I Tortured Myself with the Pilot of ABC’s “Selfie” and it’s Even Worse Than You Think


Alex Russell

I don’t even know where to start with this. I wasn’t really excited for any new TV coming out, so I checked out all of the A.V. Club’s preview of fall TV. Their review of ABC’s Selfie intrigued me. They said “The sitcom wants to be a critique and exploration of selfie culture—and the vapidity it breeds. However, it comes off more as a scathing and heavy-handed mess that at times teeters into slut-shaming territory.”

Yikes, right? I’m not really a big fan of bad TV that’s just boring or stupid, I only want to watch it if it’s a full-on tire fire. I watched Rob Schneider’s Rob for a previous blog and I thought nothing could ever take that show’s spot as The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Watched, but ABC absolutely demands to be in the conversation with the pilot for Selfie.

You can watch it online (don’t) before it debuts in two weeks, but you should also prepare yourself for the commercials. I don’t know what they’re going to find to clip out of this to make this seem funny, so it’s mostly going to be poor Karen Gillan screaming “Instagramification!” at you.

I guess we should start with the premise. Karen Gillan plays Eliza, and Eliza, like, totally doesn’t get the “offline” world. She only cares about selfies and likes, and she doesn’t care about your dumb business meeting, or whatever. The character is so far off the deep end that it’s not even funny anymore, like if a stand up comic was trying to do five jokes at the same time. There are so many buzz words it feels like the writers are terrified that if they don’t consistently remind you that they “get it” that you’ll lose interest. It feels desperate.

It starts absurd with a gross-out puke scene on a plane that contains the following real, not-at-all-made-up-by-me phrases:

  • “Panic pudding” (this is “puke” of course, because why wouldn’t it be ugh ugh ugh)
  • “Grindr’s remorse” (god damn you ABC)
  • “Gif yourself through this” (GO TO WORD JAIL.)

“Gif yourself through this” alone is one of the most horrifying zeitgeist grabs I’ve ever heard. In another context, it would be a biting satire of our tech-obsessed culture, and I have to assume that’s what they’re going for, here. I’m certain ABC wants to have it both ways and to successfully make something people view as both a celebration of and a mockery of the same thing. It didn’t work for me. It really did not work for me.

Things get worse when her boss, who totally does care about your business meeting and stuff, shows up. John Cho plays Henry, the super-serious, no-fun-at-all businessman character who needs to convince Eliza to put down her phone and care about What Really Matters. It’s a classic pairing of fun vs. serious that honestly may work better as the series goes on. In the pilot, he’s out to prove to her that she needs to learn everything he knows — after she says “if you don’t like me, then change me” which is repulsive — and she responds with a comment about how she won’t do “backdoor stuff” with him. You have your choice of what component of that makes you angriest. They’re all fine options.

He scolds her in rhymeA grown adult who is the boss of another adult scolds her in a rhyme oh my god this is so gross. It’s an entire rhyme about how she should dress and act at a wedding they’re going to together. Since her character is played more like a tall child — and she knows about life, dummy, just a different life! — Selfie thinks you’ll look past all this. You shouldn’t, but even if you do, you’ll find that it’s a travesty just as a comedy.

The main character in this comedy in 2014 says the following, which I’m going to bold: “I waited until the coast was clear, like Katy Perry on Proactiv.” If that’s “subversive” then I’m too stupid to get their takedown of a skincare product commercial.

People are going to argue for Selfie, which is fine. There’s music by Aimee Mann and M.I.A. There’s a series of running jokes about how her neighbor is a misunderstood indie girl like Zooey Deschanel. That’s… about as good as the jokes get. Hopefully this will get better after the pilot, because it certainly can’t get worse.

But as a whole, this is a miserable 22 minutes. People should not be saying hashtag out loud, period. Maybe it makes me sound like someone’s grandfather, but jokes about how girls like Zooey Deschanel like ukuleles and how people post too much food on Instagram are played out in 2014. If you’re going to “take down” social media culture, pick some better targets.

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at or on Twitter at @alexbad.



The Friday Night Death Slot, Where TV Goes to Die

Alex Russell

Friday night is where television goes to die.The Wiki for “Friday night death slot” reads like a graveyard of shows that you either don’t remember or don’t want to remember. What was Canterbury’s Law? FreakyLinks? Fastlane?

The major networks have extra shows to burn off and they all do it at the same time: 8 p.m. on Friday. When you spend all your time rewatching that one episode of Louie where he drives her to the airport, you can lose focus on what most people are watching. You start to lack perspective.

This is one of the slowest times of the year for TV. This is as good a time as any to check in on Friday night.

I recorded a hour of all four of the major networks. I couldn’t justify the time to watch NBC’s Dracula or CBS’s Intelligence, so I can’t speak to those two. I did made it through four half-hour comedies that are all dying or dead. I am here in the future to tell you that there is a reason all of this garbage is on Friday at 8.

The worst part about it all? Since everyone has agreed that Friday is the wasteland night, no one is trying. No one has the need to get better because they know no one else is in any danger of lapping them.

So what’s on? I survived four shows:

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing is shockingly bad television. Tim Allen plays the man of the house with three confusing stereotypes and Nancy Travis, his wife. From the commercials, you’d think it was just another show where clueless dad can’t catch a break. It is that, much like Home Improvement, but it lacks the charm of his time as the Tool Man.

Tim Allen works at a sporting goods store. He also is a professional “vlogger” who makes viral videos about his political views and sporting goods. Really let that sink in: Tim Allen makes videos about backpacks and the good old days and that’s his job.

“Vlog” is said about sixty times over the 22-minute episode. No one ever stops to consider making a joke about how no one says “vlog” in the real world, so it’s a little unclear if the writers even know that. No one addresses the fact that these are commercials for a fictional sporting goods store that are somehow popular among teenagers, for no reason. People have a bad habit of saying things are “random” but the unexplained nature of Tim Allen’s career as a viral content producer really must be considered the strangest of the strange.

The episode’s moral lesson is that Barry Goldwater was the greatest political mind in American history. Three different characters mention this. The youngest daughter says the phrase “You know, Dad, I was so hyped to hear your vlog on tyranny.” Last Man Standing is a really, seriously weird show. It comes off as an unconnected mash of elements and it absolutely fails as a comedy. Tim Allen hates Hillary Clinton. The police are a drain on society. Taxes aren’t fair to the rich. The libertarian message in this weird damn show is distracting and it would ruin the show if there was a show to ruin.

My favorite joke is that it was “filmed in front of a live studio audience” but it very clearly is sweetened with canned laughter. Apparently a joke about punching people for being liberals couldn’t carry the room on its own?

The Neighbors

Before you read any more of this – watch ABC’s trailer for the show.

Recently there’s been a weird rethinking of The Neighbors. People seem to have a “it’s not as bad as you’d think” attitude about it. They’re wrong. They are not correct.

The Neighbors is about some aliens that live next to every family from every show. The episode “Fear and Loving in New Jersey” centers around the aliens getting mugged and becoming afraid of the world around them. They don’t know what getting mugged is! They think the guy is trying to trade them a knife!

It has all of the premise of 3rd Rock from the Sun with none of the charm. The acting is all over the place. You really need to see it to understand it. There are lines that are read so poorly that you have to wonder if they filmed the whole thing in an afternoon and just kept the first takes.

Much like Last Man Standing, this show really shows that ABC hates the left. There’s a weird throwaway joke about global warming not being real… but it really gets going when it tries to be “edgy.” With the discovery that one of the characters is a ninja, someone seriously says “ninja please” I mean this it is said by one person to another person.

There’s lots more to say about this, but I must reiterate that this show on ABC made an n-word joke.


Enlisted is the only real new show on the list, and it’s a good one. It doesn’t really make sense to be on this list at all. Why is Fox setting it up for failure?

That’s the question worth asking here, because Enlisted is good television. As much as a bad show can be hidden in a commercial, the ads for Enlisted aren’t doing it any favors. I never would have watched it if not for this whole experiment. I’m glad I did, because there’s actual heart here.

“Heart” is usually a bad word in comedy. Modern Family’s weird voiceovers and the music cues from Scrubs are good examples of how “heart” doesn’t have a lot of room for error in comedy. Seinfeld’s core rule was “no hugs, no lessons.” It’s a good rule to live by.

Enlisted is a military comedy about three brothers. It’s funny, to be sure, but I can’t get over how much the stakes of the show are built up in 22 minutes. People discuss deaths at war. People share real emotions about family and separation. There’s a tank. It’s a lot to handle.

Some of my love for it is that I watched it right after ABC’s disaster hour, but I think it will have a good run of eight episodes before fading away forever because Fox doesn’t care about it.

Raising Hope

Raising Hope has been on the air for a few years and it is on life support. I’ve never seen a second of it before this episode (season 4, episode 11) and I am surprised at how much you need to know to make sense of it. I thought it was about a baby. It’s about… something else.

The show is pretty wacky. There are a lot of cutaways and zany physical comedy bits, far more than you’d expect given the tone of the show. The episode I watched had Cloris Leachman teaching a valuable lesson about loving your family and doing more to improve yourself. There’s a baby, but only kinda. There’s nothing to talk about with Raising Hope. It embodies the death slot idea: a show too weird to live, but too good to kill completely. So it will sit there and die, one Friday at a time.

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