SELFIE Sneak Peek: #Ouch

Courtesy ABC

ABC’s new comedy doles out the clichés, but does it have enough heart to separate it from the pack?

In the run-up to the new fall TV season next month, we here at ThankYouLizLemon thought we’d take a look at some of the new pilots that will be hitting the airwaves in the next few weeks.

It seems like every few years, Hollywood likes to revisit the Pygmalion chestnut with some sort of new twist, which inevitably falls into the same old formulaic trope. Girl meets Boy, Boy claims girl needs to be “fixed,” Boy supposedly fixes Girl, Girl warms Boy’s heart, Girl and Boy live happily ever after. ABC’s Selfie is no different, despite the thoroughly twenty-first-century spin on the tale thanks to the commentary on our culture’s obsession with social media. That being said, Selfie has enough going for it, mostly thanks to stars Karen Gillan and John Cho, that viewers might just be #TuningIn to give this a shot.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Eliza Dooley (Gillan) is a vapid pharmaceutical sales rep who couldn’t be more immersed in her Twitter and Instagram feeds if she had a phone implanted into her head. She is an observer of her own life instead of a participant in it, isolating her from her peers despite all her “likes.” After a disastrous flight home from a business trip in which she finds out her new boyfriend is married, pukes profusely in front of him, spills the contents of her barf bag all over her Louboutins surrounded by a plane full of her coworkers (because all comedies need to pull a Bridesmaids stunt lately) and struts the walk of shame in nothing but her underwear and napkins back to her cabin, Eliza realizes how empty her life is. With her gaffe posted for all the world to see, her “friends” are nowhere to be found, and her only companion is Siri — talk about #Ouch.

(Yes, I realize this gag of mine is getting old. To be fair, it isn’t even  as frequent as it is in this pilot.)

Selfie 1When she meets Henry (Cho), the marketing wiz who saved her company by transforming its “satanic hallucination”-inducing nasal spray’s image into a soothing mist, she pleads with him to rebrand herself. “If you don’t like me, just change me!” she begs him, in what I’m assuming is also a meta observation on the effects of living in the public eye, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. He agrees, reluctantly at first, to take her on, the appeal of the challenge just too tempting to resist. It’s the ultimate case study in corporate branding.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

The rest of the episode continues predictably: Henry teaches Eliza to actually interact with her fellow humans, a skill she is sorely lacking, and after an initial misstep, she seems to finally begin to understand how to behave in a crowd, until a cell phone gaffe in the middle of her boss’ daughter’s wedding ostracizes her yet again, and prompts Henry to write her off. She retreats back into her Facebook-laden lair, destined to be a social pariah, until a genuine friendly interaction with her company’s receptionist Charmonique (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) elicits a Eureka! moment from her, sending her back to Henry to plead her case once more. While he’s resistant, her sincerity and her own reflections about his loner state prod him to join forces with her again. They play in the rain — the real rain, not the rain noise from an app — and all is well with the world. Or is it?

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

As I said in the opener, Selfie is chock-full of tropes. There’s no way to get around that. Eliza is self-involved and superficial. Henry is stern and dull — the straight man John Cho appears to be cast in more often than not — and spews scathing commentaries on the proliferation of social media in western society. (Damn Millenials! Get off his lawn already!) Charmonique is sassy. Bryn (Allyn Rachel), the Zooey Deschanel-adorkable-inspired neighbor Eliza ridicules, comes through for her in the requisite makeover (or rather “makeunder”) scene, showing her true friendship when Eliza has done nothing to deserve it. (Her book club friends even come with a ukelele and Lady Gaga covers!)

Yet, despite some of these factors that would otherwise have me fleeing, I can’t deny that Gillan manages to bring heart to what could be a thankless role. While I think the show is aiming for more of an Elle Woods transformation over the Kardashian model she begins as, we get glimpses of Eliza’s heart. As she tells Henry in the end, when she gets overwhelmed by her “feels,” she retreats into her Twitterverse to avoid confronting those feelings. It’s a surprising moment of depth, and one that hints at some greater developments in the long run. While her initial babbling introduction irritated me, her first breakdown (pre-puking) at her boyfriend’s duplicity, and her later one when she realizes she really is alone, tugged at my heartstrings a little, surprisingly. Gillan takes the script and infuses her own charm into it, giving me hope Eliza will be able to balance her unique quirks with some social graces as well.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Is the Pygmalion tale tired? I’m not sure. On the one hand, I’m a little annoyed that we have yet another story about a ditzy, obtuse woman who has to change who she is to accommodate her peers and the educated, sophisticated man sent to help her. On the other, this Eliza has demonstrated enough awareness — her high school taunting and the resulting numbness she’s used to protect herself from it — and Henry is poised for a transformation of his own by Eliza forcing him to have fun, that I think there’s potential for an original interpretation of the classic story, especially if they allow Eliza more moments of humanity like we saw here. Gillan and Cho both deserve a strong series to showcase their chops.

Other thoughts: I admit, this exchange made me chuckle a lot:

Henry: It’s possible to be beautiful on the outside, and butt [ugly] on the inside.
Eliza: Like Gwyneth Paltrow.

(ZING! Sorry, I do enjoy a good Gwyneth Paltrow joke.)

What do you think? Is this Selfie worth keeping, or is it straight to the delete button for you?


Selfie premieres Sept. 30 at 8pm on ABC. The pilot is available to watch on ABC.com and Hulu.

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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