CBS viewers will not get to find out "How I Met Your Dad" next season, as the network declined to pick up the new sitcom from the "How I Met Your Mother" creators, even though at one point it seemed one of the surest bets of any pilot at any network this spring.
And, no, it's not for the reason you may think.
After CBS' annual upfront week press conference with reporters (where they announced this fall schedule), I asked CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler if the decision had anything to do with the very loud and angry backlash to the "HIMYM" finale, which had featured the death of Ted Mosby's wife only moments after viewers saw their first meeting, all so he could end up with Aunt Robin instead.
"No, no," she insisted. "Absolutely not."(*)
(*) Nor did I ever think that would be the reason for it to not go forward. "HIMYM" was one of CBS' biggest comedies, even at the end, the finale did big numbers, and we have no way of knowing if the online outrage represented the feelings of "HIMYM" fandom at large, or if it was another "Snakes on a Plane"-style echo chamber. Had CBS picked up the show and it failed, maybe then Tassler might have blamed the reaction to the finale, but not until then.
Nor was the decision apparently about money, despite published reports last week that CBS and the show's studio were haggling over CBS getting an ownership stake in the new series, which would have starred indie film actress Greta Gerwig (who would have also been a writer on the show) as a newly-divorced woman looking for love, and Meg Ryan as the voice narrating her adventures from the future. Instead, as Tassler explained to us all during the press conference, she and the other CBS executives weren't crazy about the pilot from "HIMYM" creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas and "Up All Night" creator Emily Spivey.
"To say we loved this show and we love these producers is an understatement," Tassler said of the "HIMYM" guys. "There were elements of the pilot that didn't work out. We tried to reach out and engage them in terms of them redoing the pilot. That's not happening right now."
Tassler pointed out that CBS has had a lot of success re-doing pilots, most notably with "The Big Bang Theory," which shot an earlier pilot the year before with Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and two female leads who were dropped in favor of Kaley Cuoco.
But for Bays, Thomas and Spivey, re-piloting "wasn't what they wanted to do," said Tasser. "We felt that re-piloting was in the best interest of protecting the creative interests of the show."
"HIMYD" isn't completely dead yet. Starting tomorrow, the studio can shop it elsewhere, including to its sister network, FOX. It's not unprecedented for spin-offs — and this seems only very tenuously connected to "HIMYM" — to debut on a different network from the original show, like "The Golden Palace" airing on CBS after "Golden Girls" was a long-running NBC hit. And Tassler's comments today could have been public posturing to get the creators to reconsider their stance and stay with the network that was their home for so many years.
But this is becoming an unlikely trend with CBS. A year ago, the "Beverly Hills Cop" series from Shawn Ryan, featuring Eddie Murphy in a recurring role, seemed the most obvious pick-up on any network, but CBS passed. This year, "HIMYD" winds up in limbo rather than leading off the Monday night lineup like Ted, Barney and the gang used to.
"I'm heartsick," Tassler added. "We loved this brand."
What does everybody else think? Disappointed you won't get to see CBS try to turn mumblecore darling Gerwig into a sitcom star? Pleased you won't have to spend so many years wondering if her future husband will wind up dead just like Tracy?