rogan’s biggest draw and his worst tendency. Rogan has built his brand around open-mindedness, which he passes off as “free thinking.” But in practice, instead of thinking about what his guests are saying to him, Rogan’s first instinct is to “mmhm” his way through topics that frequently stray into conspiracies, bigotry, or simple stupidity. Rogan’s guiding ethos doesn’t seem to be much more complicated than “seek out the controversial, and popular,” which has led him, during the pandemic, to repeatedly platform or publish misinformation about coronavirus and vaccines

Gibberish like this is laced throughout Peterson’s latest appearance. At one point, Peterson claims more people die from solar energy than nuclear energy, because they fall off of roofs while installing the panels. He and Rogan take turns ruminating about how you can’t say anything as a comedian these days, because of “protected classes.” And of course, things really take a turn when they discuss race. Rogan takes the lead in this clip, claiming that Black radio host and academic Michael Eric Dyson, a Peterson critic, is not “Black,” based on a complicated and truly idiotic discussion of various skin tones. 

On Joe Rogan’s Spotify podcast — Jordan Peterson claims Michael Eric Dyson is “not Black”

Rogan replies: “Unless you are talking to someone who is like 100% African from the darkest place where they are not wearing any clothes all day … the term Black is weird.”

— Alex Paterson (@AlexPattyy) January 25, 2022

This one is basically a parody of itself, no debunking necessary. It even includes the sublime: “I’m not white, I’m Italian.” But in itself it’s a good example of why Rogan and Peterson are, collectively and individually, incredibly stupid and incredibly compelling. At the center of both of their work is the same mantra that blends conservative traditionalism and new-age guruism into a superficial concept of modern masculinity, a quick-fix guide for men who struggle to find self-worth in a fractured and callous world. Their work is aimed at people who are seeking enlightenment, people who think that they want to change their minds about something. What they’re served is a flood of babble that includes just enough introspection, surface-level analysis, and controversy to be passed off as incisive. This babble falls apart as soon as you step back and apply even a tiny bit of logic. We have mountains of provable data that certain climate variables correspond to climate change, racial identity is not tied to skin tone, and that falling off a roof and exposure to radioactive compounds are not comparable risks.

But there’s a reason Rogan’s podcasts often go so long, and that Peterson has published two lengthy books that basically say the same things: Once you’re in, you’re in. You’ve entered the mind palace. Your brain is just stimulated enough to fire off dopamine when one of these two instantly recognizable, friendly voices says something that confirms a prior belief or makes you feel better about something. The water is warm. There is nothing to fear. It’s a safe space to be a little racist, a little incredulous, a little simplistic. The only people it hurts are the uninitiated, those outside the tribe, and it’s their own fault for clinging to identities that don’t fit into the narrow philosophy Rogan and Peterson have distilled. If those people just manned up they can come on in, as well. They can leave their brain at the door. All the thinking they need is clearly going on inside.

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Immolation’s Pitch-Black Death Metal Matures Like Fine Wine on ‘The Age of No Light’




Death metal started out in the mid-Eighties as a mad sprint: a scrappy cohort of underground acts each looking to push the limits of speed and shock value. But for many in that first generation, it’s turned out to be a marathon. Of the bands that helped to cement the subgenre’s core features of growled vocals, maximalist drumming, and swarming, seething riffs, many of them — from Obituary and Carcass to Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Deicide, and even de facto death-metal forefathers Possessed — aren’t just surviving, but thriving well past the three-decade mark, regularly issuing new music and drawing die-hard crowds worldwide.

Right alongside them are Immolation. The Yonkers, New York, quartet was never death metal’s most high-profile act — while some of their peers were inking major-label deals in the early Nineties, they were still slugging it out in the underground. But as the years rolled on, and many of those same contemporaries changed course, shed key members, or outright disbanded, Immolation co-founders Ross Dolan and Bob Vigna kept their heads down and all their energies focused on crafting some of the most darkly enthralling records the movement has ever seen. Standouts like their 1991 debut, Dawn of Possession, and 2000’s monstrously intense Close to a World Below have influenced countless younger bands, as well as above-ground titans like Slipknot, whose guitarist Mick Thomson has a blasphemous image from the Dawn cover tattooed on his arm.

Immolation’s unswerving aesthetic means that their current output instantly conjures the pitch-black aura of their classic work. “The Age of No Light,” the second advance track from the band’s upcoming 11th full-length, Acts of God (out Feb. 18), announces itself with an ominously trilling figure from Vigna, the band’s sole composer and a guitarist who often seems more like a spellcaster than a mere wrangler of riffs. The full band — rounded out by bassist-vocalist Dolan, guitarist Alex Bouks, and drummer Steve Shalaty — enters in a blast-beat-powered cloudburst, as Dolan roars out a portrait of the arriving apocalypse. A trademark Immolation move arrives early, in the form of a downshift into a fierce half-time groove, which Shalaty peppers with borderline-funky syncopated snare accents.

Part of the charm of early Immolation was how frantic and chaotic their arrangements could sound, but over time, they’ve become masters of pacing, with each twist adding intrigue to their dark mini epics. The crafty arrangement of “The Age of No Light” — where an ominously trudging midsection builds to an eerie two-guitar break and overlapping solos, pointing the way to a suitably dismal outro riff — shows how, 31 years after their debut, they’re focusing as much on atmosphere as aggression. And on Acts of God, with the help of longtime producer Paul Orofino, they’ve achieved some of their clearest, fullest-sounding studio sound yet. Who knew? Maturity and death metal mix pretty well, after all.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.

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Portland Police Used a Proud Boy Meme in Their Training Materials. The Feds Want Answers




The Portland City Attorney apologized Tuesday to the Department of Justice for not turning over riot-police training materials that included a right-wing meme about bashing “dirty” hippies. “In retrospect, I agree that we should have provided the material to DOJ sooner,” wrote city attorney Robert Taylor in a letter dated Jan. 25. “I take responsibility and apologize.”

The mea culpa comes days after the feds formally rebuked the Portland Police Bureau for covering up its use of a Proud Boys meme in training materials. A slide from a crowd-control PowerPoint developed for Portland police featured the “Prayer of the Alt Knight” — a meme showing a riot cop bashing a long-haired citizen, with an overlay of text that reads, in part:  “Woe be unto you, dirty hippy… I shall send among you, My humble servants with hat, and with bat; That they may christen your heads with hickory, And anoint your faces with pepper spray.”

(The meme is linked to the “Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights,” identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the “tactical defense arm” of the Proud Boys, the violent, far-right “Western chauvinist” group.)

The slide made headlines when it was released by Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office — despite the city attempting to bury the news by releasing it on the Friday afternoon before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

For the bureau’s critics, the slide gave lie to longstanding claims by PPB officials to have “zero opinion about the ideology or politics or speech” of protesters. In recent years, Portland has emerged as a rift zone, where the nation’s ideological divisions erupt violently in the streets. But rather than acting the part of neutral peace-keepers between right- and the left-wing factions, PPB officers often appear to welcome extremists like the Proud Boys as informal allies.

Lawyers for the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department blasted the city — both for the offensive content of the training, and for hiding the PowerPoint from Uncle Sam. “The City should have reported these [riot] training materials when they were developed, as required,” insists a letter sent to the city attorney and police chief last week. The materials were delivered to the feds on Jan. 14.

The Portland police have been under federal supervision for nearly a decade. The Justice Department found in 2012 that Portland police had engaged “in a pattern or practice of using excessive force” — in particular against those with mental illness. The bureau’s violent policing of Portland’s racial-justice protests, involving more than 6,000 uses of force in 2020 alone, caused PPB to fall out of compliance with its reform agreement with DOJ last year. Federal overseers have called out the bureau for an unconstitutional reliance on violence and a leadership that broadly sees “all force as justified.

The Justice Department makes clear that problems with the PPB training extend beyond a single slide, and that the full, 110-slide deck features “training slides that have varying degrees of offensive content, incorrect guidance, and false or misleading information.” It adds that the government would have made “substantial edits” or rejected the training materials outright had it been made aware of them.

The DOJ lawyers add that “the existence of these [riot] training materials might have materially impacted our assessments of the City’s compliance” with federal oversight, because the training of crowd-control officers was “central to our 2021 annual compliance report” as well as to ongoing mediation.

The DOJ letter acidly denounces the city’s decision to keep the materials under wraps. “Some PPB and City employees knew or should have known about these materials for years,” it insists. “The City Attorney’s Office has reportedly known about them since at least September 2021.” In his apologetic response, City Attorney Taylor writes that he had planned to turn over the training slides as part of the city’s annual disclosures to the Justice Department later this month.

In Portland’s odd system of government, the mayor doubles as the police commissioner. Wheeler has said he was “disgusted” by the inclusion of the hippie-bashing slide. But his office said that the document had not been released to “protect the integrity” of an internal police investigation that started last September when the slide surfaced — as part of litigation against the Portland Police Bureau for alleged widespread brutality against protesters. (Despite having months to investigate, the police say they have no clear leads on who added the Proud Boy meme to the police training.)

“A Complete Lack Of Accountability”

The mayor’s office said it only made the slide public to get out in front of a legal filing in that brutality case, which has now been submitted to federal court. The motion in suit filed by the activist group Don’t Shoot Portland seeks class-action status “to hold PPB responsible for its violent and unlawful conduct against an estimated tens of thousands” of Black Lives Matter protesters.

The suit accuses PPB of unconstitutionally punishing entire crowds for the law-breaking actions of a few individuals, and of viewpoint discrimination against protesters who demanded police accountability. Citing the 6,000 uses of force as well as nearly 300 deployments of tear gas in the summer and fall of 2020, the lawsuit decries a politically motivated police “campaign of violence” against demonstrators.

“Ample evidence suggests that the PPB’s response to left-wing protests against white supremacy and police violence was motivated by the PPB’s strong disagreement with the message of those protests,” the motion alleges. “PPB’s violent response to those demonstrating against white supremacy and police brutality,” it adds, “is starkly contrasted by its… more favorable treatment of right-wing, neo-fascist, white supremacist demonstrators.”

The motion insists that Portland cops were “motivated by the goal of silencing advocates for police reform,” and it alleges that police tactics were so excessive that they would “chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in the [constitutionally] protected activity” of street protest. The document rebukes Portland police officers for repeatedly turning the streets of downtown into “a war zone with only one active army – the PPB – chasing fleeing civilians.”

Taking aim at PPB leadership as well as riot cops, the litigation decries “a complete lack of accountability” for officers who engaged in violence. A deposition of a PPB commander accompanying the lawsuit reveals that — across more than a dozen nights of protest from May through September 2020 — not a single officer was disciplined for excessive use of force.

The lawsuit also highlights two uses of force that a federal judge ruled violated a restraining order to protect protesters, resulting in federal contempt findings against PPB. But neither case resulted in discipline by the bureau.

ppb protest riot memes portland


An exchange in the deposition of the police commander speaks volumes to PPB’s view of itself as beyond reproach:

Lawyer: Does the City have concerns about making findings that are in direct contradiction to a federal court judge?

PPB Commander: No.

Juan Chavez, a civil rights attorney with the Oregon Justice Resource Center, is one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case. He denounces PPB for “failures of training, failures of policy, and failures of accountability.” Most outrageous, he insists, PPB has engaged in unconstitutional collective punishment of crowds of protesters — with tear gas, bull rushes, baton strikes, etc — when many had done nothing to justify that violence.

The fourth amendment standard for use of force, Chavez insists, is highly specific, requiring probable cause for each act of police violence and “each person they use force against.” Chavez elaborates that PPB, itself, has admitted to a practice of collective punishment: “We saw this time and time again in their own reporting,” Chavez says, paraphrasing the reports: “‘The crowd was hostile’; ‘The crowd was anti-police’; ‘The crowd was chanting ACAB’” (an acronym meaning all cops are bastards). Time and again, PPB officers were making the case “that an entire crowd now had generated the amount of legal justification to use force against them,” Chavez says. “And that’s just not how the Constitution is enforced.”

Chavez hastens to add that the aim of the class-action lawsuit is not to recover monetary damages, rather for the court to hand down “an enforceable order” against police violence. Chavez hopes that would curb PPB’s brutality going forward but also “validate the experience of tens of thousands of people who were injured in the street. They were told ‘PPB is following the law’ — when we know they know they weren’t.”

Read the class-action filing below:

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