Like a bumpy first date, ABC’s “Manhattan Love Story” is hard to stomach initially.
The pilot, which debuts Tuesday and introduces Dana (Analeigh Tipton) a serial monogamist and Peter (Jake McDorman, “Greek”) as a serial dater, is full of antiquated cliches better suited for a romantic comedy from 30 years ago. For instance, viewers quickly learn that she likes purses and can’t master technology and he likes big breasts and blurts out hurtful observations.
But if viewers stick around for the second episode, which airs next week, they will grow to like the show and the oddball way this unlikely pair start down the road to romance.
Of course, this is due in large part to the charms of Tipton (“Crazy, Stupid Love”) who manages to be winsome even when she says ridiculous things in her internal monologues. The “America’s Next Top Model” alum is pretty but approachable and looks like the kind of woman worth knowing.
Her charisma also punctuates the gratuitous use of voiceovers on “Manhattan Love Story.” Like a silent film star, Tipton’s giant expressive eyes say all that we need to know and the show’s creators must rely on her comedic physicality if they are going to make this series work. Thankfully, the constant chatter inside Dana and Peter’s respective heads is used less frequently by week two.
In the meantime, viewers will have to decide if they want to put up with said narratives as they get to know Dana and Peter and the two get to know each other.
Dana is from Atlanta and moves to New York for what seems like a dream job as a junior editor. But reality is much harsher and as some of her coworkers start to lose their jobs, the remaining ones begin to look at Dana with resentment and suspicion. Despite such setbacks, Dana is determined to make her colleagues like her, settle down in the Big Apple, and find love with her trusty bucket list in tow.
Peter, on the other hand, is a cynical New Yorker who works for his dad (an always welcome Kurt Fuller) and with his siblings at the family’s trophy business. He has dated so many women that when he sees one on the street and can’t remember her name, he hopes she doesn’t see him.
None of these contrasting personality traits deter Dana’s friend and sorority sister Amy (Jade Catta-Preta, “Californication”) from setting Dana up with Peter, who also happens to be her brother-in-law. Dana, ever the romantic, decides to put Amy’s matchmaking skills to the test. Plus, Dana is living with Amy temporarily and doesn’t want to keep being a third wheel to Amy and her hubby David (Nicolas Wright, “White House Down”).
What is less clear is why Peter decides to go on a date with Dana. He takes a cursory glance at her social media profile picture and can’t tell if she’s the pretty girl in the photo or the less attractive one standing next to her. Once he figures out she’s the pretty one, his first phone chat with her is standoffish and slightly rude, which carries over during their first date.
This being a romantic comedy and everything, there is more to Peter than his snark and eventually, Dana and viewers by proxy discover a sensitive nostalgic beneath all the bluster and bravado.
What is even more believable than Peter’s sudden change of heart, is Dana and Peter’s tangible and relatable chemistry. They look cute together and really seem to dig each other mentally and physically.
Will Peter and Dana fall in love and what will their version of love look like? Time will tell. The good news is that if the second installment of “Manhattan Love Story” is any indication, viewers will be smitten, too.
“Manhattan Love Story” premieres 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.