ABC’s “Selfie” Has Potential

The new ABC sitcom “Selfie,” created by Emily Kapnek and starring Karen Gillan and John Cho, is interesting, to say the least. The show, based on the “My Fair Lady” take of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” follows Eliza Dooley (Gillan), a social media obsessed young woman who suffers from an embarrassing viral video that destroys her reputation among her so-called “friends,” followers, and co-workers. Hoping to rebuild her image, she enlists the help of marketing expert and co-worker Henry Higgs (Cho), who will hopefully turn her into a respectable and self-aware member of society.

The beginning of the pilot episode does not cast the brightest light on “Selfie.” The set up for the premise is done too quickly, and the introduction of lead character Eliza is particularly off-putting. While we are not supposed to really relate to Eliza at all, she is still too annoying and self-absorbed to like or develop interest in. Even the embarrassing situation that leads her to seek help from Henry does not really evoke any sympathy until later.

Taking on an interpretation of an already known work could also be its detriment. With a familiar premise, it is hard to really set the show apart in its pilot. I would not blame anyone who turned off “Selfie” after the first commercial. It does not start off very funny, the use of various social media lingo is cringe-worthy, and it takes a while to really get started.

As the pilot continues, though, the series does show some potential, as it gives us more information about our lead characters and plays with some clever comedy. Through voiceover, we learn more about Eliza, and her explanation of her desires, insecurities, and fears shows that she is not as vapid as she seems. Henry, who is first shown as intelligent yet holier-than-thou, is slowly revealed to have his own flaws.

The relationship between Eliza and Henry also progresses. At first glance, Henry’s agreement to “fix” Eliza is uncomfortably sexist for such modern times. But as the characters learn more about each other and begin to relate, the show reveals that it may be more than just Henry changing Eliza, but Eliza changing Henry as well.

The rest of the episode also has some great comedic moments. Its humor is inherently quirky, shown when Eliza asks for some help from her hipster neighbor and her singing friends, and attends a corporate wedding where some strange yet hilarious vows are given.

Gillan is a great fit for the title character. She is unafraid as Eliza, but never goes too over the top. For those who know her from her role as Amy Pond on the British television series “Doctor Who,” the charm that she exemplified there shines here as well, even through a character like Eliza.

Cho is excellent as well. It is great to see him in a lead role, and he portrays Henry’s superiority complex with sincerity. The two actors also seem to have great chemistry right away. They play off each other well, and both Gillan and Cho have impressive comedic timing together.

Despite only a few short appearances, some side characters have potential as well — especially Eliza and Henry’s overenthusiastic boss, Sam (David Harewood), and Bryn (Allyn Rachel), Eliza’s unorthodox neighbor.

It will be interesting to see how “Selfie” will progress as a full series. Led by Kapnek, creator of ABC’s recently cancelled “Suburgatory,” there is the possibility for a fun, standout series to emerge. “Suburgatory” also began awkwardly, but grew out of its flimsy premise. It focused more on its characters and let its similarly quirky humor shine, and developed into a truly great series before ending. If Kapnek does the same for “Selfie,” there is only good to come.

Overall, viewers should give “Selfie” a chance. For audiences who want a light, romantic comedy to fill their time, this show looks like it could turn into a great one. Its cast is game for anything, and with Kapnek’s writing skills, there is the possibility of some really interesting, unusual humor that is not the traditional sitcom slapstick. If viewers can overlook the unfortunate first half of the pilot and its silly title, there is a lot to like about “Selfie.”