Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reviews - Selfie and Manhattan Love Story

Just a little note before we move onto the reviews:  a very savvy friend of mine gave me a great idea - after I give my familiar BOTTOM LINE closing, I'm going to give each show's watchability a TV star rating, four TVs being must-see, three TVs being worth-checking-out, two TVs being watch or don't watch but ok to miss, and one TV being skip it completely.  Let me know in the comments if you like this.

Now, on to the reviews!

ABC premiered two of its new sitcoms tonight, Selfie and Manhattan Love Story.  Without knowing too much, these seem like a good pairing, both seemingly cute, lighthearted series.  So how are they?

First there was Selfie, which stars two actors I really like:  Karen Gillan, who I was first introduced to as Amy Pond, one of the most popular companions on BBC America's Doctor Who, and John Cho, who has done everything from American Pie (he was one of the "MILF!" guys) to the Harold & Kumar movies to the Star Trek reboot (he's Sulu) to most recently FOX's Sleepy Hollow.  So my hopes were high.  I also liked the concept going in:

Selfie is about a young woman, Eliza Dooley (Gillan), who is obsessed with social media.  Her life revolves around her web presence (263,000 followers and counting) and persona, marking virtually every moment of her life with posts, tweets and selfies.  But when reality hits - that being "friended" is not the same as having actual friends - she enlists her co-worker marketing guru, Henry (Cho), to 'rebrand' her self-involved reputation and teach her how to connect to the world and the people around her.

Of course this is a new take on the classic Pygmalion/My Fair Lady (even going with Dooly/Dolittle and Henry, as in Higgins).  Once again we have a voice-over giving commentary throughout (seriously, like EVERY sitcom has this now!! - this particular one reminds me of Carrie on Sex and the City).  Right off the bat this is, as a friend rightly put it, is a woman you want to punch in the face. Hard.  But that means Gillan is doing her job (and decently hiding her natural Scottish accent behind obnoxious mean girl speak), making you believe this is someone who wouldn't have friends in real life and is oblivious to it.  She pulls off the "it's all about me" attitude, and she does it in just a couple of minutes, before a very public downfall (on a flight, two airsick bags full of puke explode all over her in front of dozens of her co-workers ... following her discovery that the guy she's been sleeping with is married) occurs and you immediately feel sorry for her.


Eliza:  " I spent years laughing at stupid idiots on the internet, and now that stupid idiot was me." she woes, retunring to her seat as everyone snaps photos of her humiliation amid floating social media icons (clever).

Of course the change isn't going to happen overnight, and Eliza is still going to say things and act in ways that spur anything but sympathy, but you know there's the possibility, and that's worth watching.  Cho is a very versatile actor, and I like him in this role (and yay for an Asian leading man!), plus he and Gillan make good comic foils. Just please, writers, do NOT get them romantically involved!  They work just the way they are.

Points for Gillan's decent wig (she shaved her head last year for the role of Nebula in this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy) - I hear they actually made it from her own hair (which is spectacular ... if I could have that color red ...).  Extra points to putting Cho in a bowtie - perhaps a nod to Gillan's former Doctor Who costar Matt Smith, whose Doctor always wore bowties?

I may be biased because I like the cast so much, but I really like Selfie and think it's one of the stronger new shows.

BOTTOM LINE:  #watchthisshow, #selfieisfun, #YTTTGokaysSelfie

Selfie airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC.

Manhattan Love Story is "the love story where you'll never ask 'What were they thinking?' because you'll already know."  This romantic comedy stars Analeigh Tipton (Hung, America's Next Top Model) and Jake McDorman (Shameless) as Peter and Dana, a newly dating couple who will expose the differences between men and women through their unfiltered thoughts - and often contradictory actions.  Co-starring Nicholas Wright (Sensitive Skin), Jade Catta-Preta (Califonication) and Kurt Fuller (Supernatural, Psych).

Okay, here we have voice-over,  but not in the usual sense.  As explained above, we're hearing Peter and Dana's thoughts, so there is a lot of reacting by the two leads as we watch them emoting (or fake-emoting) while hearing what they're thinking.  Of course in real life there wouldn't be nearly as much silence during a conversation.  It's all about the gimmick here. There is interaction with other people that is not in VO, but we hear Peter and Dana's thoughts there, too.  It's not as annoying or distracting as I thought it would be, and at least it's a different take on the VO I've been hoping for.

Where I think the show goes wrong is pigeonholing the thoughts men and women have.  Peter walks down the street and of course mentally yays and nays the women passing by him that he'd sleep with.  Dana walks down the street mentally ogling purses.  Indeed these are thoughts men and women have, but it's not ALL that's thought about ... right?  The trap here is that while we are focusing on just these two people, these are the thoughts we're hearing, and they're just so ... expected.  Stereotypical.  I kind of wish the writers had surprised us with unexpected thoughts.  Really wonder how the great Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally) would have written this.

The pilot grew on me as it went on, and the leads are likeable, especially Dana, who you root for as she tries to acclimate to the major life change she's just made - new city, new job - and the animosity she receives by her new co-workers.  You can probably guess that this relationship is going to have the usual ups and downs, humorous, awkward discoveries of bad habits, fights and make-ups, etc.  It is, after all, called a love story.  But while I respect a new approach to a show, I wonder if this is one that can go on for many seasons to come.  Remember Mixology?  Of course not ... interesting idea, no chance for longevity.  I think it would work better if it was just going for a one-shot, 13-ep run.  Guess we'll see.

BOTTOM LINE:  Moderately wooed, but not thoroughly swept off my feet.  


Manhattan Love Story airs Tuesdays at 8:30pm on ABC.

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