There’s a lot to like about ABC’s freshman comedy Selfie, but much like how Henry feels about Eliza, there are plenty of rough edges that need smoothing out.
Let’s start with the good. First of all, we love the premise. A modern My Fair Lady? Excellent, and the twist on it is clever, too. In this version, street urchin Eliza Doolittle is Eliza Dooley, a marketing representative with a massive online following, addicted to chronicling every movement of her life online. After an embarrassing fiasco on the plane ride from hell where she found out her boyfriend was married, all her coworkers despise her, and two bags full of vomit exploded all over her (thanks for that, ABC), she decides she needs to re-brand her image. In her words, “Being friended isn’t the same as having friends,” and she’s decided she’d like a few of those in her life.
Enter Henry, a branding genius who works at the same company as Eliza. He can’t resist the challenge of giving her an entire personality makeover even though, as he claims, he despises everything about her.
Karen Gillan is adorable. John Cho can do no wrong. They’ve got a nice, easy chemistry, and even when the show falls into jokey rhyming patter, trying to emulate Shaw in a way that doesn’t quite land, these two manage to sell it.
But as much as we’re always on board for the old opposites attract trope, there are a few things putting us off about the pilot. First of all: it’s mean. There’s no getting around that, and it’s to be expected, to a certain extent: My Fair Lady‘s Henry Higgins was also a smug jerk. But still, there’s something that rankles in 2014 at seeing a man order a woman to change everything about herself, from her personality to her physical appearance. It rankles even more when Henry goes from, “I am not your friend,” to “Wow, you are super-beautiful,” as soon as Eliza softens her look. There’s something unintentionally grating about that.
And what’s with all the digs at New Girl? Eliza’s next-door neighbor Bryn is a Target knockoff version of Zooey Deschanel, from the hairstyle to the giant glasses to the fashion sense, and the scene where she and her book club burst into a ukulele-accompanied version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” isn’t so much a parody as it is a straight-up imitation. It’s barely even a joke, it’s just a strange riff where it feels like we’re being winked at through the camera, as though the cast is saying, “Get it? Get it? They’d do this on New Girl!” Is there bad blood between the creative team at Selfie and New Girl or something?
Still, Gillan and Cho are two of our favorite actors and we’re psyched to see them getting work. The history of sitcoms we’ve grown to love that have had rough pilots is long and distinguished.
Fingers crossed we can add Selfie to the list.