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 rhyme. A 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @alexbad.