There was a time in which How I Met Your Mother was really good prime time sitcom. It was adventurous and daring in its episode structure; it played with the rules of television and we loved it. Now, its spinoff, How I Met Your Dad, has done something daring by teaming up with indie darling Greta Gerwig, and apparently, this is the worst thing ever.
Gerwig is, of course, the star of 2013 summer indie hit Frances Ha, but before that she enjoyed a bit of “break” in Greenberg, where she met her boyfriend writer/director Noah Baumbach. The pair worked together on Frances Ha and afterwards the duo became something of indie royalty (or at the very least indie lords). Naturally, fans were upset to see this true artist appear with her name tied to a spinoff that’s already received heavy groans from the peanut gallery.
But Gerwig doesn’t really deserve all this ire. She’s trying something out and after all, television is the new frontier where film stars can test the waters without ringing the death knell on their big screen careers. The more serious set doesn’t usually choose CBS — though Melissa McCarthy and Anna Faris seem to be pretty happy on their average laugh-track heavy series — but let us just assume for a few minutes that Gerwig isn’t an idiot and might know what she’s doing, shall we?
While Gerwig is beloved as an indie kid thanks to her involvement in the mumblecore film movement, this isn’t exactly the first time we’ve seen her try on something — dare I say it — mainstream. When Liz Meriweather needed a pitch-perfect group of roommates for Natalie Portman in her blockbuster rom-com No Strings Attached, she looked no further than Mindy Kaling and Gerwig. And when Russell Brand needed a romantic interest in the inconceivable, but very real Arthur remake, Gerwig was there. And while the small community of hard core film lovers know Gerwig for her smaller, more intimate projects, most of America does not. How I Met Your Father will, at the very least, give Gerwig a platform for greater recognition — not to mention the fact that the show will probably be better for hiring her.
And greater recognition is essential for a woman filmmaker in an industry that’s not improved its employment of women in behind-the-scenes film roles at all since 1998. Gerwig will get the chance to not only get her face out there, but to get her writing out there as well as a producer-writer on How I Met Your Father, should it get past pilot season. While this news comes dressed in CBS logos and you can probably already see the flashy ads and goofy announcer’s voice, try to curb the immediate urge to give into nausea. This could be a good thing.
Even if HIMYD doesn’t boost Gerwig’s writing and producing career, at the very least, it could up her film game. Looking through other network sitcom stars, there’s a very distinct pool of indie actors hiding out among the silly one-liners and pratfalls. Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation has made time to star in smaller films like Safety Not Guaranteed and The To-Do List; New Girl’s Jake Johnson was also in Safety Not Guaranteed as well as Drinking Buddies; and even How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel made time in his schedule for movies like Jeff, Who Lives at Home and writing and starring his dream-come-to-life, The Muppets.
For lesser-known, but very talented actors, a network sitcom could actually be rather beneficial. The series gets their name out there consistently and in a big way, while still giving them months at a time off to pursue other projects should they be so inclined. Plus, having a name that’s easily recognizable to the general public is — wait for it — a really great thing for the indie film industry. That recognition creates greater demand for these generally smaller, lovingly crafted motion pictures in a way that names insulated in the indie-dom simply can’t.
So while indie purists will probably hate everything I just said, the rest of you should think about Gerwig’s new gig thusly: a talented, young woman has just been made a writer, producer, and star of a highly-anticipated new series and now the rest of the country will understand why her fans adore her. If you find something wrong with that sentence, then frankly, my dear, I can’t help you.
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