Selfie is a new romantic comedy series premiering tonight on ABC. Once you get past the terrible name, you're left with My Fair Lady for internet age, and you should definitely watch.
Selfie is the story of nerd-turned-hot-but-shallow-social-media-obsessive Eliza Dooley (played by Doctor Who's Karen Gillan) making good. Note the name for the overt nod to Pygmalion/My Fair Lady's Eliza Doolittle. Our dear Eliza was a brace-faced reject in high school, so butt-ugly she was literally voted "most butt." She's since found love and acceptance, though, through the double taps of her 263,000 Instagram followers.
As you can probably guess, our red-headed anti-hero is about as deep as a smartphone snap of a double rainbow overlayed with #nofilter. But the love and validation she gets through her iPhone obviously does not translate into real-world interpersonal success, and after publicly embarrassing herself in front of her coworkers by puking on an airplane and boning a married coworker, our less-than-fair lady realizes it's time to make a change.
Enter Henry Higgs (played by John Cho, and another Pygmalion nod), her polite yet boring coworker here to rebrand his vapid, hopeless compatriot. In the premiere, airing tonight, he teaches her basic social skills like not looking at her phone, talking to people, and maybe, for just a minute, not being so self-involved.
Of course they clash, of course they don't quite like each other, and of course she fails, but not without overt chemistry between the two that will undoubtedly unfold into a romance as the season progresses. Sound predictable? It is! But delightfully so. And it's the perfect antidote to the awful way people (and I mean even you and me) act on the internet.
I can boil it down to a few very distinct reasons as to why Selfie is worth your time.
1) It's funny! More than that, the humor is universal for any smartphone-toting female from the age of 18-35. The irony of this is not lost on me considering the show we're talking about here, but rarely when I'm watching a show with my headphones on in the dark on my laptop am I busting out laughing. I sure did with Selfie. The jokes feel present in a way that make it extra-relatable. Example: "Every girl I know is either drunk or at SoulCycle." But you have to hear it in Eliza's voice—it's that basic bitch valley girl "sorry I can't this week, juice cleanse!" inflection put on with just the right amount of wink that you know the show is in on the joke too.
2) The speed and cadence with which the jokes are delivered is perfect too. Eliza will drop some social media trope like "jelly" or "epic fail" or "hashtag struggle," but it's so quickly or subtly tacked onto the end of the sentence or a joke that you have to be listening just so to catch it. It doesn't telegraph, it doesn't linger. It just spits out those awful words that feels natural, authentic, and much funnier for it.
3) Then there's the casting, which is very near perfect. John Cho manages to be likeable even though his character's by definition a boring dude. Karen Gillian is obnoxious but just earnest enough that you know she has some redeeming qualities in there. She's also just adorable. And I'll be damned if they don't have the right amount of chemistry that lures you in to see what happens. There are also a couple side characters who I'm sure we'll see develop, like Bryn, Eliza's Pinterest-hipster neighbor who comes with a gaggle of house dress-clad, ukelele playing, book club gal pals. You see the first glimmer of it when Eliza asks Bryn to help her dress demurely for a wedding and the prescription not prescription glasses-clad Bryn proclaims, "you're lucky makeunders are my EVERYTHING!" I mean, these writers are definitely reading sorority girl Twitter.
Indulge me for a second, though: Selfie isn't just about lampooning the way we present ourselves on social media and how shallow the internet has made us. Dare I say Selfie has a message? Selfie-love, if you will. And I mean the kind that comes from within (and not within a smartphone). This is just episode one, but it's also the beginning of Eliza's journey to self-worth (and some hot John Cho romance). And that's kind of nice. It's not totally overwrought, but the idea of liking yourself is perfectly inlaid with all the jokes about the stupid crap we're doing online.
Such as with My Fair Lady and Pygmalion before it, it's a transformation story. But it's not too serious. And it's in on the joke rather than being completely ignorant of what's going on in culture as TV sometimes is. Give it a chance. You'll be glad you did. #blessed
Selfie premiers tonight at 8/7c on ABC