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25 August 2014 @ 06:59 pm
TV Pilot Review: Selfie  
Those living in the US can watch this ABC comedy starring Karen Gillan and John Cho HERE on Hulu.

Selfie is an updated adaptation of My Fair Lady or Pygmalion. Eliza Dooley (Gillan) is a social media obsessed junior sales rep who mistakenly believes her 'followers' and 'friends' on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. are her actual friends. Narcissistic, superficial, and shallow, she lives a life of speaking in acronyms and being so self-involved that she completely missed that fact that her last 'boyfriend' was married the entire time and that her coworkers despise her. After an incident which opens her eyes (sort of) to how much people dislike her, she decides she needs to retool her image. Henry (Cho) is a marketing and PR guru at Eliza's pharmaceutical firm who recently managed to save the company's reputation after it put out a nasal spray that caused satanic hallucinations. After Eliza hears about this, she decides Henry is the right person to 'rebrand' her. Despite hating just about everything related to social media, Henry accepts the task as a kind of challenge for himself.

Okay, I'll just start out by saying I wouldn't have given this show even a glance had it not been for John Cho. He's made some pretty questionable things in the past but I've always given his stuff at least a try. But after watching the trailer for this show, I was prepared to dump it after one viewing. However, I'm surprised to report that I'll be giving this show at least three tries. I'm going to say something slightly controversial and declare that I enjoyed the pilot of Selfie a lot more than I did the pilot for Sherlock. I think that has largely to do with managing expectations and goals from the show runners. No one writing Selfie is trying to say something meaningful or ground-breaking and they've set the bar very low for themselves which you pick up on the minute the pilot starts. Hence, I wasn't looking for really anything and was pleasantly surprised when I got something.

I'll start with the negatives to cross those off. Firstly, the writing isn't great. Many of the jokes fall a bit flat and halfway through the script did this bizarre rhyming thing where Henry gave Eliza instructions in rhymes and later they had some dialogue that also rhymed. I have no idea if they were trying to reference the musical My Fair Lady but it just felt very off. There's also the usual gender unfairness where women who sleep with married men are sluts but the married men who do this are somehow given a pass. Look, I'm sure Eliza is completely self-absorbed but she didn't actually know the guy was married while the guy willfully cheated on his wife. I'd say he comes out looking worse than her in that situation.

But onto the positives. Mainly, the acting. I've only ever seen Karen Gillan in Doctor Who and in that show she played a character I found largely problematic because the writers were trying to convince me tooth and nail that I should love her when I didn't. Eliza is the exact opposite of this in many ways because the writers set her up to be so obnoxious that we should love it when she suffers. But weirdly, Gillan plays her with a lot of charm and is way funnier than the script allows her to be which in turn made Eliza kind of likable even as I rolled my eyes at her. Yes, she's irritating, especially at the start, but there's something rather honest about Eliza in that she truly believes she's fabulous because of her online friends and when she realizes it's all a lie, her hurt and sadness is quite real. You can accuse her of self-absorption and ridiculous ignorance but she's not actually fake or a hypocrite which is more than I can say for some of the other characters.

Gillan also has a surprising amount of chemistry with John Cho. I say surprising because I really thought this show was going to go for the superficial, energetic girl meets stodgy, uptight boy and together they find a happy medium. And I think the writers largely wrote just that. But both Gillan and Cho put in enough personality into their characters that they manage to rise some what above their material. The actors, when they're not completely bogged down by the awkward script, bounce off each other really well and I'd be happy with the ultimate outcome either being a romance or just Eliza and Henry being good friends. Cho's Henry clearly has some sort of backstory with regard to social media and why he hates it so much and as he didn't get as much screen time, his character remains a little vague, but promising.

Overall, I felt like this show has potential to become rather good if the writing could just bump itself up a few notches and allow the talents of their stars to really shine.