Missing the point

March 31, 2014

How I Met Your Mother will air its final episode later today. To herald the end of such a popular show, CBS is doing the only thing it knows how to do – desperately trying to find new ways to cash in on the show’s success. So was commissioned a pilot for How I Met Your Dad.

Be still, my beating heart.

I think this pilot misses the reason why How I Met Your Mother was so successful. The “mother” framing device was interesting enough to get viewers through the door, but what kept them coming back was the characters and the writing. Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and especially Barney are why people have stuck around for nine seasons. Now that it’s finally over, do you really think they’re going to be eager to jump to an entirely new cast for what is essentially the same story?

I doubt it. As I said in my preview of Soul Eater NOT for the recent RandomC preview, “A good spin-off takes an established setting and uses it to tell a different story.” Soul Eater NOT does this by taking the Soul Eater setting and telling an entirely new story – a slice-of-life school comedy. One of the better spin-offs in my memory, Frasier from Cheers, was good because Frasier was nothing like Cheers! It took an interesting character that had more depth than the creators initially suspected and ran with it.

Spin-offs should use the original setting as a jumping off point to tell a new story. If instead they try to get lightning to strike twice, they will almost certainly fail. Perhaps How I Met Your Dad will buck this trend. I wouldn’t count on it.

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By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    Spin-offs should use the original setting as a jumping off point to tell a new story. If instead they try to get lightning to strike twice, they will almost certainly fail.

    Yep. No argument there. I think a good way to look at it is that a good spin-off would still be a good show (or book, etc.) even if the original didn’t exist.


    Don’t know if this is “OT” or NOT! (sorry couldn’t resist), but your comment about Soul Eater NOT! reminded me of Fate/Stay Night (2014) – scheduled for Fall Season. From MAL:
    New anime adaptation of Fate/stay night. It will be a new story outside of the original work, but is very important and near Fate/Zero in terms of feeling.

    My question revolves around your opinion – both as viewer and author, regarding remakes (i.e. not an updated version of the same story (e.g. improved visually, better audio, etc.), but changing the original story) such as the above example, and first adaptations which only adapt part or are simply based upon the original story (e.g. the “reboot” issue which has been brought up in Soul Eater NOT! discussion)

    (1) What is your opinion on remakes/alt. versions of the original story – especially if the original adaptation is “good”? The more the merrier or those resources could be better used to tell a new/”fresh” story?
    (2) Do you prefer that original tale be adapted first before alternative versions of the story are made, or whatever works is fine?
    (3) Assuming you’re fine with remakes, is there a limit for you (e.g. 1 maybe 2, but too repetitive after that)?
    (4) As an author how do you feel about remakes/adaptations which substantially rewrite/change the original stories? Is that “disrespectful” to the original work’s author, or “The author sold his story and that’s how it goes?” My guess is that if your book was ever marked for adaptation, you would insist upon being heavily involved to ensure the story wasn’t degraded (in your opinion).

    P.S. Hope you appreciated my foregoing any “ecchi blogger jokes”. 😛

    1. Reply


      Probably a bit off-topic, but it’s an interesting topic, so I’m going to answer anyway!

      1) I’m fine with remakes only if they’re either faithful to the spirit of the original or are changed with the original creator’s consent. Ones that betray the spirit of the original are harmful to that original creator’s vision, art, and potentially their livelihood. No es bueno. And I’d rather see fresh stories than 10,000 remakes of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. I find that remakes are generally lazy.

      2) Doesn’t matter. Remakes are largely out of the control of the original creator, so whatever happens will happen. And it really depends on which one ends up being better, the original story or the remake. Can’t anticipate the answer to that save for perhaps on a case-by-case basis.

      3) It depends on time. Two remakes in rapid succession is too much (see: constantly rebooting superhero comic books and movie franchises), but let 10-20+ years go by and the other one doesn’t even exist for most people.

      4) Once again, it depends on whether they remain true to the spirit of the original, and whether they have the original creator’s consent, both in general and on the specific details. To betray that spirit, whether out of ignorance or because they want the story to be something other than it is, is certainly disrespectful. A good remake should take the essence of the original story and convey that in a way that resonates with whatever (presumably different, whether due to time or medium) audience it’s now presenting it to.

      And yes, if my work ever gets adapted into another medium, I’d either be heavily involved or not selling at all. It’s not worth seeing it on the screen if I’m going to cringe at the results. Never going to happen of course, but it’s nice to think about : )

      P.S. Yes, thank you 😀

      P.P.S. Most of that is answered as an author, though in truth I feel the same either way. It’s just a bit hard to separate the author from the reader anymore.

      1. Reply


        My problem with remakes usually comes from a lack of understanding by the studios as to why the original was popular in the first place and what can a remake bring to viewing public that was lacking in the original. Too many remakes are just to generate money from “sure things”. Consider King Kong. Neither remake improved upon the original (IMO) even with the order of magnitude increase in special effects in the latter and a passage of time that you would assume would be long enough to be reasonable for a new update to be done. The Day the Earth Stood Still was another remake that reused a title and some of the plot and totally failed to grasp the original story. Not that the original kept the ending of the source material either: Farewell to the Master. A remake that was actually more faithful to the source material (Who Goes There) than the original movie was The Thing. Was that better? I’m not sure, but it did bring the story to a new set of viewers. OTOH, we’ve had Sherlock (the British show) and Elementary, that take the Holmes canon and spin new variations on the characters and stories. Those, whether or not you like them, they at least add some originality. Frankly, remakes fail because they are either too soon, as you point out, or are trying to recreate a story that was more appropriate to the time in which it was first produced. Can you imagine Casablanca being remade?(shudder). Better they should write a new story (even if it’s similar to another) than try to capitalize on the name to generate viewers.

        Are there any shows that you think were better in the remake? I guess my example would be Full Metal Alchemist and I really would like to see Arpeggio rebooted.

        1. daikama

          Well said! Agree completely – including wanting a faithful, unabridged 2-cour Arpeggio reboot.

          I would also add that the “FMA remake” (e.g. FMA Brotherhood) wasn’t IMO a “remake” at all as it told the original story contained in the source material. This ties into my question above as to whether it’s better to faithfully (key) adapt the original story first. Granted conjecture on my part, but if FMA Brotherhood was the first FMA adaptation, the other FMA adaptation would not have been made at all.

        2. Stilts

          To be fair, Fullmetal Alchemist wasn’t a reboot, that was just them following the actual manga story all the way to the end instead of being forced to wing it half way through. So that doesn’t much count. A new Arpeggio anime would almost certainly do the same thing.

          It’s hard for me to think of better remakes because I’ve so often never seen the original or the remake. Which is one of the good things about remakes – they introduce a good story to a new audience who would have never bothered to go back and watch the original. That’s worthy, I just don’t have an immediate example of a good one because for me, it’s usually only intellectually that I know something was a remake.

        3. daikama

          @Stilts: For FMA, my recollection is that it was more faithful (e.g. followed the manga) throughout the entire run rather than just at the end. Still, I’ll concede on FMA because it’s been a long time since I watched (especially the original), and I can’t remember well enough to contest your point with much conviction.

          As for Arpeggio, however, I strongly disagree with your comment. The manga (source material) is one of my favorite series (anime, manga or LN). I’m not sure if you’ve read the manga or not, but Arpeggio anime started to noticeably and materially deviate from the manga as early as episode 03 – 1/6th into the season.

          The anime was a stripped down, highly simplified version of the story which I still found inconsistent at times. They cut about 40% (maybe more) of the manga’s story including a couple central/important plot lines, a large number of characters (and I don’t mean random side characters either), and materially altered at least 2-3 of the characters it did included (e.g. Haurana).

          I realize that many at RC, including yourself, liked the anime, but a number of fans of the manga, such as myself, were very disappointed with the “adaptation”. It’s not an adaptation as much as an alternative version. IMO, the anime was “OK”/a little above average (got worse as it went on), but nowhere near as good as the original. JMO of course.

          In a last ditch effort to try and keep this on topic XD, I think the above discussion does show one thing. Regardless of whether a spinoff, adaptation, “reboot”, or alternative version, whenever you have a highly popular, well regarded original work, care must be taken to respect the original work and it’s fan base. If you don’t, you risk backlash from the fan base, possibly damaging the goodwill the original work created, or even the reputations of those who worked on the subsequent product. It’s a lot easier to lose trust than it is to acquire it in the first place.

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