It’s a common story a lot of us have watched unfold before. Dudebro meets flighty gal. Dudebro mocks flighty gal. Dudebro scares away flighty gal. Dudebro tries to make it up to flighty gal. Dudebro ticks off flighty gal. Dudebro kisses up to flighty gal with weak, music-free Say Anything nod. Flighty gal gives him yet another chance because the producers mandated a happy ending. According to the new ABC sitcom Manhattan Love Story, that’s modern true love at its finest!
Technically the pilot had more to it, but not much. Our heroine is Dana (Analeigh Tipton), a junior editor who’s moved to the Big Apple from Atlanta, but acts like a country bumpkin even though her hometown’s metropolitan area is over five million strong. She keeps hitting all the wrong phone buttons and growling at her mistakes because tiny machines are hard. (At least I have the twin excuses of sausage-fingers and encroaching oldness.) She doesn’t recognize when her jaded new coworkers are hazing her. She’s a klutzy bad-luck magnet who ought to write a self-help book to teach wannabe ingenues how to be more awkward. And she’s read Harry Potter and she’s cuuuuute!
Her suitor is Peter (Jake McDorman), a TV guy’s guy who says what all TV guy caricatures are really thinking. In a romantic movie, he’d be the boor that the heroine dumps in favor of Ryan Gosling or Zac Efron or Morgan Freeman if given the choice. He works for an engraving company that does booming business in a world where every entrant in every competition ever from first place to last place merits a personalized trophy (one of the few bits that made me smile), and I presume this is an inroad to keep his life easily sports-connected, as all Real Guys should be. His dad is Kurt Fuller from Wayne’s World, the only cast member I recognized, who taught his boy everything he knows about livin’ loutish. Presumably the long game for MLS is six seasons and a movie to play The Taming of the Dude as the audience watches Peter mature in slow-motion until the finale when he reaches an emotional age 18 at the altar.
To make sure we understand the show’s complicated platform of Wimmen Be Diff’rent From Mens, the opening sees Peter and Dana each walking separately down those NYC streets, oblivious for now that Destiny is about to gnarl up their paths later. Peter is checkin’ out them honeys all around and assessing their mackability, while Dana is checking out other women’s shopping bags and resisting the temptation to mug-‘n’-snatch. See, they’re relatable hollow vessels just like you and me!
The easy premise setup escalates to Level 1 when their supporting cast (names withheld because why bother) arrange a blind date for them. But it’s not just any old TV blind date: the show’s gimmick is cloned from that 2000s syndicated dating show Blind Date in which people went on blind dates with their play-by-play voiceover “thoughts” provided as running commentary. Same here: we hear their thoughts as we go, no matter how superficial. After thirty seconds with them at dinner, now I know why Jean Grey was always so grouchy.
Anyway: they date. Hilarity ensues, largely not hilarious. Enmity follows. Enmity gets worse, then gets overturned by awfully forgiving happy ending because this isn’t a dark, brooding pilot about the meaninglessness of human connection, but a feel-good palliative that says any two people can make it work if only they don’t think too hard. Or better yet, let someone else think for them.
Setting aside exactly one funny workplace line (out of context: “I might take his job”) and the authentic Manhattan backdrop for which I’m normally a sucker, I get the impression Manhattan Love Story is what happens when TV execs throw their two hundred most recent meet-cute sitcom pitches into a fedora and agree on a dare to greenlight whichever one falls out first. I’m surprised it wasn’t canceled before the third commercial break.
[MCC 2014 Pilot Binge stat: Number of minutes passed before I wanted the show to go away: 3. For more information on the MCC 2014 Pilot Binge project, please visit the initial entry for the rationale, the official checklist of pilots, and links to completed entries as we go. Thanks for reading!]