Back in September, I wrote about how much I love watching a new television season unfold, because I find it fascinating to see which shows are instant hits and which shows are yanked off the schedule after only a couple of episodes have aired. This season has been surprising on many levels, primarily because it took well over a month for the first cancellation to be made official. However, since Manhattan Love Story’s demise, the cancellations have come fast and furious, and while some were predictable (A to Z) and others were surprising (The Millers), there will always be those that fall into the gone too soon category (Red Band Society). This process happens every year, and while it’s never fun when a show you like is cancelled (obligatory Firefly shoutout), it’s made even worse when the show in question was truly promising. This year’s most promising new show was ABC’s ridiculously titled Selfie, which after several weeks of steadily dwindling ratings, was officially cancelled last month.
When Selfie’s trailer was first posted online back in May, the backlash against the show was swift and brutal, and ABC immediately took it offline. In the months that ensued, the show’s title was soundly mocked, it landed on several “Worst of” lists, and when premiere week finally rolled around in September, it seemed like Selfie was the show that everyone was determined to hate. I must admit that I didn’t have much interest in checking it out, and my disinterest was entirely because of its title. However, the headlines and hate that Selfie managed to generate sight unseen piqued my curiosity, and one night in early November I decided to watch the first episode. Was it bad? No. It was decidedly average, but there was a spark of potential that led me to continue watching the next episode. A couple of hours later, I had devoured the remaining available episodes, and I was eagerly awaiting the next one. I decided that Selfie had the makings of a low rated but eventually critically adored sitcom with a cult following, and I congratulated myself on being among the first to discover this new television gem. Selfie was cancelled the very next day.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about why the show didn’t take off. Creator Emily Kapnek has a solid resume that includes Parks and Recreation and Suburgatory, leads Karen Gillan and John Cho are both equal parts awesome and adorable, and their chemistry was off the charts. Sure the characters were exaggerated and over the top, but what sitcom character isn’t? Off the top of my head I can think of at least a dozen shows currently on broadcast television that are far worse than Selfie, and I refuse to believe that its name alone is the only reason for its demise. So what gives?
In thinking on it further, I came to realize that the reason I liked Selfie so much was that it genuinely had some interesting things to say about today’s social media obsessed digital age. Watching Gillan’s social media obsessed Eliza Dooley and Cho’s uptight and offline Henry Higgs try and connect created some truly hilarious and poignant moments, and while Eliza’s narcissism and cluelessness were often played for laughs, they also quite often hit some of today’s most pertinent issues right on the nose. Which makes me wonder; was Selfie really cancelled because its name was such a turn off? Or did its pointed critique of today’s social culture hit a bit too close to home?