‘Selfie’ updates classic story with tech twist

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“Selfie,” created by Emily Kapnek and airing today, is essentially a modern take on the play “Pygmalion.” The show revolves around sales rep Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan), marketing genius Henry Higgs (John Cho) and their journey to revamp their public images. Eliza is a narcissistic social media star who thinks she has it all, until she humiliates herself on a plane full of her co-workers and realizes that the so-called friends she has on the Internet are nothing but strangers. Having no one in her life to rely on, she turns to Henry in order to rebrand herself, hoping to become a little more grounded and get her head out of the iCloud. Their new partnership involves Henry dragging Eliza as his plus-one to the wedding of their boss’ kid to try to teach her public manners, but Eliza, being incredibly awkward in social situations, fails miserably.

In this complete reinvention of “Pygmalion,” ABC tries to connect with hip, Twitter-addicted viewers. In theory, it is quite a good storyline. It relates to young people today in addition to teaching a good moral about the importance of connecting to the real world and the people around you. It also encourages viewers to step out of their comfort zone instead of being glued to their phones all day, cowering behind conventionality.

However, the actual plot of the show seems a bit daft. To have a show centered on an insta-famous, overconfident woman trying to learn how to function like a human feels like too thin of a premise for an entire series. Though some parts of the pilot were funny, it is hard to imagine this show going very far. There is not much substance to play with without straying away from the main storyline and losing the essence of the show.

That being said, pilots of most comedy television series usually are not the strongest, and it would be hard to pass judgment before watching the first few episodes at least.

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The show does have its good moments, eliciting laughs from the way the characters relate to each other — Eliza’s relationships with her “annoying” nerdy hipster co-worker Bryn, her wonderfully warm office secretary Charmonique and, of course, stuffy marketing guru Henry all have a humorous chemistry.

There lies a kind of absurd comedy in trying to watch Eliza step out of her social media ways of stalking Facebook and taking selfies and into the normal world to try to develop real relationships.

While social media fanatics who enjoy total makeovers, will not be able to wait for the following episodes, others may find “Selfie” too vapid and thin of plot.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 30 print edition. Email Sam Tsui at [email protected]

 

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