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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PILOT REVIEW: Selfie

SELFIE

Starring: Karen Gillan, John Cho, David Harewood, Allyn Rachel, Tim Peper, Da'Vine Joy Randolph

Created by Emily Kapnek
Written by Emily Kapnek, Directed by Julie Anne Robinson

THE PREMISE: Selfie is a new sitcom from the creator of Suburgatory and based loosely on My Fair Lady. Eliza Dooly (Karen Gillan) - get it? - is self-absorbed and obsessed with all things social media at the expense of creating real friendships. When she has a social media disaster on an airplane (she vomits all over herself the plane and herself and it goes viral), she hires Henry Higenbottam (John Cho) - get it again? - to rehab her image. This includes actually connecting with people in a non-digital way. Rounding out the main cast is Henry's boss, Sam Saperstein (Dorian Harewood), Eliza's nerdy neighbor Bryn (Allyn Rachel), and company receptionist Charmonique (Da'Vine Joy Randolph).

THE GOOD: Some of the supporting cast is serviceable. John Cho is likable enough as the modern-day Henry Higgins. It's clear that the show is trying to get Da'Vine Joy Randolph to be the sassy black lady role filled in other shows by people like Retta in Parks and Recreation. She doesn't have it quite down yet but she's arguably the most enjoyable presence in the pilot.

THE BAD: Where to start? Forgive me for using this show to go on a rant, but here we go. A show like this is just so ill-conceived. It is trying so hard to be "hip" and "cool" in 2014 but it already feels a little bit lame and I can't imagine how lame it will look in five years or more. Think back through TV history - how many hit classic shows focused on real topical stuff? Maybe Murphy Brown, but that show doesn't hold up well at all. The best shows in their time and in history are ones that explore universal truths, not trendy truths in 2014 with things like the Vine, Twitter, and Facebook images floating across the screen or a Frozen reference. Aside from that major structural problem, it was such an annoying show. There was the horrible "Selfie" song, unnecessary rhyming, and extended vomit gag within the first three minutes. The rhyming was overused throughout the pilot by different characters in different settings. Then as if it wasn't bad enough, the show completely changed tones about halfway through (that Henry Higenbottam is quite a miracle worker!) Gone was the onslaught of social media images and a sweeter, simpler comedy followed. It was maybe slightly better but it still wasn't good and it was such a shift, it was hard to take seriously. Another sign that this show doesn't know what it wants to be.

BOTTOM LINE: Selfie was the first new show I watched in the 2014-15 season since it was available online in August. It did not get the season off to a good start. This may be the next in a line of unfortunate titles for ABC sitcoms (following Cougar Town and Trophy Wife) but I hope no one thinks the title is the problem with this show. The problems run much deeper and the biggest problem, once again, is how hard it tries to be so "now." That won't even make it relevant in 2015.

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