In the US: Tuesday 8.30/7.30c, ABC
Now is the hour of the TV romcom. It’s something that’s been growing over the summer, with tiny acorns such as Undateable and Welcome To Sweden on NBC giving way to the striplings of Marriage and You’re The Worst on FX. And now we have a veritable forest of them, with Selfie already on our screens, A to Z and Marry Me on the way this season, and Manhattan Love Story just arriving.
Although it might seem like doing a romcom is easy – after all, pretty much every script to a Katherine Heigl film is the same as all the others, with virtually every cliche about ‘what men and women want’ surviving intact from the 1950s in all of them – it’s really not, as Manhattan Love Story demonstrates. To give you a flavour of the show, we start the first episode with our hero, Peter (Jake McDorman), and heroine, Dana (Analeigh Tipton) walking through Manhattan. He’s checking out the women, trying to remember which ones he’s slept with, usually by staring at their breasts as an aide memoire. She’s checking out the women, too, but purely to scope out their handbags.
Because that’s what men and women are like, aren’t they?
This embrace by the writers of the stereotypical romcom world doesn’t end there. Dana is a naive small town woman, moved to New York to pursue a new career as an editor at a publishing company. This is the kind of publishing company where everyone looks at a woman who claims to have copy-edited an entire book overnight not in amazement at how anyone could think that a good idea, when 15 pages or so a day is probably where it needs to be at to avoid all kinds of horrible mistakes, but at how dedicated and talented this person who’s never worked in publishing before must be.
In turn, Peter is a player, a cynical native New Yorker. He also works at an engraving company. Yes, he’s in Manhattan, presumably paying Manhattan rents, getting by on having trophies engraved. Let’s just hope he only works there or episode seven is where it turns out he’s having to sell crack cocaine to make ends meet. Slightly darker, I know, but reality bites, and it’s either that or branching out into shoe repairs and cutting duplicate keys.
Turns out that Peter’s friend’s wife is friends with Dana and she sets the two up on date, which naturally enough is arranged for Dana’s first day at a new job. Dating on a Monday, starting a new job on a Friday or assuming that a date on the night of anyone’s first job is a good idea – which do you think is less likely?
As you can imagine, it’s all laughs as first Dana’s day at work turns out to be hellish and then the date turns out to be equally hellish. But wouldn’t you know it, they’re ready to try again by the end of the episode, after learning a little about what the other really wants.
This is all highly painful stuff. There’s no real humour to any of it. It’s offensive to men, women, New Yorkers, small towners, men and women again, and anyone from an ethnic minority about 83% +/- 17% of the time. There’s no charm, nothing even approaching romance, no realism. The main characters aren’t interesting. Their friends aren’t interesting. Even the player-naive girl diad is played to the blandest, tritest level possible. Ooh, Dana wants to go on a bicycle-cab ride and see the Statue of Liberty! Isn’t she just innocently embracing the natural joy of existence and living in New York to the max!
It’s not a total failure at everything, since Tipton proves that it is possible to have some success in life after appearing on America’s Next Top Model. But it’s pretty close.