TV sitcoms have always fallen into the same couple of categories.  You’ve got family oriented sitcoms, that’s probably the biggest.  Then you’ve got workplace comedies.  And don’t forget comedies about friends, like Friends.  And then you’ve got your standard rom/com comedies.

In the past, these were never that hard to do, but judging by the current crop of sitcoms trying to find footing in this genre, maybe it’s a lost art.

Selfie

Clearly, the best of the new shows is Selfie, a serialized Pygmalion update for the 21st century.  In it, the former ugly duckling Eliza Dooley (OK points off for lack of originality in renaming the characters) has grown to be a beautiful but vacuous social-media obsessed woman oblivious to the world around her.   Seemingly world-wise Henry decides to make humanizing Eliza his “project” #rain #Spain #plain.

I have to say that it is impossible to overstate the extent to which Selfie works as a premise and as a jumping off point for two characters because of the luminous Karen Gillan’s ability to make Eliza simultaneously loathsome, desirable, sympathetic, hilarious and familiar all at once.  It’s as if the original Eliza Doolittle got a makeover courtesy of Mean Girls, Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion and Jennifer Lawrence on a late night talk show at her absolute klutziest.  Gillan, one of the few companion characters to ever upstage Doctor Who, steals every scene she’s in and a few she’s not.  She even gets you to believe she used to be an ugly duckling.  She’s that good.

Selfie also did a nice job casting John Cho as a clever and charming but vulnerable Henry, who is quickly revealed to be, in his own way, nearly as isolated and solitary as Eliza.  Hence the not yet budding romance these two characters are slated for.  I’m not certain, but I believe Selfie is the first show to cast an Asian-American in this type of romantic lead role, a fact which is completely ignored by the show (as it should be) but deserves a mention here.

John Cho, Karen Gillan, Selfie

Cho & Gillan at their My Fair Lady-est

I do worry that Selfie is going to alienate the very audience it needs to succeed.  Is the hipster, social-media generation going to tolerate a show that absolutely savages the social-media generation to get laughs?  I don’t know.  Can they take a joke?

I hope so.  Selfie is a well written show based on a classic (read time-tested) premise with a genuine treasure in Karen Gillan at the top of it.  If America can’t like this, what can they like?

Marry Me

In the much more traditional vein, Marry Me was created by Happy Endings creator David Caspe for his wife and Happy Endings star Casey Wilson.  If you’re a Casey Wilson fan, and if you like awesome, funny comedic actresses who can deliver a punchline, straightline or slapstick gag with equal degrees of aplomb then you should be, you’ll probably enjoy this show.

My biggest problem with Marry Me is that it takes no risks whatsoever.  In that sense, it is an inferior show to Happy Endings, and watching Wilson and on-screen fiance Ken Marino feels like a dozen shows I’ve seen before, from Mad About You all the way back to I Love Lucy (probably not a coincidence that Wilson’s character dressed as Lucy for Halloween).

Casey Wilson, Ken Marino, Marry Me

Sitcom Deja Vu: Wilson & Marino

This is also a show that is almost exclusively dependent on Wilson & Marino to carry it.  The supporting characters are badly underwritten, and you wonder how a fun couple like Marry Me’s Annie & Jake could have wound up with such a sad collection of losers for friends.  Unlike the neurotic collection of all-stars on display in Happy Endings, Marry Me’s extras are just that:  extras.  As a result, you feel a bit of a Casey Wilson hangover at the end of each episode.

She’s funny.  But she would be even funnier in a better vehicle than Marry Me, and we already have the proof.  Her last show was just that.

A to Z/Manhattan Love Story

At the bottom of the rom/com barrell, you have Manhattan Love Story and A to Z, which have now both been canceled (I just learned about A to Z, and it came as no surprise whatsoever).  I will give the networks credit – although I think they pull the trigger too quickly on dramatic shows they’re usually right on when they cancel sitcoms, and the ones that have gone down quickly (these two and Bad Judge, which I panned a few weeks ago) were all pretty weak shows.

The biggest problem with both Manhattan Love Story and A to Z is that they’ve both been done to death.  In both shows, you have a variation on small town girl (in Manhattan Love Story, Holly Golightly stand-in Annaleigh Tipton; in A to Z, sensible Cristin Milioti) goes to the big city (New York, it’s always New York) and meets streetwise guy (loveable romantic Ben Feldman in A to Z, incorrigible lothario Jake McDorman in Manhattan Love Story) and they hook up entirely too quickly given all the reasons they would have not to.  Oh, I get it, ROMANCE!

Look, TV, if your audience wasn’t down with small town girl meets totally awesome party girl from hell in Don’t Trust The B in Apt. 23, why the hell would we want to watch a bunch derivative crap with Annaleigh Tipton?

Here’s an idea:  how about making a show I would watch?  Take a couple of computer nerdy types played by, oh i don’t know, how about A to Z’s Hong Chau and Parvesh Cheena.  They’re not mismatched – they’re too alike, the same way Frasier and Niles were alike on Frasier – so that it’s funny, get it?  And you can have Katey Sagal narrate, just like she did on A to Z because that was OK, and let us watch these two who should be a perfect couple but they can’t stop stepping on each other’s toes and they get pissed at each other (pretty much the exact way they did it on A to Z, but for more than 30 seconds an episode).  And then just for fun they can have a small town girl as a neighbor – she can even be played by Annaleigh Tipton.

Hong Chau, Parvesh Cheena, A to Z

Make this show, I’ll watch it

That would be different, but still something you know works.  Fans love nerdy geeks – look at The Big Bang Theory.

And a pair of not-mismatched characters like on Frasier is funny.  And Chau and Cheena are definitely up to it – they were the only funny thing on A to Z.  And Katey Sagal is free, she’s almost finished with Sons Of Anarchy.  And Annaliegh Tipton is probably still under contract.

Who do I talk to at ABC?

 

Quick Takes

SPOILER ALERT:  Boardwalk Empire came to a close this week, and I am certain the show will be remembered as one of the best on TV while it was on.  And I know what you’re thinking…”so how bad did they screw up this ending.”  Actually not that bad.  My one complaint is that Boardwalk Empire seemed to think it had to find a way for its hero Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) to die, and while they did it in a clever and plot-hole-resolving way, I can’t help but feel like the ending was shoehorned in to make the series ender more like Breaking Bad.  I’d have been fine with the cagey and elusive Nucky Thompson just slipping off into the night.

Educational TV.  Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Don’t eat mucous you find lying in the street (at least until the Ebola panic is over) (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver); 2) Nothing says crazy like dirty glasses (The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson); 3) Mid-70s Tito is the best Tito (Black-ish).

Can you say greatest mash up ever?  Emilia Clarke (you know, from Game of Thrones) is going to play Sarah Connor in the next incarnation of the Terminator franchise!  This is SO MUCH COOLER than Christian Bale doing it!

 

Looking Ahead

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will both air live specials on November 4 for Election night.

The series premiere of Kitchen Inferno airs on Food Network on November 5.

The CMA Awards will air on November 5 on ABC and yeah, that’s a Wednesday, so no Nashville that night.  Irony!

The series premiere of The Game airs November 5 on BBC America.

White Collar returns to USA on November 6.

The acclaimed British series Sherlock finally gets a US airing starting November 8 on BBC America.

The season finale of The Chair airs on Starz on November 8.

Doctor Who airs a 90 minute season finale on November 8 on BBC America.

 

TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet.  Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on?  Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an
email:  [email protected]  I welcome your input!
 
 
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