[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: “Manhattan Love Story” (ABC)
The Pitch: “Wouldn't you love to know what young men and women were thinking as they begin to fall in love?” “Good GOD no.” “Oh. Ummm…”
Quick Response: About half-way through my viewing of “Manhattan Love Story,” my notes read, “FREE ANALEIGH TIPTON.” And that's not because this allegedly romantic alleged comedy is airing on ABC and therefore offers all of America the chance to enjoy the “America's Next Top Model” veteran for no cost. And it wasn't that I wanted Tipton's doe-eyed naif Dana to be transplanted to a better show, because Dana's basically Dreama Walker's character from “Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23” and every other callow transplant in the big city ever depicted on any screen. And what have those characters all been thinking about? Purses! I have no way of knowing if this is true, but it passes for enlightenment in Jeff Lowell's script. On the masculine side of things, we discover that men primarily think about boobs and getting laid, which is such a superficial view of masculine thought, given the amount of time I also spend thinking about my fantasy sports rosters. The pilot's other moments of “inspiration” are similarly trite. Dana is, for example, so utterly flummoxed by technology that you'd assume she had been created by Aaron Sorkin, if only the dialogue were better. “Manhattan Love Story” is designed as — you're never going to believe this — a love story, but “Greek” veteran Jake McDorman's Peter is introduced as a complete and total dick and while that's never stopped certain viewers from vibing on otherwise attractive male anti-heroes — I give you Mr. Logan Echolls, who was effectively introduced as a monster and yet certain viewers loved him anyway — it invariably causes me to check out. I'll watch a love story in which I kinda like the idea that the two main characters might find happiness together. That's reasonable, right? Or I'll watch a dissolution-of-love story if I find the characters and their hostilities to be interesting. But if I feel pity towards one character and active dislike towards the other and I need to pretend that they're soulmates? That's not an investment I'm going to make. So it's not McDorman's fault that I hate Peter, but he plays into the character's douchy side enough that he doesn't make things better. Tipton, in contrast, at least adds value here. She has insanely expressive eyes, which are important for a character who's doing a lot of thinking-out-loud and her whispery, wispy voice gives an almost apologetic filter to some of Dana's duller thoughts. The primary cast is rounded out by Nicolas Wright and Jade Catta-Preta, whose characters are grating and manic enough that we're grateful we don't have to peek inside their brains as well. Oh and Kurt Fuller is here. He makes things better, though only a small amount in this case. And the New York setting isn't badly used, though it isn't used distinctively enough to justify billing in the title.
Desire To Watch Again: Not high. “Manhattan Love Story” has one more episode to even out the supporting cast and find a new approach to its male lead. But if we're being honest, going against “NCIS” and “The Voice” and “The Flash” (jury's still out on FOX's “Utopia”) and relying on the initially noxious “Selfie” as a lead-in, it's hard to have much confidence in the longevity here. Free Analeigh Tipton.
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