Five reasons to watch ABC’s ‘Selfie’

2:30 pm EDT, September 9, 2014

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The upcoming ABC comedy series Selfie has been getting some bad press following the online release of its pilot episode. But there are a lot of great things about the show!

Doctor Who fans were excited to learn that former companion Karen Gillan would be continuing her TV career with the American sitcom Selfie.

Gillan has already proven her ability to take on versatile roles, most recently by playing Nebula in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and her upcoming Selfie role is again something completely different: she’ll be playing lead character Eliza Dooley, a spoilt social media-obsessed valley girl who embarks on a mission to re-brand herself.

When the pilot episode was released last month, however, it was to very mixed reviews – while it received a lot of praise, Hypable has previously named Selfie one of the least promising comedies of the 2014 fall season.

Of course, other outlets have commended the pilot, which has a lot of strong scenes – the lead character Eliza’s extreme vomit scene, for example. The other-the-top humour might be a turnoff to some, but we believe that there could be a really great, layered show waiting underneath.

So despite the skepticism, we hope that Selfie will stay on the air long enough to “re-brand itself,” if you will, into a popular, entertaining comedy which is able to address our culture’s growing social media obsession in an accessible yet poignant way.

These are the five biggest reasons why we’re excited for the show to premiere later this month:

1. John Cho is amazing

John Cho is a fantastic, hilarious actor, and while star power isn’t everything (Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night flop proved that), we like to think that Cho saw potential in this series.

His character Henry is funny, down to earth and instantly relatable opposite Gillan’s airy and self-absorbed Eliza. There is something almost reassuring about Cho’s presence, because while he’s known for slapstick films such as Harold and Kumar, he’s also a highly talented actor. He brings something very real to the series, and keeps the audience grounded.

2. It’s a ‘My Fair Lady’ remake

Selfie is a very loose interpretation of the classic musical My Fair Lady, with “Eliza Dooley” an obvious reincarnation of Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle.

In My Fair Lady, the snobbish professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) aims to take an unrefined flower girl (Hepburn), and make her presentable to London high society. Along the way, they both learn a lot about how the other half lives, and a stubborn attraction begins to grow between them.

Instead of a snobbish professor, Selfie presents Henry as a marketing genius, who considers himself above Eliza and her social media obsession. He takes Eliza on as a project, hoping to turn her into a better human being. Because of the negative connotations of Eliza’s hobbies, she is the one who comes off as snobbish and self-involved to the audience, while Henry (despite the fact that he clearly feels superior to her) is the more sympathetic of the two.

It is an interesting modernization of such a classic story, and the partial role-reversal opens up for a lot of new possibilities. We’re sure that Henry will manage to refine Eliza’s behaviour towards her fellow human beings, but he’ll probably also find that underneath her layers of makeup and/or Instagram filters, she’s got a lot to teach him, too.

3. John Cho and Karen Gillan have amazing chemistry

If there is one thing Selfie‘s got right off the bat, it’s the casting of the lead actors. Karen Gillan and John Cho have immediate, striking chemistry – and we don’t just mean in the romantic sense. They play off each other extremely well, and while their characters are still a little one-note on their own, the scenes featuring just the two of them were some of the best in the pilot.

Not only are the pair hilarious together, having perfect comedic timing and reactions to each other’s lines, but the juxtaposition of their extreme personalities also make them both feel more like real people.

There are some great supporting actors, too, particularly David Harewood (Henry and Eliza’s overly affectionate boss Sam Saperstein) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (the talkative secretary Charmonique). We think this series could really benefit from being developed into more of an ensemble, giving these characters’ worlds more room to expand.

4. The series offers unabashed critique of our ‘selfie’ obsession

While Selfie has been critiqued for being shallow, and presenting a false image of our generation’s Instragram culture, let’s get something straight: the series isn’t celebrating our culture’s social media obsession, it’s criticizing it. But softly, so as not to alienate those of us (read: all of us) who are a part of it ourselves.

Eliza’s constant hash-tagging and usage of various social media terms might seem a bit excessive in the pilot, and is clearly meant to draw in both people who identify with her behaviour and people who despise it and like to see her taken down a peg.

But once the series gets going, we hope that it will tackle some of the real issues one might associate with Eliza’s extreme behaviour. If you look at her arc in the pilot episode, you’ll see that Eliza’s real problem isn’t the way she exposes herself online, but rather the way she treats the people around her. She interrupts a wedding by playing on her phone, she openly mocks her Zooey Deschanel-clone neighbour, and she completely fails to acknowledge the company’s assistant as a fellow human being.

With three words, Henry gives Eliza (and us) the defining question of the series, and the one thing we should all be taking away from it: “How are you?”

Selfie is telling us to start caring about other people, and if it needs to lure us in with duckfaces and hashtag jokes to get that message across, then so be it. The jokes are good – we can laugh and self-reflect.

5. There’s vast potential for improvement

The Selfie pilot had a lot of good moments, but it needs to step up its game if it wants to produce lasting, impactful storylines (which comedies are certainly as capable of doing as dramas). They should be silly and vapid, because that’s the nature of the beast, but good storytelling has more than one layer of meaning.

The series creator Emily Kapnek has previously served as an executive producer on Suburgatory, and a consulting producer on Parks and Recreation. She knows how to do silly, over the top characters, that at the same time are likeable and relatable. She’s got great actors to work with, and is able to write hilarious one-liners – now let’s see Selfie reach its full potential!

Selfie premieres Tuesday, September 30 at 8/7c on ABC.

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