FXX’s new comedy Man Seeking Woman is strange, unique, and often hysterical. It’s tempting to end the review right there, though, because one of the things that makes Man Seeking Woman so good is its element of surprise. Hit the jump for what will be my vaguest review ever, but for those who choose to seek out this show, you’ll see why.
The series was written by SNL‘s Simon Rich, and based on his short story collection The Last Girlfriend on Earth. In the TV version, Jay Baruchel stars as 27-year-old hapless nice-guy Josh Greenberg. The show opens with Josh being kicked out by his ex-girlfriend after their breakup. “After six years!” he laments later to his shallow, horn dog friend Mike (Eric Andre). “I thought it was four?” Mike counters. “Well, I like to count the two years we emailed before kissed,” Josh says.
Mike encourages Josh to rebound on Tinder, which he rejects, but goes along with a blind date set up by his sister Liz (Britt Lower). This is the only part of the show’s first two episodes that I will ruin (only partially!) because it explains the show without having to explain anything else.
In promo materials for Man Seeking Woman, Josh sits opposite a badly feminized troll. A natural first instinct is: this is going to be a show about a guy dating his way through “a sea of crazy bitches.” How tired: women are trolls, Josh is a nice guy, why can’t he catch a break?
The troll, however, is not a metaphor. She is an actual troll. Josh meets other women in the show, but this one is literally a troll. “I thought you said she was from Scandanavia?” he asks his sister, who set them up. “Well, she was born in a Scandinavian forest,” she replies seriously, and goes on to talk about how the troll — named Gorbachaka (played by Raeanna Guitard) — is in the states to run her nonprofit. Mostly, though, Gorbachaka grunts, rummages through trash, and ultimately bites Josh on the leg.
Gorbachaka is only one of many, many surrealistic elements to Man Seeking Woman, whose “everything is the highest of stakes” mentality only escalates in its second episode. While many series might use these scenes as dream sequences or examples of how something as mundane, yet important, as sending a first text to a love interest may feel, Man Seeking Woman plays it straight. This is what is actually happening, and it’s totally normal.
Baruchel’s charming-dork persona is perfect for this kind of role, even if it had only called for him to be a young guy in the city, adrift, and getting back into the dating world in a more pedestrian way. But Man Seeking Woman‘s unhinged twists and complete dedication to taking things are far as they can go (and occasionally, beyond), is a refreshing update on the genre.
For FXX, there’s also a hope that it will become programming that will make the network a destination, instead of an afterthought. Moving veteran comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia there was a good way to launch FX’s comedy cousin, but when the decision came to expand the (excellent) weekly talk show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell to a nightly format, there weren’t enough viewers to sustain it.
Man Seeking Woman is, without a doubt, the boldest and strangest comedy to air in a long time. It’s also a show with a lot of potential, which is something FXX very much needs. For fans of the absurd, this show will delight. It’s dense with jokes (both spoken and visual), and Baruchel’s deft handling of the material gives it emotional depth, too. Seek no further: Man Seeking Woman is a strange and wonderful thing.
Man Seeking Woman premieres Wednesday, January 14th at 10:30 p.m. ET on FXX