Tuesday, September 9, 2014

So I'm going to review this show, but first, let me take a "Selfie"

Yeah I'm concerned too.
Let me preface this review,  I love My Fair Lady, like, in a really deep way.  I will literally kill to play Eliza Doolittle. I have all the songs and words memorized in case the occasion rises and I need to be Eliza. I've been known to sing "Just You Wait, Henry Higgins" in lieu of glaring at my husband. With that in mind, you understand how I was prepared to hate "Selfie" with every fiber of my being. How could they take a social commentary piece about the shallowness of society, judging a person based on how they speak, and make a show about the shallowness of society, judging a person based on her social networking addictions?  Oh. Huh. That actually works.

It's Eliza, Ms. Dooley if you're nasty
Selfie is an ABC network show based loosely on My Fair Lady (according to the ABC.com website).  They've modernized the story and instead of teaching Eliza (Karen Gillian, who you remember from Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Who) how to speak, Henry (John Cho, who you remember from Harold and Kumar and Star Trek) is teaching her how to be a real person, not a social media flake.  For being "loosely" based on My Fair Lady, they really referenced it a lot.  Not just in plot points (organized into a handy dandy chart below), but they actually reference the play at one point, when Eliza tells Henry to go all "my fair lady" on her.

They've kinda hit all the major plot points in the first episode, so I'm not sure how they plan on maintaining it.

It is also clear that the creator intended this to be a musical.  Henry and Eliza have a tendency for speaking in rhyme for no reason, and there was an acapella Lady Gaga moment that really made no sense. Why they would take the musical out but leave the rhymes in is a mystery.

Here is my problem with the random spoken word and musical-ish interludes.  When you are studying theater, they say that if you can't say it, you sing it.  If you can't sing it you dance it.  Music provides a way to express emotions and feelings that mere words cannot carry.  Having someone read lyrics you have written just doesn't carry the same power as if they sang it, or had a kickin' beat behind it, a la "In the Heights".  When you have good actors, and you are filming them, they don't need to sing or dance. The camera can capture the minute expressions of feeling that cross their face. Bless their souls, Cho and Gillian handle the random moments as naturally as they could but it is still odd and disconcerting.

I'll give it a few more episodes and then pass my final judgement. Overall, it is an enjoyable show and I love Karen Gillian and John Cho. I just hope they grow out of the awkward references and just fly on their own.

Mae Linh Fatum has been a musical theater fan her entire life, starting from the moment one of the Cats in Cats put their head in her lap. One day, she will play Eliza Doolittle. Or you will all suffer.

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