How I'd love it if any of this season's dismal new wave of romantic comedies, all vying to be the next How I Met Your Mother, made me LOL. Sadly, I'm more inclined to search for a "cringe" emoticon, especially where ABC's two new Tuesday night entries are concerned.
The less objectionable is Selfie (8/7c), a strained attempt to update Pygmalion to the Instagram era, but coming off more like My Fair Lucy — because this Eliza Doolittle, here called Eliza Dooley (Doctor Who's Karen Gillan), is silly and vapid beyond belief or tolerance. An iGadget junkie who speaks in hashtags, this Twitter- and self-obsessed twerp realizes she needs to "re-brand" herself after an embarrassing incident involving barf bags on a plane full of co-workers makes her a viral laughing stock. "Being friended is not the same thing as having friends," she sulks. Enter her pharmaceutical employer's marketing guru, the Henry Higgins of this story (John Cho), an uptight and aloof wet blanket who looks askance at the shallow wireless connections people tend to make on social media.
And characters don't come much more shallow than this Eliza. Which seems a misreading of the source material, because even when Classic Eliza was unschooled and uncouth, she had an admirable strength of character that so far is lacking from the brittle ditz played by the usually adorable Gillan. Cho fares somewhat better in a thankless role as "an un-fun man" — Eliza's words — who wonders if he's taken on a "lost cause" in this garish creature. (I doubt if The Doctor himself could fix her. And yes, I miss Amy Pond.) The stars' charisma could help lift Selfie beyond its narrow premise, but at first glance, it seems too inconsequential even to qualify as an epic fail.
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RACE YOU TO THE MUTE BUTTON: The heroine of the gimmicky Manhattan Love Story (8:30/7:30c) could use a few Facebook tips from Eliza, because even though Dana (Analeigh Tipton), a naive new New York transplant, aspires to work in publishing and should know her way around a computer, she keeps fumbling texts and status updates, causing no end of embarrassment. Which is the only vaguely charming aspect of this dreadful rom-com, whose one innovation is letting us hear everything Dana and her potential beau Peter (Jake McDorman) are thinking. "Whoa! Totally just saw some bra," Peter internally chortles while on their predictably ill-fated first date. When she calls him on it, he thinks, "That was feisty!" You can't even tell these idiots to shut up because they'll keep thinking out loud.
This device grows old within the first minute. By the end of a half-hour, it's unbearable. It would help if Peter weren't such a boor, or Dana such a simp. Theirs are the last minds anyone would ever yearn to tap — unless you count the horrific supporting cast, which includes Dana's shrill former sorority sister Amy (Jade Catta-Preta), who's married to Peter's grody brother David (Nicolas Wright), which is how this whole blind-date mess gets started. Peter and David work for the family business, which engraves trophies of all sorts, and as Peter quips, "The celebration of mediocrity in this country is the biggest windfall our company has seen in four generations."
If mediocrity is that trendy, then maybe there's hope for Manhattan Love Story. If not for the rest of us.
COMEDY TONIGHT: Lest you worry that your funny bone has been numbed for all time, consider watching some of the greatest female comedians of our time — including the late Joan Rivers, in a wonderfully candid interview — celebrate their craft in the terrific new PBS documentary Makers: Women in Comedy (9/8c, check tvguide.com listings). The first in a six-week Makers series exploring women's achievements in fields including Hollywood, space, politics, business and war, Women in Comedy is a frank and fascinating examination of the challenges women faced breaking into the boys' club of comedy, whether on the stand-up stage or in the writers' room of sitcoms and Saturday Night Live. "Comedy is masculine," declares Rivers, a true pioneer. "You're out there and you've gotta be in charge." Early clowns like Phyllis Diller tended to make themselves the butt of their own jokes — "Funny was just too threatening to come from a woman," explains Curb Your Enthusiasm's Susie Essman — but revolutionaries including Roseanne Barr and Sarah Silverman fearlessly broke down those barriers, to the point where, thankfully, the gender distinction has become mostly moot. "Funny is funny. Done! Over! Next!" barks Rivers. And Joy Behar insists, "This is the last documentary I ever want to see about women in comedy." Should that be the case, it's an awfully good one.
THE TUESDAY GUIDE: Dad has a new girlfriend on Fox's New Girl (9/8c) — and when Dad (Rob Reiner) arrives to show her off, turns out she's Jess and Cece's high-school nemesis (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Kaitlin Olson). Ewwww. ... Derek Jeter's TV victory lap continues. (He'll guest on The Tonight Show Thursday, for those keeping score.) And while even non-Yankee fans continue to savor his remarkable and historic final act in Yankee Stadium, Jeter explores the history of his own ancestry in an all-athlete edition of PBS's Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates (8/7c, check tvguide.com listings). Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo are the other world-class pros peering into their families' pasts, but the most surprising segment shows Jeter learning new information about his roots in an Alabama slave family. ... An idea whose time has come: We Need to Talk, an all-female weekly sports show, courtesy of CBS Sports Network (10/9c). ... DVD release of the week: a special-edition presentation of 1983's instant-phenom Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever extravaganza, which first aired on NBC, introducing the world to Michael Jackson's moonwalk. Once seen, never forgot. Star Vista Entertainment/Time Life is packaging Motown 25 in a 3-disc and (online only) 6-disc format. Very groovy.