When news broke last night that indie film star Greta Gerwig was heading to TV to star in the How I Met Your Mother spinoff—widely thought of as a lazy cash grab—people were outraged. But how bad an idea is this really?
Gerwig will play Sally, the lead in How I Met Your Dad, described as "a female Peter Pan who never has grown up and has no idea where she's going in life," which doesn't sound all that different from her character in her widely acclaimed movie Frances Ha. It has also been widely reported that Gerwig will have a behind the scenes role. She'll be a producer and, if the show gets picked up, a writer on the show, which will film in New York City. (The pilot, Daniel Fienberg of HitFix reported, will shoot in Los Angeles.)
The news was not received kindly, especially by film fans who saw Gerwig's decision to take on this role as a major step downward. Even The Daily Beast tweeted in announcing the news that Gerwig "stoops" to TV. Critic Jordan Hoffman tweeted, for instance: "Greta Gerwig may've just secured her financial future but officially became of no interest to me anymore." The persistent refrain, for better or for worse, was that this move was simply a money making endeavor on Gerwig's part. New York magazine's Matt Zoller Seitz wrote: "Maybe Greta Gerwig is tired of living out of suitcases and wants to try the whole 'boring homeowner' thing." Katey Rich of Vanity Fair sympathized: "I am the same age as Greta Gerwig. I too would like to buy a house someday. I get it."
And there is obviously some call to worry. CBS has a brief recent history of taking really promising film actresses and putting them in sitcoms that, while having mass appeal, don't really click with critics. See, for instance, Anna Faris in Mom, Kat Dennings in 2 Broke Girls. It's not only young actresses being held in CBS's thrall, considering Allison Janney in Mom and Margo Martindale in The Millers .
But calling foul on Gerwig's decision is also unfair and snobbish. No one would be complaining if she ended up on HBO. As LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson tweeted: "Wait, more female writers and actresses and storylines on network TV is a bad thing?" It's clear that How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas and executive producer Emily Spivey lured Gerwig with some amount of creative control. And while Gerwig may seem an odd fit for a network sitcom, her sensibilities are right for a story about a woman floundering in love. (Also worth noting, as Daniel Ralston did on Twitter, that it's not as if Gerwig hasn't appeared in any commercial projects. She was in the remake of Arthur and the rom com No Strings Attached.)
Furthermore, How I Met Your Mother, nine seasons in, is not going out on a high note, but it's a show that has, at times, been beloved. Gerwig could make a genuinely good sitcom. Let's give her the chance.