[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: “Selfie” (ABC)
The Pitch: “It's a modern take on 'My Fair Lady.'” “Is there singing?” “No.” “Then it's a modern take on 'Pygmalion.'” “Fine. Whatever.]
Quick Response: [If I'm being honest, there actually IS a “musical” scene in “Selfie.” I guess I don't want to spoil it.] For all of the people I like who are associated with “Selfie,” the pilot itself is a grating mess on nearly every level. Emily Kapnek's script relies way, way, way too much on circa-2013 (and circa-2012) social media buzzwords and slang and it will, best case scenario, be a museum piece by 2015. Worse case scenario, it's already a museum piece and viewers who are already judging the show for its title won't last more than five minutes of the main character telling rivals not to be “jelly.” And don't worry: I get that Karen Gillan's Eliza is SUPPOSED to be annoying and awful and you're supposed to judge her for the “jelly” stuff and for her repeated references to how she used to be “butt,” but I think there has to be a limit and Kapnek, director Julie Anne Robinson and Gallan have not found that line that allows you to judge Eliza without just tuning her out because she achieves a level of annoyance that makes her intolerable. And the whole story of “Pygmalion” — or “My Fair Lady” — hinges on Eliza's external coarseness being immediately and evidently surface-level. At the same time, you need to see that Henry's civility is every bit as much a put-on. I mean… Henry is trying to get a flower girl to pass as a duchess by making her speak properly and that's his expertise. It's a superficial renovation and we're supposed to see Henry's hollowness as well. In “Selfie,” though, even if John Cho actually does a very fine job of nailing that hollowness from Henry, it's obvious that Eliza doesn't just require a new coat of paint. She's a tear-down. So even if we recognize Henry's condescension and think that it's a problem for him, there's no question at all that this Eliza is intolerable and the show can't begin to indicate how Eliza could be not only popular, but also successful in the workplace in this form. The script can't decide if she's stupid or just putting in an act, but the concentration is misfocused toward the former. Gillan's accent is a miscalculation, better suited to a supporting player in a multi-cam than a lead in a single-cam. It's bad and it combines with her nasally intonation to quash a number of potential punchlines. To me, this feels like the sort of thing that a director should have looked at in the dailies and said, “Nope. Not working. Let's modulate.” Instead, you're forced to pray that Henry conveys at least rudimentary elocution within two or three days so that Gillan can tone it down and ease into this character. Maybe he could suggest in Episode 2 that the Scottish accent is humanity's pinnacle and she should practice that? Constantly? Dunno. And what's up with the off-brand pronunciations of “gif” and “cardio barre”? And the attempt at a sweet ending? Fully unearned, sorry.
Desire To Watch Again: Higher than you might guess. I liked “Suburgatory,” so I want Kapnek to succeed. I rarely felt the desire to watch “Doctor Who,” but I like the idea of Karen Gillan. And it's about damn time John Cho has gotten the opportunity for a lead role like this, so I'd love to see it succeed. So the game becomes this: What is the week-to-week series for “Selfie” and how quickly will Eliza's rough corners get smoothed out? And will that help? I'll be patient if there are signs of adjustment, but not if Episode 2 comes out braying as loudly as the first.
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