I'll be the first to admit I didn't love the pilot of ABC's Manhattan Love Story. In fact, you could even say I was disappointed. A show about dating, set in New York City is totally up my alley. But months after watching the less-than-stellar pilot, I got an opportunity to watch the show's third episode, while also voicing my concerns — mostly about the heavy use of voiceover — to the creator Jeff Lowell. I came out of both my conversation and the screening pleasantly surprised.
Here's how Lowell quelled some of my issues and made me believe that, despite a bad first date, perhaps I should give Manhattan Love Story a second chance.
The overt voiceover
My initial concern: Even if you've seen just the trailer you know how much interior monologue we hear from main characters Dana (Analeigh Tipton) and Peter (Jake McDorman). Both the device and the simple-minded content of the characters' thoughts gets annoying quickly.
Lowell's response: "We hit a balance a little less than what was in the pilot [where] it was a new shiny toy and ... we were very anxious about using it as much as humanly possible," he says. "But it is one of the charms of the show [and] a device I obviously like that's incredibly freeing. You don't have to have some of those conversations that are fake ... where people have to say out loud something and look in the mirror and wonder what to do. To me, every scene should play without them and we only use them when it's interesting or funny."
The obvious end game
My concern: It would be shocking if you didn't expect Dana and Peter to end up together. So, if that's the case, how are we supposed to root for other love interests that come along the way if we know those aren't going to ultimately last?
Lowell's response: "Hopefully those other people play like complications in a relationship," he says. "In Friends I think you always knew Ross and Rachel would end up together yet they had credible other people. Emily was a threat to the relationship; they still had great arcs and episodes. There's a very real and honest chemistry that comes across [according to People the co-stars are dating] and through the course of the series they'll be drawn to each other when they're not dating. That said, maybe the last episode is them breaking up and they're not so great for each other — we'll see!"
My concern: The pilot introduces Peter's brother David (Nicholas Wright) and his wife Amy (Jade Catta-Preta), who set up Peter and Dana, and his sister Chloe (Chloe Wepper) and father William (Kurt Fuller), who round out the family business. With the concept set up in 22 minutes, it's too soon to tell what comedic timing and plot value the foursome provides.
Lowell's response: "The other four characters are just so great and funny," he says. "Gavin and Stacey is one of my favorite shows and it was a similar balance that I thought was great. It's a grounded, relatable couple at the center and you give more freedom to the people around them to go broader in comedy and it's the mix we've fallen into here." [Side note: Catta-Preta is the standout of the episode I saw — and perhaps of the whole series—and recurring guest star Nico Evers-Swindell, who first appears in Episode 3, has a funny arc as Dana's gay co-worker.]
My concern: In all my years of dating, I've never embarrassingly blown my nose or smelled my armpits outside the restaurant or cried out of nowhere, all of which happens to Dana during her first date with Peter. Do these things really happen?
Lowell's response: "My wife and I have been together since we were 15, so we have a huge staff filled with bad dating stories," he says. "They have miserable luck and the first eight weeks before the actors got here a lot of it was, 'Tell me your disaster. What went wrong? How did you handle it? What happens when you go on an online date?' All of the old married people in the room are like, 'Tell me more about Tinder!' One of our writers is a married woman who hasn't dated in a long time and when she's feeling bored some of the younger writers will pull up Tinder and let her swipe left or right —it's the highlight of her day."
My concern: How does the show stand a chance against NCIS or The Voice? Plus: Have you seen the amount of rom-coms this fall?
Lowell's response: "Because ABC is launching an hour of comedy that they haven't had before, there is sort of no bar. I literally have no idea what number will work," he says. "All I really know is whatever Selfie does is our bar [and] our available audience is Selfie. So, that's what we'll be judged by. Hopefully we're also judged by the episode and if they love it, they'll figure out a way to make it work and keep us around. So, I'm calm because everything in my control is going well."
Are you going to watch Manhattan Love Story?
Manhattan Love Story premieres on Tuesday at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.