I can’t be the only person who experienced a full body shudder at the news of an ABC sitcom carried the title “Selfie.” I gave it a chance based on the casting choices, however the pilot is a grating experience to endure.
Selfie is meant as a modern day update to the premise of Pygmalion, and its musical version, My Fair Lady. Karen Gillen plays Eliza Dooley, a woman who reinvented the misfit of her youth into a social media savvy juggernaut with a huge numbers of followers and internet friends. After a some things in her life fall apart publicly, Eliza discovers followers and “Likes” don’t translate into real world friends. So Eliza begs Henry Higgenbottam (John Cho), a successful creative at her workplace, to help her rebrand her image.
While there’s no way to argue with the basic premise of Selfie, after all, this is a tried and true, successful plot. The issue with Selfie is all in the execution. Selfie tries so hard to make the character of Eliza both super cool and a commentary on the plugged in generation, that nothing really lands. Eliza constantly spouts buzz speak that sounds dated the second the words leave her mouth. Where My Fair Lady invests us in the plot of this character being raised from simple beginnings, Eliza is already successful by the culture’s standards. Yes, she finds that life hollow, but this doesn’t make her pursuit of Henry’s assistance genuine. Selfie’s pilot also makes terrible use of the talented and attractive Karen Gillen. Her success and talent as Amy Pond, companion to Matt Smith’s Doctor Who, is difficult to see here. Her accent is muddled at best and she speaks to fast it’s annoying. I realize this is probably the point, but it makes it hard to sit through a half hour episode. Selfie has no problem calling attention to Ms. Gillen’s beauty, however, with at least one scene where the camera slowly glides across her underwear clad body while another character tells her how pretty she is. It’s a bit creepy and leering.
John Cho fares better as the poorly named Henry Higgenbottam, maintaining his composure as the stuffy and uptight mentor. The pilot doesn’t give him much to do but repeat the same advice over and over again before it establishes the hints of a romantic angle and how the show will progress. Still, it’s good to see Mr. Cho up front and center on a network show.
Of course, we need to keep in mind that this is still just a pilot, and many things can change as the show gets going. As it stands now, Selfie might be worth a second look, but we’ll need to see a shift to better establish these characters as people I want to spend time with.
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