There is a group of people out there in this world that has major love for George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, and the subsequent adaptations. I am one of these people. The 1938 movie version with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller is the most literally faithful to the source material. This does not in any way mean that the other versions are not worthy, I am just putting that particular movie at the purest place on the spectrum. Then we have My Fair Lady, one of the greatest musicals of all time. I admire it as an example of taking a successful Broadway musical and putting the magic of that on film. They did switch Julie Andrews’ Eliza for Audrey Hepburn, which is a kind of shame, but overall My Fair Lady is what happens when talented people craft something special and one of a kind. Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins is my happy place, especially when in the most gorgeous personal library of all time. We embrace My Fair Lady, as we should, as an adaptation even though it adds musical numbers and quite a bit of flair. As to whether either movie gets the actual point that Shaw was going for is debatable. He was illustrating the lack of power that a woman had at that time, along with her lack of options to take any real control over her own life ( Eliza ). Pygmalion is a lovely fairy tale for these women where a so called guttersnipe can find a toehold to a better life, and then walk away from the men of the story to forge her own way. Now, since Shaw himself was of the opinion that the purest adaptation ( the 1938 movie ) missed this point, I can not hold any of the others to that standard. Which brings me to why I am going allow myself to fangirl all over Selfie, and it is not just because I cannot help myself. Take away all of the modern trappings and the American setting of Selfie, and at heart it stays true to Pygmalion. Not only that, but it has an incredible number of references throughout the pilot.
This article is based on the pilot pre-released on Hulu and On Demand, afterwards it was changed and partly re-shot for the t.v. airing.
I did my best to spot everything, but there are a lot of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady nods:
- Eliza and Henry are the first names of the main characters.
- Eliza is considered to be low class. ( yes, she has nice clothes, not the point )
- Her credit cards are maxed out so she is broke.
- Henry is put off by her social media habits the first time he sees her. ( same as bad English really, just updated )
- Henry’s bow tie and vests, really his whole wardrobe. I am looking forward to seeing a smoking jacket at some point.
- Eliza is asked to leave a place where people feel uncomfortable interacting with her because of her low class and ickyness. ( throw up )
- Eliza is alone with no one to care for her.
- Henry is a loner.
- Henry is scary good at everything that he does, save liking people enough to have a real relationship with them.
- Homoerotic tones ( man kissing is more obvious than just a tone, but hey modern update again )
- Eliza realizes that it would be better for her life and career if Henry teaches her to change.
- Henry’s whole office! Love it crazy amounts! The book wallpaper referencing the Higgins library, the furniture, the tea set.
- Henry sees teaching Eliza as a professional undertaking, not a sexual one.
- Henry makes her practice and redo an interaction until she gets it right, sometimes literally making her repeat words.
- Rain references!
- Henry’s rhyme talking that is a take on Rex Harrison’s singing style.
- Eliza getting help from other ladies getting ready. No, she did not literally fight them, but still a great take on the scene.
- Henry’s reaction to Eliza ready for her first event/test.
- Henry’s vocabulary. So wonderfully old fashioned!
- More rhyming!
- Eliza embarrassing herself and Henry at first event with loud low class noises.
- Eliza makes incremental progress.
- More rain references!
Basically, I am in love with the possibilities of this show already. I even love Karen Gillian’s California Soul Cycle accent! She nails it, and is proving to be a formidable comic actress. Recently, the BBC series A Touch of Cloth has made itself into my hands and Karen kills it when she enters the third season.
John Cho is so Rex Harrison that it can be kind of scary, in a relieving my god I can not believe how much I have missed this flavor of a man way. The chemistry that he has with Karen is palpable, and as a bonus it was fun to see him feature in her ice bucket challenge video joining her in Power Ranger gear.
Now, the issue of whether or not the actor who follows Henry around is Pickering. He is like Schrodinger’s Pickering. Since his name has not been Colonel or Pickering, and he has been more of a sounding board than involved in the Eliza project in any way, he probably is not. However, he is the only person that seems to spend time with Henry, so maybe yes. This opens the possible door to my fantasy actor for the role, well really any role, Alan Tudyk. I can picture that mash-up very clearly, and it is a glorious thing! He is probably fairly busy, but the chance is there since he was in Suburgatory, another Emily Kapnek show. The world needs more of this:
I rest my case.