How I Met Your Father may not have an easy job in trying to emerge from How I Met Your Mother’s long shadow, but the spinoff has got one thing working in its favor. How I Met Your Mother’s ostensible hero, the POV character and narrator Ted Mosby, is one of TV comedy’s less-liked protagonists. While How I Met Your Father’s first How I Met Your Mother character cameo was not from a cast member that many were expecting to see again, the scene did manage to indirectly fix a problem with the earlier show’s protagonist, Ted.
Luckily, How I Met Your Father’s Sophie is not a lot like Ted, something that season 1 of the How I Met Your Mother spinoff has repeatedly reaffirmed. This is fortunate since even fans of the earlier series often complained about Ted being self-centered, hypocritical, and thoughtless at his worst. This issue was rarely more apparent than it was in Ted’s How I Met Your Mother season 6 romance with Zoey.
During their time together in season 6, Ted’s girlfriend Zoey was married to Kyle MacLachlan’s Captain, a gregarious older man who is unaware his wife is cheating on him. This subplot rubbed many viewers up the wrong way, not least because MacLachlan’s character was always so likable and decent that Ted and Zoey’s affair had many viewers rooting for the supporting character more than the show’s lead and his new love interest. However miscast MacLachlan’s HIMYM Captain may have been, his brief appearance in How I Met Your Father season 1 somewhat ameliorated Ted’s character flaws.
In the cold open of How I Met Your Father’s “Jay Street” (season 1, episode 9), The Captain appeared for a moment as the show’s narrator teased that he would prove pivotal to the next episode’s events. This version of the Captain was introduced by cheating on his wife Becky, a perfect change from How I Met Your Mother’s uncomfortably harmless, sweet version of the character. While MacLachlan’s Captain had an air of menace in the earlier series (and Ted specifically was always worried about the prospect of him taking vengeance on him), he was never a cad, and How I Met Your Father avoided a mistake from the earlier show by turning him into a sleazier, more duplicitous figure.
If the iteration of the Captain that Zoe cheated on were this much of a two-timing scoundrel, How I Met Your Mother season, six would have had a far easier time convincing viewers to root for Zoey and Ted’s affair. Instead, the earlier show made MacLachlan into a fundamentally good-hearted figure. It gave Zoey no compelling reason to stay in her unsatisfying marriage, making the plot a flop with fans. Luckily, How I Met Your Father season 1 proved that it is never too late to fix the mistakes made by How I Met Your Mother when it came to Ted’s character—even if viewers did have to wait until a spinoff before the story was resolved.