Why ‘How I Met Your Father’ resurrects the original’s iconic apartment
The following story contains spoilers from the first episode of “How I Met Your Father.”
The first episode of “How I Met Your Father” ends with the newly minted friend group sharing a nightcap in a living room.
“Wow, I love your place,” says Sophie, played by Hilary Duff.
“Thanks,” replies Jesse, played by Christopher Lowell. “It was a total score.”
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The exchange lasts less than 20 seconds, but the visual reveal may set off gasps among longtime “How I Met Your Mother” viewers: The apartment is the one where Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily and Barney regularly gathered throughout the CBS sitcom’s nine seasons. And it’s not a replica. The studio quietly held it in storage after wrapping production on the original in 2014, with its upholstered valances and window blinds still intact.
“This is very much its own show and we’re telling an entirely new story here,” said co-creator and co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger. “But at the same time, we wanted to pay tribute to the original and give this loyal fan base — and we are part of that fan base — something special.”
In Hulu’s reboot, Jesse explains that the unit once belonged to “this old married couple who posted it on the Wesleyan alumni group,” in reference to the pair played by Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan. “We even got them to leave their swords,” he adds as the camera pans to the special decoration mounted above the fireplace.
“We wanted one iconic piece that felt like it really could have been left behind,” said co-creator and co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker. But set decorator Amy Feldman searched numerous antique shops, prop houses and online retailers for decent replicas with no luck.
Thankfully, Carter Bays, who created “How I Met Your Mother” with Craig Thomas, mentioned at a production meeting that he had the original weaponry in his home and happily lent them to the reboot. “That was a big relief, believe me,” said Feldman. “It was nice to put something so memorable from the original into that new set.”
Like the reboot itself, the entire “How I Met Your Father” set is intended to be a calibrated mix of new and nostalgic. No changes were made to the layout of the apartment, first designed by Steve Olson and decorated by Susan Mina Eschelbach; only a longer hallway outside the front door was constructed to accommodate various scenes.
Instead, the space has been strategically outfitted for its new residents: vintage records and instruments played by Jesse, a musician making ends meet with teaching gigs and Uber shifts; a weathered workbench where Sid (Suraj Sharma), who pivoted from medicine to hospitality, experiments with cocktail recipes.
The blue-hued apartment is one of the series’ regular sets, along with the ladies’ apartment — filled with photographer Sophie’s camera equipment and darkroom shots and stylist Valentina’s (Francia Raisa) fashion illustrations and accessories — and the sumptuous smart home of 2050 Sophie (Kim Cattrall), who narrates via a call to her offscreen son.
And then there’s the new bar, which fans will immediately notice is starkly different from the watering hole of “How I Met Your Mother.” Unlike MacLaren’s Pub, Pemberton’s is brightly lit and boothless, with cozy couches and a three-sided countertop.
“That separation is completely on purpose,” said production designer Glenda Rovello, who based the space on current New York go-tos like Minetta Tavern and Wilfie & Nell, and designed the horseshoe-like serving area after the Horseshoe Bar, the oft-filmed East Village spot that Aptaker and Berger frequented after meeting as New York University students.
Viewers might spot that Pemberton’s decor changes slightly throughout the season, as fledgling bar owner Sid steadily tweaks things like paint colors and artwork arrangements. “He would have bought things to add to the environment and make it cozier,” noted Feldman.
Amid all the newness, devout “How I Met Your Mother” fans should take note of the rebooted world these sets have built. “Yes, we’re telling a whole new story with this new group of people, but we exist in the same universe as ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ and places — and potentially, people — that were special to you in the original may pop up,” teases Berger. “This is our way of really declaring that, right out of the gate.”
‘How I Met Your Father’
When: Any time, starting Tuesday
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