The fall season is upon us – and rather than cover dozens of pilots individually, I’ll be posting brief reviews of new shows, grouped together by the night they debut. Tonight, we’ve got two of ABC’s new comedies destined to fail next to Modern Family – but only one of them deservedly.
Manhattan Love Story – D
(premieres 8:30pm ET on ABC)
Doesn’t this sound like a great love story? Two selfish (“driven”), immature people, who are forced to date each other begin to fall in love with each other. Seriously: that’s the conceit of this show, a flat line single-cam comedy topped off with the annoying conceit of “you can hear all the thoughts these two people are having!” Yes, that means constant inner monologues and voice overs – a silly concept that doesn’t work, especially when the two people at the center of the show never have a single thought about why they actually like each other. Instead, Analeigh Tipton and Jake McDorman go through the motions about two white people and their white friends and co-workers living in New York: one that rests its comedic laurels on jokes like “is he crying? Great; just when I turn out to like him, he’s gay”, and a female protagonist that doesn’t understand technology and just wants to live a pretty life in the pretty city. Disappointing? Only if you were expecting something from Manhattan Love Story and its brief, fleeting glimpses of competence, a show whose name sounds more akin to a predictable Lifetime movie than an intriguing new romantic comedy on a major network.
Selfie – B
(premieres 8pm ET on ABC)
Let’s just put it out there; Selfie isn’t a great pilot. But I counter with this question: what modern comedy pilot really is? 30 Rock was a mess, Cougar Town and New Girl were near-disasters… the point is, a bad pilot does not a bad show make. The real question with reviewing a pilot is really “could this show be any good?”
With Selfie, I think the answer to that question is a definitive mess. Created by Emily Kapnek (Suburgatory), Selfie is a modern take on My Fair Lady, starring Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley, a woman obsessed with social media and the vapidness that comes with it. When she runs up against personal and professional walls, she links up with Henry Higgs (John Cho), a self-image consultant, and good-looking guy to fill the Will They, Won’t They role quite nicely. And while its concept feels like the bastard child of social monetization and a desperate attempt to be Trendy, Selfie shows a lot of potential for the kind of show it could grow into; a hilarious, surreal story about two selfish people helping each other get over themselves (make sense?). The pilot isn’t there yet – but it’s sharp (almost to a fault at times; these characters can kind of be assholes to each other, though I always find that comedically appealing) and energetic, thanks to Gillan’s performance (and general adorable-ness) and Cho’s muted comedic sensabilities – given time, these two could grow into a hilarious comedic pair, though I’m afraid Selfie will never get its chance to shine. Regardless, it’s the most promising comedy pilot I’ve seen so far this fall.