Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Selfie' and 'Manhattan Love Story'

Other than DC Comics superheroes, the biggest trend in network TV this fall is romantic comedy, and ABC is premiering its two entries in the genre back to back tonight. Neither show is successful, although they fail for opposite reasons: Manhattan Love Story is as generic as its title suggests, a cardboard romance between two boring people whose entire personalities are built out of gender stereotypes; Selfie is a sitcom interpretation of My Fair Lady focused on modern social-media addiction, an overloaded high concept that trips on its own ambition.

Both shows star appealing actors who could be perfect for more genuine romances, but struggle to make the most of the material they're given. In Manhattan Love Story, the gimmick is that the audience can hear the inner thoughts of the main characters, but that just amounts to a lot of cliched narration about what men and women supposedly like, and stars Analeigh Tipton and Jake McDorman are stuck regurgitating stale ideas about horny dudes and shopping-obsessed ladies. When they are able to interact without the intrusive and reductive voiceover, their relationship is a little sweet, but it's also pretty dull. There's minimal entertainment in the background elements, which are mostly made up of slightly updated sitcom tropes about living in New York City. This is the kind of show that no one will remember when it gets canceled after airing half a season.

Selfie, on the other hand, is memorable, even if only for its sometimes cringe-inducing comedic set pieces, especially the opening bit involving copious amounts of vomit. Star Karen Gillan has incredible range, going from Doctor Who companion Amy Pond to grim alien warrior Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy to unhinged horror-movie heroine in Oculus, and she shows yet another side of her talents as self-obsessed, self-loathing social-media addict Eliza Dooley. Gillan really commits to her performance, but that means that Eliza is so cartoonish and grating that it's hard to enjoy spending time with her. John Cho is much more low-key as the Henry Higgins analog, but he's also off-putting in how fussy and dour he can be. Unlike Manhattan Love Story, Selfie doesn't feature any actual romance in its first episode, and while the characters do have chemistry, it's also hard to imagine them ending up in a convincing relationship. Its quirky style makes it more likely to find an audience right away, but Selfie will have to tone down its excesses if it wants to sell viewers on a love story between the main characters.

Premiering tonight at 8 p.m. (Selfie) and 8:30 p.m. (Manhattan Love Story) on ABC.

No comments: