TV Review - Selfie vs. Manhattan Love Story

John Cho and Karen Gillan in "Selfie"
The ABC network premiered two new romantic comedies this fall. One is surprisingly lovely, sweet and funny, even though initially I thought it felt so contrived. The other is frustrating and almost painful to watch.

Selfie is a modern-day remake of the play Pygmalion, which was famously made into a film My Fair Lady (1964). At the same time, the show seeks to satirize social media. The term "selfie" is a term born out of social media, which refers to a picture that one takes of him or herself, usually with a smart phone, for the express purpose of sharing it online.

All of this sounds contrived and rather much like the lamest of gimmicks. However, the actors make it work. They sell the Hell out of it and charm the viewers so acutely. Karen Gillan stars as Eliza Dooley, the best sales representative at a pharmaceuticals company who is the best because she's focused a lot on her beauty, so much as she's become extremely superficial.

John Cho stars as Henry, a marketing and advertising executive at the same company who specializes in re-branding campaigns. When things start to go wrong for Eliza and she realizes that her Facebook friends aren't really her real friends and her obsession with social media has made her quite anti-social, she asks Henry to help "re-brand" her.

Henry's tasks include trying to make Eliza more empathetic and aware of the people around her, as well as their feelings. He wants to make her less self-involved, less focused on her smart phone and more mild-mannered. Along with that comes a desire for Eliza to be less sexual and less superficial.

Yet, Henry isn't perfect. He is very conservative, old-fashioned and all about work and no play. He's an example of Eliza's pendulum swinging totally the other way and staying there. The trick of the series is getting him to loosen up and move a little bit toward Eliza's way of thinking. Both of them have to make unlikely friendships.

Along the way, head writer Emily Kapnek and her team have created some great gags and hilarious characters that keep me coming back aside from the two great leads. At the top of which is David Harewood (Homeland) who plays Sam Saperstein, Eliza and Henry's boss at the company.

There have been several sitcoms recently that have utilized the weird or odd, African-American or black guy who is the boss of whatever work environment. FOX did it twice with Enlisted and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Harewood's Saperstein lies somewhere in between Keith David and Andre Braugher. He also seems to have a quasi-lustful interest toward Henry. Saperstein kisses Henry in the pilot and then in Episode 3 gets incredibly close to Henry, complimenting his smell.

There's so many great gags like playing Lady Gaga's Bad Romance on an ukelele, a picture of a breast-feeding baby and a flash mob of one. All of it has endeared me and made me an instant fan of the show.

Analeigh Tipton and Jake McDorman
in "Manhattan Love Story"
Manhattan Love Story isn't a remake or a satire of anything. Written by Jeff Lowell, it's supposedly an original take on single people dating in modern-day New York City. It's just unfortunate that none of the people in it are likeable in the least. Yet, the title suggests that the two leads falling in love is inevitable, which to me is so contrived and forced. I'd rather the characters separate and never interact with each other or anyone ever again.

Analeigh Tipton stars as Dana, a girl who is very much an Ally McBeal-type, except she's way dumber. It's almost offensive how dumb she is. Ally McBeal had her distractions and she was certainly clumsy, but she was never as stupid as this girl. Arguably, Ally McBeal was pathetic but not as pathetic as the girl here.

Jake McDorman co-stars as Peter, a basic horn-dog who at almost every turn proves that he doesn't give a damn about this girl. He could and would move on to the next girl without giving Dana a second thought or if he did, not much of one. At the end of the pilot episode, he does something romantic, but it's almost out of guilt. Yet, by the next episode, he's onto the next girl.

Even if I could get over this, the supporting characters are atrocious. They are annoying beyond belief. They're not even annoying in the way friends are in sitcoms. They're worse in that they're not funny. Episode 3 breaks the vicious cycle by introducing a character in Dana's world who is charming and nice. He's Tucker, played by Nico Evers-Swindell, the New Zealand actor who recently played Prince William in a TV movie.

The joke is that Dana can't tell if Tucker is just British or if he's gay. The problem is that the show doesn't play the joke for its maximum effectiveness. It's less of a question or a confusion than it perhaps could have been. First off, the show gives away the joke in the title. Therefore, the question or confusion over Tucker's sexuality is spoiled from the initial encounter, so it's never able to generate any laughs.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DL.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 8PM on ABC.

Manhattan Love Story.
One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-DL.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 8:30PM on ABC.


Popular Posts