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How Indie Star Greta Gerwig Met Her New CBS Sitcom

Greta Gerwig, seen here at the Berlinale International Film Festival last week, is coming to a CBS pilot.
Ian Gavan
Getty Images
Greta Gerwig, seen here at the Berlinale International Film Festival last week, is coming to a CBS pilot.

News broke last night that Greta Gerwig, most recently admired for Frances Ha, which she starred in and co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach, will star in (and co-produce) a comedy pilot for CBS.

Not just any comedy pilot, though: Gerwig is working on How I Met Your Dad, a parallel to the concluding How I Met Your Mother from the same producers, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas.

There's no guarantee the show will actually happen; they've got to make the pilot. A lot can happen. But it's entirely possible — you might even say pretty likely, given the long life and lucrative nature of HIMYM — that when we get to the fall, an actress strongly associated with independent film will be moving, in her prime, to the world of half-hour network comedy.

The checkmarks in the pro and con columns are all over the map with this particular project: CBS is the home of Two And A Half Men, but it's also currently employing Allison Janney on Mom and Melissa McCarthy on Mike and Molly. HIMYM and its long, slow, poorly executed march to the end have frustrated the blue French horn out of many of those who loved its first few seasons, but Carter and Bays have, along the way, done some beautiful, evocative, really funny, deeply felt television. And they're working with Emily Spivey, who spent years writing for Parks And Recreation and Saturday Night Live. And they say Gerwig is going to have some creative input on the writing and producing end, though it's hard to know exactly how much, even with shows that ... you know, exist, let alone those that are still eye-twinkles.

It does seem unlikely that an actress with Gerwig's particular bundle of interests will want to be locked into this project forever, but that's probably a good thing, if one assumes (as I do) that nothing could be worse for How I Met Your Dad than going and going and going. If an in-demand actress works as a time limit on a project like this, good. If she's going to be restless before she gets accustomed to a regular gig, great.

All these boundaries are so porous now — film versus television, network versus cable versus things that are neither network nor cable, "indie" versus corporate, that more than ever, letting smart people go and do a thing and then waiting to see how it goes is healthy. It might sound dubious, but so did making a TV show based on M*A*S*H.

It's easy to chalk a decision like this on Gerwig's part up to check-seeking or stability-seeking or mortgage-payment-craving, but ... who knows? Maybe she loves HIMYM. Maybe they promised her she could write. Maybe they convinced her that her genuinely weird sensibility would be a fit. The world of indie film is no limitless paradise, either — maybe a promise that she could build a character week-in and week-out had some appeal. Maybe she wants to stay in one place. There are lots of reasons why people do things, and not all of them are the most cynical ones imaginable. (Many are. Many are, but not all.)

The entire process of waiting to see creative projects is knowing the odds are in favor of "eh" because they are always in favor of "eh," because creative projects are hard. This new show statistically will probably be underwhelming simply because of the laws of probability. But if The LEGO Movie can be an explosive storm of awesome despite being a toy commercial and a major studio film and released in February, I can leave the door open for this.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.