Sitcom 'Selfie' pokes fun at our social-media addictions

Commentary: When a TV sitcom points out the downfalls of overtweeting, dwindling attention spans and the habit of talking in hashtags, should we laugh or learn from it?

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
3 min read

Karen Gillan plays the social-media-obsessed Eliza Dooley on "Selfie." ABC

Taking selfies with tigers, in rush hour traffic and at funerals. Using an app to find someone to hug. We've all made bad decisions thanks to our addiction to social media, and now there's a TV comedy starring John Cho ("Star Trek Into Darkness") and Karen Gillan ("Doctor Who") that addresses what can happen when you can't live without tweeting every second of your life.

The new ABC series "Selfie" puts a Millennial twist on "My Fair Lady," which of course was originally a twist on "Pygmalion." Gillan plays Eliza Dooley -- a play on "My Fair Lady" character Eliza Doolittle. She's a self-absorbed sales rep, modeled most likely after a Kim Kardashian/Paris Hilton clone, who documents everything that happens in her life -- from naked selfies to her latest foodie-approved meal. Eliza can't make a comment without saying the word hashtag. So far, it might sound more like a documentary than a comedy.

"Selfie" wants to make us laugh at the perils of looking at life through a Pinterest board. After all, if you're constantly snapping photos of every part of your life, you forget to appreciate the moment without using an Instagram filter.

When Eliza's life goes into a tailspin because of poor dating choices and all of her co-workers mock her epic fails online, she comes to a profound realization. "When Siri is the only person there for you, it kind of makes you realize being friended is not the same thing as having friends," Eliza says to herself.

Enter John Cho's character, Henry Higgs (another play on a "My Fair Lady" character, Henry Higgins) -- Eliza's co-worker, who's reluctantly agreed to help rebrand her (like he rebranded the company's faulty nasal spray with horrible side effects) into a likeable person instead of a vapid narcissist.

Karen Gillan (Eliza Dooley) and John Cho (Henry Higgs) make a modern day "My Fair Lady" duo. ABC

In the pilot episode of "Selfie," Eliza learns how to connect through small talk with the company's receptionist, how not to stare at her smartphone during a conversation and how to express what she feels about the weather without quoting her favorite rain app.

Of course, the show is getting a few negative reviews. As is the case with a lot of TV sitcoms, many of the characters seem too predictable, like Eliza's hipster "New Girl"-esque neighbor, who plays Lady Gaga songs on the ukulele during the makeover montage.

The pilot takes a cue from "Pretty Woman" by transforming Eliza's typical ubersexy wardrobe into muted, understated elegance. If Eliza is to be rebranded, apparently she should look like the Facebook photo of yourself that you share with your family, not the naked shower selfie you use on Tinder.

But at the core of the show, there's a strong message that we all need to hear if we're the type of people who can't sit through a long wedding without playing our favorite gaming app. Many of us have a serious social-media addiction, whether we want to admit it or not.

When's the last time you had a long conversation with someone without checking your Twitter? Can you socialize without using social media? When was the last time you showed interest in someone that doesn't involve clicking a Like button?

When is the last time you've had a conversation without holding your smartphone? ABC

Have you gone a full day without checking Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn and now Ello? Do you take it personally when someone unfollows you on Twitter? Do you know more people by their screen names than their real names? Do you get all your news from *ahem* CNET.com?

If you said yes to any of those questions, you can relate to "Selfie" -- and perhaps that's one of the reasons you should watch it. The show has the usual TV sitcom downfalls, with stereotypical characters, fat-shaming and sexist jokes -- but hey, at least there's no laugh track!

I know I'll keep watching as "Selfie" takes a humorous look on how to unplug and appreciate life. And I might even refrain from live-tweeting it. Maybe.

Currently, "Selfie" is available to watch online on ABC.com, on Hulu and on regular TV sets too.