August 19, 2014

THE SKED Fall Pilot Report: ABC’S “Manhattan Love Story”


MANHATTAN LOVE STORY:  Tuesday 8:30PM on ABC starting September 30 – Change the Channel

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation aren’t necessarily in their final form. It’s not unusual for pilots to be reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot, before hitting the air. Consider these reports to be guides to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

PLAYERS:  Series creator Jeff Lowell, who’s been a writer/producer on sitcoms going back to Cybill two decades ago, but who’s creating a series himself for the first time.  Stars Jake McDorman and Analeigh Tipton.  Pilot director Michael Fresco.  Brillstein Entertainment Partners and ABC Studios.

PREMISE:  Peter (McDorman) is a cynical native New Yorker (if that’s not redundant); Dana (Tipton) is a wide-eyed newcomer to town,  They’re fixed up because his sister-in-law Amy (Jade Catta-Preta) is also her sorority sister.  They’re absolutely nothing alike, but this is a rom-com, so Dana’s naivete appeals to Peter, and Peter’s unsentimental air works for Dana. All that, though, is buying the lead, because the gimmick of Manhattan Love Story is that throughout all of this, we constantly hear Dana and Peter’s thoughts in voice-over, whether about each other, whomever else they happen to be talking to, or any other random idea that comes into their heads.

PILOT:  Manhattan Love Story wastes no time in letting its world-view be known.  As we’re introduced to Peter and Dana walking separately down a city street, his thoughts are entirely about whether or not he’d have sex with the women who pass by, and she thinks about handbags.  Any hope that this is some kind of meta-parody of the dumb sitcom take on gender roles is soon gone, this is the dumb sitcom take on gender roles.  Sure, by the end of the pilot, Peter has revealed himself to have a gooey center, weeping a little when he takes Dana to the Statue of Liberty because it’s on her list of things to do in New York (she carries a list of things to do in New York).  And we’re meant to think that Dana has more grit than she seemed to at first, because she stands up to her nasty fellow employees at the publishing company where she’s just been hired.  But really, the two of them are walking clichés.

That being the case, the only thing Manhattan Love Story could have going for it is its voiceover concept, but this soon becomes exactly as annoying as you’d expect it to be.  The characters’ minds just won’t shut up, and nothing deep or evocative is going on in there.  The only way Manhattan Love Story is reminiscent of Annie Hall is that its characters bring to mind the gag where Woody Allen approached a goodlooking couple on the street who seemed very much in love and asked them how they did it.  “Well, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say,” says the woman, and her companion chimes in, “And I’m exactly the same way.”  That’s this show’s idea of romance, too.

Tipton has been a charming presence in several recent movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love. and Damsels In Distress, and McDorman was very effective as the boss Fiona romanced and then jilted (for his drug-abusing brother) on Shameless last season, so casting isn’t the problem.  It’s the writing that lets them down, and unfortunately we’re not privy to the actors’ real thoughts about the script they’ve been given.

PROSPECTS:  Manhattan Love Story has been coupled with Selfie in a tough hour.  It’s never easy for a new show without highly promotable elements to open a night, and the ABC comedies have to face The Voice with little to market and mediocre execution to boot.  Not all love stories end happily, and this one is likely to find itself quickly on the rocks.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."