How I Met Your Father features another confusing sibling dynamic like HIMYM’s Barney and James, but makes Jesse and Ellen’s explanations worse. While Jesse and Ellen being questioned as mixed-race siblings is one of the first repeated running gags from HIMYM, it isn’t the only relationship that the spinoff takes from the original series. Right off the bat, How I Met Your Father introduces a dynamic that mirrors Robin and Ted with Sophie and Jesse, Sid and Hannah are essentially the new Marshall and Lily, and Sid and Jesse are best friends from college who happen to live together in Ted and Marshall’s old apartment. As episode 1 only gives a quick glimpse into the characters’ lives, it’s difficult to tell how these other repeated relationships will compare to HIMYM, but Jesse and Ellen already made their family bond worse than Barney and James’.
Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) and his brother James (Wayne Brady) was one of the best side-relationships in HIMYM’s story, with their dynamic first being introduced in season 2. When Robin meets James, the gang tells her that he and Barney are very different because James is gay and HIMYM‘s Barney is an incessant womanizer. James arrives, and Robin is even more confused because James is Black and Barney is white. The story is that James and Barney are half-siblings, with both sharing a white mother while Barney’s father (John Lithgow) is white and James’ father (Ben Vereen) is Black. Even though the Stinson brothers don’t physically resemble one another, they never let anyone question them being family, especially since their mother once called them “little racists” when they asked why they didn’t look the same.
The first episode of How I Met Your Father directly repeats this sibling relationship with Jesse and Ellen, as Jesse (GLOW actor Chris Lowell) is white and Ellen (Tien Tran) is Asian, but makes their bond and attitude toward their being related less charming. Ellen first introduces herself as Jesse’s sister, but adds a disclaimer that she’s “adopted, obviously.” While the mixed-race sibling confusion of Barney and James worked to show just how similar they were and that there was no denying their being brothers despite their appearances, How I Met Your Father’s repetition is worse by Ellen feeling compelled to say they’re not blood-related. By needing to include a disclaimer that they’re siblings, but not actually related, Ellen and Jesse’s family dynamic feels much more separated than Barney and James. HIMYM’s siblings wouldn’t let people question them being brothers, but How I Met Your Father’s characters seem to expect and welcome it.
Although Barney and James actually being blood-related half-siblings does likely change their bond compared to Jesse and Ellen, How I Met Your Father’s similar sibling confusing is undermined even more by making it seem like they can’t fully claim each other as family by being adopted. How I Met Your Father’s siblings also mirror HIMYM’s Stinson brothers in that one is content with being single and doesn’t want to get married, while the other has already been in a fully-committed relationship. Barney even felt that James was betraying him upon discovering he was engaged to Tom, since Barney had no intentions to get married before dating Quinn and Robin. While Jesse is averse to marriage after his viral “proposal fail,” Ellen just got divorced and is looking to find more women in NYC.
Though Jesse and Ellen’s sibling bond currently isn’t as strong or charming, How I Met Your Father actually has the opportunity to do more with the characters than HIMYM, because James was never integrated into the group unless it was a big moment for Barney. With Jesse and Ellen equally involved in How I Met Your Father’s gang, the sibling dynamic may actually become more fruitful for the plot and incorporate the family nuances that made Monica and Ross’ Friends roles so much better. While Jesse and Ellen’s family being back in Ohio means they likely won’t be seen often, How I Met Your Father is adding a new layer to the dynamic of its main characters that HIMYM lacked.
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