October 7, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Manhattan Love Story”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on MANHATTAN LOVE STORY:  Cynical, blase native New Yorker Peter (Jake McDorman) meets idealistic small-town girl Dana (Analeigh Tipton), a newcomer to town, through Peter’s sister-in-law Amy (Jade Catta-Preta), who’s also Dana’s sorority sister.  Peter and Dana couldn’t be more different, but, well, check the title.  The gimmick:  we hear Peter and Dana’s thoughts throughout in voice-over monologue.

Episode 2:  The second episode of Manhattan Love Story, written by series creator Jeff Lowell and directed by Michael Fresco, was noticeably lighter on the narration than the pilot had been, reducing it from genuinely annoying to merely unnecessary.  The internal voice-overs don’t reveal anything about the characters that their dialogue and actions haven’t already made clear, they just provide a reinforcement that’s less comical than Lowell clearly believes.

With its gimmick on the back burner, what emerged in Episode 2 was that Manhattan Love Story just isn’t terribly funny.  It’s one of those shows whose writing can be summed up in a single gag:  when Peter and Dana are meeting for a date, we hear several times in voice-over that Peter (who’d been caught by Dana the day before on a date with another woman) was concerned that she might spill something on him out of pique and ruin his favorite blazer.  Then he actually tells her that he’s wearing his favorite blazer.  Finally, the two of them bicker and decide not to go on their date after all, and his voice-over says that at least his blazer went untouched.  Can you guess what happens in the next five seconds?  Could there be anything more hacky than a random person bumping into Peter at that very moment and splashing his blazer?  This is not a promising style of comedy.

McDorman and Tipton are pleasant enough leads, and Tipton in particular has a sweetness that could serve her well in better rom-coms, but there’s no particular chemistry between them–certainly nothing to compare to Aya Cash and Chris Geere in You’re the Worst (Manhattan Love Story sometimes feels like an especially toothless version of that show), or even the couple on A To Z.  At the end of the episode, after Peter has had to admit that he didn’t like her dating other men, and she’s revealed that her Tinder app date had gone badly, we’re supposed to watch them sit together and feel them as a romantic inevitability, but instead they seem easily capable of just being friends.

Oddly enough, the aspect of Manhattan Love Story that works best has nothing to do with its love story at all.  Peter works with his brother David (Nicholas Wright) and sister Chloe (Chloe Wepper) for their father (Kurt Fuller), and the scenes at the family business–the B story this week had Peter and David torturing each other with which one got the bigger secret bonus, while Chloe looked on bemused–have an ease that the central romance lacks.  Those sequences, and the show’s effective use of its actual New York locations, put it a cut above its companion show Selfie, although neither show is likely to survive its grim ratings. Manhattan Love Story feels like the best thing it could do for itself is become an almost entirely different show.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  You Can Skip Past the Love Story Parts


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."