LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Not to get caught up in the critical process, but the page of notes that an average screener generates were limited to two words regarding "Selfie," an ABC sitcom that's too precious by half: "Modern 'Pygmalion.' " Granted, there's much to be said about social media self-obsession in the digital age, but almost nothing memorable about it in this latest spin, which casts Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley, a young woman prone to bad decisions; and John Cho as her buttoned-up co-worker, who assumes the challenge of making her over. Is it worth watching? With apologies to Prof. Higgins, not on a bet.
A sales rep, Eliza is introduced onboard a plane, humiliating herself with the married co-worker with whom she's been carrying on. Realizing she's not always the best steward of her own heavily narrated life, she begins talking to Henry (Cho), a marketing ace who relishes the intellectual aspects of seeking to reinvent her, the inevitable twist being that her free-spirited ways might help fix him, too.
In the premiere, written by Emily Kapnek ("Suburgatory"), that includes Henry dragging Eliza as his plus-one to the wedding of their boss's kid - a teachable moment, in theory, which doesn't exactly go as planned.
Obviously, there's something to be said for breathing new life into the classics, and "Pygmalion" has proved more durable than most; still, seeking to transfer this fair lady into an examination of a Web-connected, Twitter-paced culture simply opens the show up to derision precisely from the hip, tech-savvy younger viewers the network would so like to attract. In short, "Selfie," like Eliza, is trying just a bit too hard to please. (The same goes for the early preview of the show on ABC.com and Hulu, hoping to build buzz in advance of its the show's network debut.)
The limits of the material notwithstanding, both Cho and Gillan are reasonably good, and the supporting roster includes David Harewood, last seen on "Homeland," as the aforementioned boss.
More than anything, "Selfie" feels like simply the latest variation on a theme that ABC has seemingly trotted out a dozen times in recent years, only with different titles and leading ladies. And the odds aren't good that Eliza, like most of those who preceded her, will be around long enough to make much progress, much less allow anyone to grow accustomed to her face.