It’s pilot season, and ABC is adding even more color to the TV screen. In addition to ‘How To Get Away with Murder,’ ABC recently added ‘Selfie,’ a comedy written by ‘Surbagatory’ creator Emily Kapnek, to their Fall 2014 roster. ‘Selfie’ will star Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), John Cho (Harold and Kumar, American Pie, Sleepy Hollow), and co-star Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Ghost the Musical).
The protagonist, Eliza Dooley (Gillan), is a social media obsessed 20-something with perpetually pursed lips, 263,000 online followers and no real friends. Following a humiliating public breakup, she decides she would rather form relationships with the people around her instead of ‘friending’ people on the Internet. She hires co-worker and marketing expert Henry Higenbottam (Cho) to rebrand her image.
Cho and Randolph do add some color to the show so to speak, but the trailer still indicates there will be some off-color humor. In this video, Higenbottam asks Dooley if she ever asks the receptionist, Charmonique Whitaker (Randolph) how she is, or if Dooley even knows her name. She cannot answer the question, but responds with, “In my defense, that’s not even her real name!”
Most of the ‘Selfie’ characters seem to be victims of predictable tropes. Randolph, the “sassy Black woman” with a “ghetto” name can be seen later giving Dooley feedback and high-fiving her. Cho portrays the highly intelligent Asian character, and even Gillan is stereotyped as ditzy and selfish. ‘Selfie’ is supposed to be a comedy, but the jokes don’t seem remotely fresh.
No one can say that there won’t be any surprises, but how great would it be to see a talented Black woman like Randolph play a character that did more than deliver some sassy one-liners and fade into the background? What if Dooley didn’t sprinkle the words ‘like’ and ‘totally’ throughout her every sentence, or need a romantic rejection to realize that she needed make some changes in her life? Why does Higenbottam have to be a genius to teach someone else how to be a good person?
In one scene Higenbottam sees Dooley step out of her apartment door in a modest formal dress and neutral makeup on, and is wowed by her transformation. However, clothes are not always an indicator of a person’s kindness or personality. Portraying Dooley’s growth as a person does not require a change of wardrobe. Why is clothing and speech always code for what type of character is supposed to be portrayed?
Cho, Randolph and Gillan are all gifted actors and it would be great to see them utilize their talents by playing multi-dimensional characters. Let’s air an original comedy show where minorities are not the butt of the joke. We deserve better television.
‘Selfie’ will air this fall on Tuesdays at 8 pm EST. Watch the official trailer here and decide what you think.