October 7, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Selfie”


SELFIE:  Tuesday 8PM on ABC

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 SELFIE:  Any resemblance to characters created by George Bernard Shaw and musicalized by Lerner & Loewe couldn’t be more intentional, as exacting, exasperated pharmaceutical PR branding expert Henry Higgs (John Cho) undertakes to turn sales rep Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) into the modern equivalent of a well-bred lady, which means one whose existence extends beyond social media into the real world.  Henry, too, needs to learn about playing well with others, and not keeping himself at one remove from the people around him.

Episode 2:  Series creator Emily Kapnek’s Suburgatory eventually went down a rabbit hole of silliness, but to start with it had a smart, engaging lead character and a genuine point of view.  Her Selfie, though, showed even less grounding in its second episode (written by Producer Amelie Gillette and directed by Phil Traill) than its pilot suggested.  Eliza’s issue this time was that she had a booty call relationship with a guy in the office (named Freddie, in another nod to Shaw) instead of pursuing something deeper, much to Henry’s disapproval, while he spent the part of the half-hour when he wasn’t tsk-tsking over Eliza’s social life discovering and making a fool of himself on Facebook.

The Selfie pilot had made a point of establishing Eliza’s lonely childhood to give her some substance beyond her obvious superficiality, but that was dismissed in a single line of dialogue in tonight’s episode.  Instead, she made a stab toward joining a book club of the nerds she’d interacted with in the pilot.  (It’s an irony Selfie has no interest in acknowledging that while ridiculing Eliza for her ignorance, the show treats anyone vaguely literate as a pitiful loser.)  Meanwhile, Henry had a scene with an ex-girlfriend who blamed their break-up on his being a workaholic, and he took another step toward pining after Eliza by running to the hospital after she’d stepped into a manhole while texting (he was disappointed when Freddie showed up and treated her like a person), and then staying awake to call her every hour, making sure she didn’t have a concussion.

Selfie is turning out to be a very dumb show about being dumb, and that’s not much fun to watch.  Although Gillen and Cho are likable, the supporting cast barely exists, and the two stars just do variations on the same joke over and over.  The supposedly topical social media jokes (Henry mistakenly Pokes himself on Facebook!) already feel old.  Kapnek certainly has the talent to do more, but Selfie had a dim start in the ratings, and its tenure will likely be short, unless ABC lacks the inventory to replace it..  While not as bad as some of the season’s true sitcom wrecks (Mulaney, The McCarthys), it’s not a show that justifies hanging around to see if it improves.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Frowny Emoticon


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."