The pilot of Karen Gillan’s new show, Selfie, has been given an early release on Hulu. Written by Emily Kapnek of Suburgatory, Selfie‘s a very modern adaptation of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady filled with texts, Instagrams, and the general sense of isolation that comes with a lack of human to human contact.
Karen Gillan rocks an American accent as Eliza Dooley–a social media obsessed young women with tons of Facebook friends but no real-life ones. Eliza realizes how alone she is when she gets horribly and publicly sick on a plane and no one comes to help her. Needing a change, she enlists co-worker, Henry, into “rebranding” her. He agrees and together they work to make her into a better person.
Selfie‘s a show that’s trying really hard to be funny. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it falls flat. The pilot never had me laughing out loud (in all fairness, I rarely do LOL at comedies), but it did impress me with it’s cleverness from time to time. I liked Kapnek’s Suburgatory and, thankfully, the same smart/sarcastic/goofy humor she used in that show is present here too. Selfie had it’s issues, but based on Kapnek’s previous work, I think they will be resolved in the near future. (I’m chalking most of Selfie‘s problems up to “Pilots are a terror to write” at the moment.)
Unfortunately, this biggest problem that will have to be resolved is that Selfie will probably have to drop it’s My Fair Lady shtick to truly come into it’s own (you know, like what happened when Cougar Town dropped the whole “cougar” plotline). The adaptation part of the plot is a good starting point, but it’s probably the weakest part of the show. The characters will have to grow past it sooner rather than later if Selfie‘s going to work.
One other issue Selfie had was the dialogue. I love snappy, distinctive dialogue, but Selfie has so much of it that it’s often distracting. I like the tone of the show, but there were way too many punchlines. It’s was weird because the lines that you had time to process often fell flat, and the actual smart punchlines were buried under such a heap of similar lines that you just didn’t have time to work out what was funny about them. If Selfie wants to have quick, unique dialogue, it should take some cues from Pushing Daisies. Pushing Daisies had rapid fire, clever lines, but Bryan Fuller let his dialogue build to punchlines (or, at the very least, he allowed his characters to linger on the funny stuff) rather than making every sentence uttered a punchline in itself.
With the humor not quite there yet, what really saved the show for me was the characters and their representations.
My favorite part had to be Eliza’s hipster neighbors. (Oh my gosh, I have a cousin who literally looks and acts like she could be in their book club.) The breakdown of their outfits made me giggle, and when they broke out the ukulele, wow, I just loved Eliza’s response. I really do like that Selfie was poking fun at Zooey Deschenal-types without completely ripping them apart.
The show’s strongest point is actually it’s tender humanization of different “types.” It makes the hipsters sweet rather than characterizing them as better-than-thou sorts. Eliza is a social-media- attention seeker, but we get to see enough of her early development to be able to commiserate with her rather than write her off as a complete narcissist (as people often do with those who seem selfie-obsessed).
Henry didn’t get quite the same humanization. . .yet. We’ve seen enough of his character so far to know he’s lonely, and that just makes me really interested in knowing what brought him to the point where he can’t get a date to a wedding without designing her himself. Until that revelation, John Cho is likable enough to keep his character interesting and out of “Complete Jerk” territory.
I liked that there was a heart to this show. I was hooked the moment Eliza pulled out her phone at the wedding. Seeing her dealing with her heart breaking in the only way she knew how was so sad because you just knew that no one would understand her actions. That was the strongest moment in the show, and it’s the moment that made me want to watch more.
While the humor may have fallen flat from time to time and the dialogue may have been a little much, Selfie is a sweet show at it’s heart. I would highly recommend giving it a chance.