In Defense of ABC’s ‘Selfie’

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I’ll be the first to admit that when I heard months ago that ABC’s newest Fall rom-com would be called Selfie, I dismissed the show prematurely as not worth my time. In fact, judging based on the title was the same reason that I never watched the movies That Awkward Moment and LOL. I figured these titles were just Hollywood’s sad attempt at capitalizing on modern day cultural memes and tropes that appeal to the tween crowd, and overall lowest common denominator. Granted, in the case of these two aforementioned movies, I probably made the right decision, as they have a 23% and 17% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes. Had it not been for the fact that Selfie‘s leading actors were John Cho and Karen Gillan, both of whom I respect deeply, this story would have ended there. However, I decided to at least watch through the pilot, and I’m very glad that I did.

The pilot episode had its flaws, but it showed a lot of promise. John Cho and Karen Gillan had very strong on-screen chemistry, the show’s setting was very relevant to our digitally connected world, and a modern day retelling of My Fair Lady (and Pygmalion) was a rather interesting concept. With each episode that I watched, I became more invested in the characters. The season progressed, and the writing became sharper, and the humor wittier. By the time the show’s cancellation was announced, I was both hooked and devastated.

Canceling Selfie just when it found its footing and started to develop a solid following was a huge mistake on ABC’s part. I’m going to break down the reasons Selfie should stay on the air.

Asian Male Lead in a Romantic Comedy

John Cho as Henry Higgs, with Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley
Leading man John Cho looking dapper with the lovely Karen Gillan.

You can count on one hand the number of non-emasculated, leading Asian males on television. There is a dearth of positive Asian role models in Hollywood (Asians in general), and Selfie seemed like a step in the right direction. Rather than perpetuating the traditional stereotype of the humorless, passive Asian male, the talented John Cho breaks boundaries with his new role. Sure, his character Henry is stuffy (and eerily reminiscent of Cho’s character in Harold and Kumar), but that’s more because of how the role was written, as it was originally intended for a stereotypically old, British gentleman. This show was a milestone for Asians in the entertainment industry, and that cultural impact alone was an excellent reason to keep the show on-air.

Additionally, if and when the show had gained a following in the Asian community, that could have drastically improved the show’s weekly numbers. Looking at it from a (very) long-term perspective, had the show been picked up for syndication in Asian countries, that could have been a potential gold mine.

Furthermore, in light of shows such Two Broke Girls (I’ll rant about this in another post), where the Asian character is just present to play up negative stereotypes and act like a buffoon, we really needed John Cho’s Henry Higgs. I mean seriously, what is this nonsense? Even the ‘Dragon Lady’ trope of decades past would have been better than this shit.

Poorly written buffoon character sets back Asian American progress by several decades.
Poorly written buffoon character sets back Asian American progress by several decades.

It’s relevant

Eliza Dooley

Despite being called Selfie, this show actually critiques modern society, and the shallowness that our digital media-centric world often fosters. Eliza Dooley represented how technological dependence, at a certain point, serves as a detriment to society and prevents us from creating meaningful connections with our fellow man. The protagonist Henry Higgs is training Eliza to overcome her obsession with followers and Facebook friends, and instead helps her make friends in real life: meaningful and powerful, interpersonal relationships. Granted, Selfie isn’t saying that all social media is bad. I mean, that would be hypocritical of the show that utilizes social media to connect with fans.  It’s just saying that being connected online shouldn’t consume your life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send the occasional Snapchat, or share a cat video here and there with your friends. Heck, even Henry Higgs, in a recent episode, discovered the joys of Facebook stalking. However, it’s important to realize that balance and moderation are key. It’s a lesson many millennials and young digerati need to learn.

Shows Need time to Develop

Many excellent shows started off slow, but ended up becoming incredible once it had time to develop. Parks and Recreation, Buffy, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Arrow…each of these shows had a slow first few episodes: some had slow first seasons. If ABC had just waited past like, Episode 2, it would have realized that Selfie has a lot of potential for growth. Fans were starting to become very invested in the lives of the protagonists, and starting to warm up to the supporting characters as well (one word: Charmonique). It’s a pretty poor strategy to panic and pull out on an investment right at the start without giving it some time to grow. Please don’t let Selfie go the route of Firefly, and end an amazing show after just one season (cue incoming hate mail for comparing anything to Firefly lol).

Social Media Outreach and Fan Engagement Potential

Selfie shoutout to real life followers. Dr. Who Twitter handles in a show starring Dr. Who companion? Metaaaa
Selfie shoutout to real life followers. ‘Doctor Who’ Twitter handles in a show starring former ‘Doctor Who’ companion?   How very meta…

There is already an official Twitter account for Eliza’s fictional character (@The_Doolio) that ties into a lot of the events in the show. Fans of the show also got a shoutout on a recent episode for having voiced their support, pictured above. The fact that the show is all about being connected digitally opened doors for significant internet tie-ins and a powerful social media presence for the TV show. ABC definitely could have played up its meta, social media-TV show connection to expand its viewership further or use to engage fans more effectively.

Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley

Those pajamas doe

Karen Gillan is perfect as a modern day Eliza Doolittle (Eliza Dooley in Selfie). Yes, her character is narcissistic, but she wants to better herself. Unlike the character she is based on, this iteration of Eliza voluntarily asks Henry Higgs to help her become less self-centered, and as a result a better human being. You really root for Eliza to improve, while also enjoying her antics as she relapses into her digital media obsessions de temps en temps.

Also, bravo to Scottish actress Karen Gillan for her near flawless American accent.

It’s significantly funnier than most of the crap that’s out there today…

For the sake of not pissing off fans of those shows, I won’t name these “comedies.” However, if those shit shows have a place on the air, then Selfie most definitely does; and it was certainly well on its way to becoming one of the most charming comedies on air today.

Even the minor details, like these Instagram comments are hilarious. Found this little nugget in Episode 4, 'Nuggets of Wisdom.'
Even the minor details, like these Instagram comments are hilarious. Found this little nugget in Episode 4, ‘Nuggets of Wisdom.’  It reads, “Where’d u get the tiny dj?! how is he?’

We want to find out what happens to Henry and Eliza

Henry Higgs and Eliza Dooley

ABC could at least let us find out what happens to Henry and Eliza. Do they end up together, or does the show end with them as equals with a strictly platonic, yet deeply close friendship? Pygmalion and My Fair Lady both hinted at a romantic relationship between the two, but left it at that. Would Selfie have ended differently? Our two protagonists had such strong chemistry on screen, and to see it played out to its conclusion would have been great. ABC has announced that they plan on airing holiday specials instead of the remaining episodes of the first season, but would seeing Selfie through for the season really have been a detriment to the network? The show’s fanbase was already growing, and the looming cancellation would have likely brought in a slightly higher viewership. The episodes were already made, so it seems like such a waste.

Closing Thoughts

Selfie had a slow start, but really stepped up its games in the later episodes.  It had just found its voice, and had the potential to grow further and develop an even stronger fanbase. Its greatest weakness was its name and also the Tuesday 8PM time slot. The strengths of the show, however, far outweighed the weaknesses, and it is truly a shame to see the story of these two very interesting characters cut short by network TV bureaucratic bullshit; right as we had just grown accustomed to their faces (reference to the show, watch it bro).

While it is very unlikely for shows that are canceled to make like a phoenix and rise up from the ashes, one can keep hoping. It has happened before, as rare as it is.  The Seflie fanbase has already began writing to ABC, started Twitter/Facebook campaigns, and even a petition on (which currently has 18,000 signatures). If you enjoyed the show as much as I did, or would like to see it stay on the air, feel free to share your thoughts.

#SelfieABC #BringbackSelfie

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6 thoughts on “In Defense of ABC’s ‘Selfie’

  • November 17, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    YOU SAID IT ALL!!!! I was so sad when it got cancelled. It was so funny. And I’m pretty hard to please too when it comes to comedies!

    • November 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks for reading, prosciutto! Ikr, it was a great show, and ABC made a huge mistake. 🙁

  • August 7, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Selfie is airing now at the Philippines. Love it. Theres your ‘syndication in Asian countries.’ Also on that scene with flying Twitter handles, the @ibong_adarna513 is a reference from Filipino myths. Nerding out, sorry. Fun series!

    • August 9, 2015 at 1:03 am

      I had no clue it was syndicated already. That’s awesome! And haha, I nerd out all the time. I welcome it. It’s definitely a fun show. I’m glad you’re watching it, and thanks for reading my post.


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