“Selfie” Cancellation Causes Fans to Spring into Action

"For the Asian American community, seeing John Cho in a role on TV or in a movie has always been a triumph."

After six weeks on air, ABC announced the cancellation of Selfie, the romantic comedy starring John Cho and Karen Gillan.

In the show, Gillan plays Eliza, an Insta-monster who thrives on her social media fame. When an embarrassing video of her goes viral, her Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat reputation is compromised. She then decides she needs a makeover of the social kind. In other words, a gal who knows how to interact with people IRL and doesn’t speak in LOLs and OMGs. That’s when Henry (Cho) comes into the picture. He helps her become more of a human and less of a person who relies on Instagram “likes” to function properly.

The show started off shaky, but was just beginning to hit its stride, according to at least one critic. “An hour and a half later, I had devoured the five episodes that had aired since the pilot—and discovered, much to my delight, that Selfie was actually becoming the series I wished it had been in the first place,” writes Hillary Busis at Entertainment Weekly. Selfie averaged 4.7 million viewers and garnered a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49 since it aired the pilot, according to Entertainment Weekly, and has built a loyal fanbase.

For the Asian American community, seeing John Cho in a role on TV or in a movie has always been a triumph. He, along with a small group of mainstream Asian American actors (like Lucy Liu, Ken Jeong, Aziz Ansari and Mindy Kaling), has essentially become a representative for the community. With so few Asian American male lead roles—not to mention one that is in an interracial relationship, to boot—Cho has been breaking boundaries on screen.

The centerpiece question of the show is “Will they or won’t they?” between the interracial friendship, and possible romance, of Eliza and Henry. The rest of the cast is a smattering of talent that prove includes a diverse, comedic ensemble: Sam Saperstein is the eccentric boss, Da’Vine Joy Randolph is the side-eye giving receptionist Charmonique, Brian Huskey is the co-worker in mid-life crisis mode, Samm Levine is the eager officemate Terrence, Giacomo Gianniotti is the resident bro and Eliza’s booty call and Allyn Rachel plays Bryn, Eliza’s neighbor and B-rated version of Zooey Deschanel.

ABC has not ordered additional episodes beyond the 13 episodes and it is unknown how many episodes will air before it’s pulled from the lineup. (UPDATE 11/26/2014: Remaining episodes, up to 13, will be available on Hulu). Other shows in the past have had rough first seasons, but had a chance to work out kinks and go on to become big hits. This includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had a very rocky first season; a season that many fans want to forget. However, in the seasons that follow, it developed a voice that soon became a pop culture phenomenon.

Even though the cancellation has been announced, some hope to keep the show alive in one way or another. Diehard fans of shows are known to help with campaigns to bring them back.

In 2007, CBS announced they were going to cancel post-apocalyptic drama Jericho. The show’s first season averaged 9 million viewers, but it still was grounds for cancelation. When fans heard of the news they took to action and sent nearly 40,000 pounds of peanuts to CBS executives in New York and Los Angeles (the nuts had a significance in the show). This got the attention of the network and they brought the show back for one more season and then lived on in comic book form.

The NBC comedy Community had a very specific cult audience and the show was always on the verge of being canceled. Earlier this year, the show finally lost its battle with cancellation in its fifth season (its viewership averaged 3 to 5 million per season). However, with its popular catchphrase of “Six Seasons and a Movie” and a rabid fanbase that cared more about the show than life itself found a new home on Yahoo! to fulfill its sixth season.

Selfie fans have already mobilized to get the show back on air. A “Save Selfie” Twitter account has been created along with corresponding hashtag, “#saveselfie.” In addition to a Change.org petition to bring the show back, writers at Salon and The New Republic have also expressed their feelings on why the show shouldn’t be canceled.

While we await any updates, in the meantime, join us in revisiting the evolution of John Cho. Since the mid-’90s, John Cho has accumulated an impressively diverse resume of roles. From starring in Asian American indie films to comedy to the big screen, Mr. Cho has built a successful career as one of the most well-known Asian American actors in TV and film. Some of you may know him as Harold from Harold and Kumar or from the new Star Trek movies. But his luminous career started way before then—and we’re here to give you a breakdown of how this lovable, sexy actor evolved from the Asian American film festival circuit to leading man on ABC’s Selfie.

The Early Years: Asian American Independent Films

John Cho starred in Quentin Lee and Justin Lin’s “Shopping for Fangs” (1997). Photo courtesy of Margin Films.

1997: Cho played a bit part on the NBC comedy Boston Common. He then went on to star in the indie film Shopping For Fangs, directed by Quentin Lee and Justin Lin. The drama has intersecting story lines about a lesbian relationship with a married woman and a sexually confused man who thinks he is turning into a werewolf—and of course, becomes a cult favorite. Cho, Lee and Lin all get their start in the Asian American independent filmmaking circuit—Shopping for Fangs world premieres at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (now CAAMFest) in 1997.

The year of ’97 was a pivotal year in Asian American film. This year would add Yellow by Chris Chan Lee to the budding young actor’s resume, a comedy/drama about eight friends on the verge of high school graduation. When one of them loses a chunk of their dad’s money, the group scrambles to do what they can to raise the money. Hijinks ensue. We get a double dose of Cho this year at Yellow’s world premiere at SFIAAFF. (CAAM also distributes Yellow, if you wanna check it out).

Cho would also go on to do small roles on popular TV shows including Charmed and J.J. Abrams’s Felicity – another actor-director relationship that would serve him well in his career.

1999: Before the new millennium, Cho would unexpectedly be integral to one of the most pop culturally relevant comedies of our time: American Pie. His role? He would be known as the “MILF Guy.” It may not be part of the Oxford Dictionary (yet), but Cho helped make the term “MILF” part of the pop culture lexicon.

1999-2001: The next couple of years would bring him more small roles in big studio movies like Bowfinger and American Beauty. That would be balanced out with a role in the small studio Pavilion of Women, a World War II drama by Hong Kong director Ho Yim. He also reprises his MILF role in American Pie 2.

John Cho in "Better Luck Tomorrow" by Justin Lin.
John Cho in “Better Luck Tomorrow” by Justin Lin.

2002: Cho and director Justin Lin teamed up again with a cast of Asian American actors in Better Luck Tomorrow. Making its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie was a drama about a group of overachieving students who resort to crime after being bored with their lives. The film essentially challenged the portrayal of Asian Americans in film, gets acquired by MTV Films, and went on to garner critical acclaim.

2001-2003:Cho reprised his role as the MILF guy in 2003’s American Wedding, but his relationship with the directors/producers of the franchise, brothers Paul and Chris Weitz, results in other projects including the “twentysomethings trying to make it in New York” sitcom, Off Centre (with another American Pie alum, Eddie Kayne Thomas), which ran for two seasons on The WB network. Cho would also go on to work with Paul and Chris Weitz in the 2004 quarter life crisis-meets-mid life crisis dramedy, In Good Company as well as 2006’s American Dreamz, a satire on politics and a certain reality singing competition.

Mainstream TV/Film and More Independent Films

John Cho and Kal Penn in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." Warner Bros.
John Cho and Kal Penn in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.” Warner Bros.

2004: This year would bring yet another significant benchmark in John Cho’s career in the form of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Sure, it’s a movie about two stoners on a mission to find the scrumptious fast food cuisine, but let’s look at the bigger picture the two stoners happen to be Asian American…and they are both the title characters in the movie (the other being Cho’s partner in crime, Kal Penn). (This, too, becomes a cult favorite).

2005-2007:  In the TV series Kitchen Confidential based on Anthony Bourdain’s book, Cho starred alongside Bradley Cooper as a recurring character of seafood chef Teddy Wong. The show only lasted one season.

Actor John Cho at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, SFIAAFF 2008. Photo by Albert Chau.
Actor John Cho at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, SFIAAFF 2008. Photo by Albert Chau.

Never fear, Cho returns to his Asian American independent roots as the top-billed actor in Michael Kang’s West 32nd, a crime drama where he plays a lawyer who gets mixed into New York’s K-Town mobster scene while defending a 14-year-old accused of murder. Cho visits us at SFIAAFF in 2008 for his role in West 32nd.

2007-2008:  Cho would continue snag roles in movies (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The Air I Breathe) and more TV spots (How I Met Your Mother, Ugly Betty, ‘Til Death), but it’s his return as Harold in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay that would secure his spot as one-half of this generation’s Cheech and Chong.

Mainstream Star and Leading Man

John Cho stars as Sulu in "Star Trek." Paramount Pictures.
John Cho stars as Sulu in “Star Trek.” Paramount Pictures.

2009-2010:  For one season, Cho starred as FBI agent Demetri Noh in ABC’s FlashForward—which may have been too conceptual with its time-hopping storyline based on the sci-fi book by Robert Sawyer. Cho went the indie film route with the quirky comedy caper Saint John of Las Vegas where he had small role as a carnival “human torch.”

This was also the year where he starred in a movie that you may have heard of called Star Trek. His previous work with director J.J. Abrams in Felicity would carry over 11 years later in the reboot of the sci-fi franchise as he filled the iconic role of Hikaru Sulu who was, as you may know, originally played by George Takei.

2010-2011: His knack for comedy got him roles on TV shows that have a rabid comedy nerd following: Children’s Hospital, NTSF:SD:SUV, and 30 Rock. And since we hadn’t heard from them in a while, it was time for another Harold & Kumar adventure in the form A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

2012-2013: Just when you though we wouldn’t hear from him again, MILF guy makes another comeback in American Reunion—and he has a mustache! He also bleached his hair for the role of McClane, originally played by white actor Ray Baker, in the remake of the sci-fi classic Total Recall. In terms of TV, Cho starred as Matthew Perry’s boss and best friend in NBC’s Go On, a show about a sports talk radio host who goes to a support group after his wife’s death. 

2013: Because he did so well the first time around, Cho reprised his role as Sulu in Star Trek Into Darkness. True to the lineage of the TV show, his character gained more responsible during the movie by becoming acting Captain. (That’s kind of a big deal for you non-Trekkers).

2013-2014: It seems like Cho gravitates to sci-fi/fanboy projects—and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s pretty damn cool. One of his latest roles is as ex-officer Andy Brooks in supernatural drama Sleepy Hollow on Fox. Not much can be said about his character without spoiling anything for non-watchers, but let’s just say a lot of interesting things happen to him on the show. Lots.

John Cho and Karen Gillan in "Selfie." ABC/Eric McCandless
John Cho and Karen Gillan in “Selfie.” © Eric McCandless/ABC.

2014: This all brings us to Cho’s starring role on ABC’s Selfie, a re-imagining of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady for the social media generation. Karen Gillan plays Eliza Dooley, a woman who wants to be a social media celebrity. Cho plays Henry, a self-image marketing expert who helps Eliza accomplish these goals.

—Dino-Ray Ramos

This article is crossposted at XFinity TV.

Main image: Social Media superstar Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) has 263,000 followers who hang on to her every post, tweet and selfie. But after a workplace mishap goes viral, she quickly realizes that being “instafamous” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and being friended is not the same as having actual friends. Photo credit: © Eric McCandless/ABC.