January 25, 2016

CABLE | Here Comes Your 'Man Seeking Woman'

Jay Baruchel Simon Rich | Man Seeking Woman | FXX

Man Seeking Woman is a television comedy about dating and relationships like no other. While humorist and former Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich (the show's creator and author of The Last Girlfriend on Earth) often explores familiar topics of breakups and awkward dates, he and star Jay Baruchel (as Josh Greenberg) take an absurdly surreal comic approach to episodic storytelling.

If Master of None is the nostalgic yet contemporary blend of modern romance, Man Seeking Woman is its far more offbeat cousin. While just as true and authentic to the perils of today's dating scene, the show takes an often harsher, blunt tone. The FXX series, currently airing in its second season, explores the more perilous side of continuously being single and dating in a very broad way (unlike the more traditional comic sensibility of say a How I Met Your Mother).

Baruchel's sad sack earnestness and ability to play off the many over the top but starkly literal and ultra weird comedic premises is delightfully watchable. Balancing the sometimes bizarre tones can be narratively challenging but is hilariously refreshing when it hits as it usually does. What carries the strange but universal humour of the series through is its emphasis on strong visual storytelling going much further than any of our expectations.

Led by a talented cast and some welcomed guest stars, comedian Eric Andr√© plays Josh's idiot but well-meaning best friend while Britt Lower as Josh's level-headed older sister, Liz, highlights the gender imbalance and absurdities of life as a single woman past her twenties—the first season's penultimate episode switches to "Woman Seeking Man" and follows Liz's comically sad dating options.

Examples of some the show's absurd storylines:
  • Josh meets his ex's new boyfriend who is a 125-year-old Adolf Hitler (played by Bill Hader).
  • Josh goes on blind date with a woman who turns out to be an actual (garbage eating) troll.
  • Josh's right hand (voiced by Sarah Silverman) breaks up with him.
  • Josh's (very Jewish) mother tortures and interrogates him 24 style for information about his life.
  • Josh's girlfriend's close relationship with her friend, a Japanese penis monster, makes Josh jealous.
  • Josh goes on trial to see determine whether he is guilty or not of cheating on his girlfriend.
  • Josh attends a destination wedding in hell.
  • Josh's relationship becomes so unhealthy/codependent he gets surgically conjoined to his girlfriend.
  • Liz creates the perfect boyfriend in a lab (√† la Frankenstein) but he turns out to be gay.
  • Josh gives a TED Talk on the virtues of masturbation.
  • Josh lowers his standards and starts dating a reliable but used 1998 Saturn sedan.
  • Liz engages in an illicit, extramarital affair with Santa Claus and becomes his mistress.
Rich has created a show simultaneously obvious and on the nose on its broad themes yet filled with layers of thoughtful satire with multiple levels of commentary on the current state of modern love and dating life. Baruchel is an affable and likeable everyman lead in contrast to Andre's all-out fierce and no holds barred commitment to getting laughs while Lower brings a welcome deadpan comic balance to the show.

What's most refreshing is the source of most of the comedy ultimately comes from the show's characters, their shortcomings, and themselves causing their own misfortunes. Man Seeking Woman is so painfully relatable in its broad universality in part due to its commitment to absurdist comedy and surreal storytelling.


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