Okay, cards on the table: I was not a huge fan of ABC’s Selfie when it premiered earlier this fall. In fact, here’s what I wrote about the show in EW’s Oct. 3 issue:
This spin on Pygmalion centers on Eliza Dooley (onetime Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan), a social-media-obsessed sales rep whose self-absorption masks a kind heart. Likewise, it seems that there could be a decent show trapped within Selfie; Gillan and her haughty Henry Higgins, John Cho, have nice chemistry, and creator Emily Kapnek boasts an enviable comedy résumé (Parks and Recreation, Suburgatory). Too bad the show’s cruel sense of humor and reliance on instantly dated references (“Make like Elsa and let it go”) may very well drive away viewers before they can see what Selfie and Eliza become. C
That would’ve been my last word on the subject—if I hadn’t started watching the series again on a whim last week. An hour and a half later, I had devoured the five episodes that had aired since the pilot—and discovered, much to my delight, that Selfie was actually becoming the series I wished it had been in the first place.
The next day, word broke that ABC was canceling the show. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
Don’t get me wrong; Selfie is still far from perfect. Some of Eliza’s quips come across as more canned than clever; the title’s still about as unappealing as Trophy Wife times Cougar Town; it’s not exactly the sort of show that reinvents the sitcom wheel.
But over the past six weeks, Selfie has managed to transcend its initial premise—”THE INTERNET IS MAKING US MONSTERS”—to become something less gimmicky and more character-based. Eliza’s gone from one-note Instamonster to a lovable narcissist in the vein of 30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney (except she’s more of a human being than the star of TGS); Henry’s become a lot like Parks and Recreation‘s Ben Wyatt, a stern stick-in-the-mud who learns to let loose thanks to a good woman. Their interactions are always entertaining and, occasionally, scorching hot. Exhibit A:
I’ll pause so you can rewind a few times.
Plus, unlike some of this fall’s other failed romantic comedy experiments—including ABC’s not-so-dearly-departed Manhattan Love Story and NBC’s A to Z—the lead couple’s relationship isn’t the only reason to watch Selfie. (Although, to be fair, it’s definitely the main reason.) Eliza and Henry are surrounded by a fairly dynamic ensemble that probably would have only grown richer if it’d had a chance to—Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s deceptively sharp receptionist Charmonique, David Harewood’s stately but goofy boss Sam Saperstein, Samm Levine’s genial office schlemiel Terrence, Giacomo Gianniotti’s easygoing bro Freddy (who’s a far cry from the lovestruck dolt his character is based on). Each represents a type we’ve seen on TV before—but Selfie‘s execution is strong enough to keep them from feeling like stale retreads of sitcoms past. Much of the credit for this belongs to Kapnek and her team of writers, who have made this show one of the fall’s strongest new comedies on a purely joke-by-joke level.
The internet culture that has so enthralled Eliza Dooley tends to divide everything into two discrete categories: the best things ever and epic fails. Selfie doesn’t really fit into that binary; at this point in its run, it’s neither awful nor amazing. It is, however, a show that’s firmly on the upswing—and I’m bummed to see it cut down just when it was starting to realize its potential.
Want to see what I mean? Give the show a second chance by tuning in tonight at 8 p.m.; it could be one of your last chances to watch Selfie in its natural habitat. Go ahead and try not to be drawn in by Eliza and Henry’s banter—I won’t tell anyone if you, too, end up being charmed.