fall tv 2014

I Want Rom-Com TV to Flourish, But ABC’s Manhattan Love Story Is Not Helping at All

Photo: Giovanni Rufino/ABC

Do douchelords deserve love? How dumb can a person be before the Earth decides, “You know what, I’ve made a mistake,” and it swallows that person into the ground as a corrective? How massive can a Manhattan apartment be on television before a set designer says, “This is pushing the bounds of credulity”? All this and less in Manhattan Love Story!

I would love nothing more than for TV to have a rom-com era, but this is not at all what I wished for. Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid, Love. and a former Top Model contestant) and Jake McDorman (Greek, R.I.P.) are the fated couple we’re supposed to root for. Dana lusts after purses. Peter lusts after breasts. He is cocky and rude. She is dreamy and naïve. He’s a vague womanizer who lives off Daddy’s money — money earned running a trophy-engraving company, which cannot possibly be the cash cow the show envisions — and is so dismissive to Dana on their first date that she cries. And then she gets the hiccups, a personal quirk so oppressively cutesy, even Taylor Swift’s cat is looking at it and thinking easy does it. Dana’s such a tender flower that she can’t even work a cell phone, always just typing the wrong things into the wrong boxes, garsh darnit, but she’s determined to live her dream and work as a book editor. She tries to buy sexy lingerie, but she mistakes a necklace for a thong. Good luck living an adult life, sister.

Dana and Peter go out because their mutual friend, who is a terrible monster human, thinks it’s a good idea. Is this how romantic love works? If so, consider this my prayer for the sun to explode and end this human folly. Why would I ever root for these people to get together? So they could continue to articulate the most irritating aspects of gender-reductive nonsense? When Peter gets choked up looking at the Statue of Liberty, Dana says in voice-over, “Just when I start to like him, turns out he’s gay.” What year is it? The year to stop making shows like this, I hope.

In addition to being nowhere near as adorable as it thinks it is, Manhattan Love Story is also structurally off. The show relies very heavily on Peter and Dana’s voice-overs, which is a real mistake. The point of a voice-over is to tell us something about a character’s thoughts that we could otherwise not know. But on MLS, the attitude seems to be, Why convey something through acting when you can convey it through voice-over? It’s a weird shortcut on a show that would benefit tremendously from less dialogue and more emotions. “Ditzy” is not an emotion. There’s no depth here, none of the butterflies or oh my Gods you feel when you meet someone special.

People fall for each other for all kinds of reasons, but MLS avoids articulating what any of those reasons might be. He’s cute, and she’s cute, and that’s apparently enough, even though it’s New York City and everywhere you look someone at least as cute is just tootling around. At the end of the second episode, Peter confesses to Dana that he wants to “put [her] in a freezer” — not in a murderer way, just to preserve her as-is for when he’s ready to be in a serious relationship, say, five years from now. As Maya Angelou and Oprah say, when someone tells you who they are, believe them. I’ll give Dana the same advice I’m giving possible viewers: Run.

TV Review: Manhattan Love Story Is Not Lovable