The TV show “Selfie” is now history—but it’s also the future

Too soon for a going away party?
Too soon for a going away party?
Image: Courtesy of ABC
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

This story has been updated.

Last week, Selfie—the ABC romantic-comedy starring John Cho (Star Trek) and Karen Gillan (Doctor Who/Guardians of the Galaxy) in a match made in geek heaven—aired its 13th and most likely final episode.

Quick recap: Back in the fall, Selfie premiered with one of the more unwatchable pilots of this past fall season, and was subsequently tagged as dead on arrival. It drifted aimlessly in the ratings until being quietly canceled on Nov. 7, just six episodes into its run—but ABC granted it a minor stay of execution, announcing that it would finish out its run online, with its remaining episodes released to streaming sites like Hulu.

Well, a funny thing happened as the show shifted from broadcast to the web: It got better. Much better. So much better, in fact, that it developed a startlingly committed fanbase, who greeted each subsequent show with a combination of anticipation and dread: The show’s fate was already sealed, after all, and whatever the 13th episode held for the charming tango between Cho’s Henry and Gillan’s Eliza would be the end of the road; there would be no second act for the show.

Well, maybe.

Led by superfans like Erika Lawson, who launched a Change.org petition in support of the show that quickly attracted more than 48,000 signatures, and supported by an array of late-convert critics like Entertainment Weekly’s Hillary Busis, the #SaveSelfie campaign was born—a movement seeking to preserve Selfie by getting Hulu or Netflix or another streaming site to purchase a second season of the show.

Whether this quixotic campaign will indeed earn Selfie a new lease on life remains to be seen. But there’s no question that it should. Because no show more aptly captures the potent demographic forces that are reshaping America—and that have already transformed the millennial generation, the cohort currently in the process of inheriting the world.

The most striking thing about the show’s casting decisions was their resolute color-blindness: Its key performers were chosen for their talent, appeal and chemistry rather than their race or ethnicity, which is why Korean-American John Cho plays a character named “Henry Higgs” and why Cho and Gillan’s boss, “Sam Saperstein,” is played (winningly!) by veteran black British actor David Harewood.

This decision to cast outside of the box produced another outcome: Nearly all of the romantic relationships in the show are interracial, from the obvious one (Cho and Gillan) to the more obscure (Harewood’s wife Yazmin is played by statuesque Natasha Henstridge; their multiracial daughter, played by half black, half Dutch Hayley Marie Norman, is in turn married to diminutive Samm Levine).

And race doesn’t seem to be an issue in any of these relationships. It’s not that race doesn’t exist: Cho’s Henry is described as Korean multiple times—he even dances uncontrollably to a song by Korean girl-band Crayon Pop in one hilarious scene. It’s just that the characters don’t care. Black and white, Asian and white, black and Asian—interracial isn’t just accepted, it’s the default (in one hilarious episode, both Gillan and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who plays Charmonique, try to set up Cho with a prospective mate—and each picks a roomful of candidates that are clones of themselves).

Funny enough, this attitude toward race is more or less the one thing about millennials that the show got absolutely right. I am a consultant for The Futures Company, a consumer insights firm that just released a “New America” report. Its findings: millennials are growing up in a society that isn’t “multicultural,” but polycultural—and “at the societal level, this means that diversity has reached a point where it has become an inescapable part of the everyday fabric of daily life.”

Based on Futures Company data, six in 10 millennials say that they believe their social circles are racially diverse. Eighty-seven percent say they “socialize regularly” with people not of their race or ethnicity (compared with 78% of boomers). And 26% say that someone in their immediate family is of another race—compared to 22% of boomers.

That’s our polycultural future. And it’s the future that Selfie brought into the present. So maybe ABC (or someone) should think about giving the show, as vastly improved as it is, another shot.