A Binge-Watching Cautionary Tale

I made a huge mistake.

Last Thursday, I went to see the Browns play the Bengals in Cincinnati. That wasn’t the mistake. It was a great game–for Browns fans. (Sorry, Bengals fans. At least you can look forward to returning the favor in December.) The weather could have been better; it was cold, windy, spitting sleet by the fourth quarter. But the game? Sublime. Interception after interception, amazing catches at the end of good throws, a running game that managed to actually run, and quarterback Brian Hoyer walked off the field with a new nickname: Hoyer the Destroyer. Cheesy? Yes. Apt? Fuck yes.

I woke up the next day feeling like I’d been run down by one of those defensive ends that did such a great job of shutting down the Bengals offense. All right, so maybe it was a little bit of a mistake to spend more than three hours inadequately bundled against the cold, while already nursing a sore throat. Yeah, it definitely wasn’t the smartest choice to spend three hours yelling at heavily padded, behelmeted dudes who couldn’t hear me anyway.

But the real mistake didn’t happen until I was home again on Saturday morning, staring fixedly (low-fever-ishly, full of expectorant-ly) at the on-demand choices on the TV. FOX, nah. NBC, no thanks. Hmm, ABC has lots of options, and I do really like John Cho. I mean, I really like John Cho. Who doesn’t? PEOPLE WHO ARE WRONG IN THE FACE.

So, I picked Selfie.

The pilot was famously, ludicrously!, awful. Just the worst. In it, Henry Higgs (yep, it’s a My Fair Lady update) is obviously a prig, which doesn’t play to Cho’s strengths. Cho can do the straight-man thing but he’s miles better when he gets to be a bit goofy. And Eliza Dooley was, at best, a doofus. She wasn’t just vapid and self-involved, but deeply and horrifically stupid. Bits of backstory reveal that her venal exterior had originally been constructed to hide her ugly-duckling-ness, but along the way the writers–and Karen Gillan–took a terrible turn down a road that looked a lot like Lobotomy Loop.

But, you know, that’s not really a deal-breaker, awful as it is to say. Pilot characterization is a trainwreck more often than not. Here at least, there was room for Henry to unbend a little and Eliza to regain some of her mental capacity–both in the natural progression of a season and in the narrative-driven changes that need to work on the characters as they interact with their world and with each other.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. By the end of the sixth episode, which is all that’s aired to date, Eliza is still technologically-addicted and self-centered, but she reveals a warm and caring self–sometimes without needing to be prompted, even–and an intellect that has rebounded several thousandfold from the pilot. Henry, thank the writers, has taken a turn into truly enjoyable ridiculousness. John Cho gives the character a grounded quality that makes his unraveling when thwarted even more hilarious. In 1×06, when he finally abandons his rigid plans for advancement and interaction to do something spontaneous and joyful, the result is momentarily humiliating and a total delight. Best of all, though, the chemistry between Cho and Gillan is crackling–enough to power dozens of gifsets on my Tumblr dash. For a romcom that leans heavily on the everyone-sees-how-perfect-you-are-together trope, it’s perfect.

Why is all this so unfortunate, though? What about watching a show that turned out to be sweet and engaging could possibly be a mistake?

Well, because Selfie is effectively cancelled. ABC announced on Friday that it wouldn’t be ordering any additional episodes beyond the original thirteen, which is as good as actually yanking it from the schedule. Which it will probably do by the end of this week! Lol sob.

(I’m purposely not talking about the supporting cast, especially Charmonique and her son Kevin, because not getting to see them for seasons to come is upsetting enough without having to put into words how much I love that we get to see them at all.)

If you’ve got ABC shows on demand, you can still watch the first six episodes (really, you probably shouldn’t even bother with the pilot. Just start with 1×02), and there is still a new episode on Tuesday night at 8 Eastern. You can also watch the episodes here on ABC.com.

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Quick hits: In the land of the super detective…

It’s the new fall TV season! New shows! Returning favorites! So many reminder emails from followshows.com so I can fret about whether the DVR is set correctly (and has accounted for football game overruns! Damn you, CBS!)!

Okay, that definitely exceeds my exclamation point quota for the week. Point is: yay TV!

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Hello? Is This the Captain You’re Looking For?

Originally published in Infinite Unknowns for Brooklyn Zine Fest 2014

If I were to say “Captain James T. Kirk” to you, what’s the first thing to pop in your head? Is it Shatner—or Pine, if you must, though most of what follows doesn’t apply to his turn as Kirk—with that green (yellow!) tunic, those smart black trousers, that rakish grin?

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True Detective: Vanishing Point

Reflecting on True Detective’s first season

Spoilers ahoy.

I’m tired today.

I stayed up too late last night to watch the first season finale of True Detective, the lush, loquacious portrait of Southern decay that held me in thrall all weekend, racing to catch up to the zeitgeist, if not the killer(s). I’m no stranger to late nights—nor to the toll of an extended media binge—but the seemingly endless spin of the HBO Go loading wheel (and the horrified contortions of my face once the show began) were more tiring than I had expected.

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