Late last year, it was announced that NBC was officially doing away with its Thursday night comedy block, marking the end of an era and striking the final death note for network comedy. It wasn’t so long ago that you could turn on NBC to watch a block of Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock, arguably the strongest lineup they were able produce since the Friends, Seinfeld, and ER years of the mid-90s. Now, if you’re looking for good comedy on the major networks, the crowd has thinned to the diminishing returns of the formerly great Modern Family and the island of quality on Fox’s Animation Domination known as Bob’s Burgers.
Luckily, however, comedy is being rediscovered on basic cable, and FX and its sister channel FXX seems to be the marquee name in television comedy and honestly, it has quietly been this way for some time now. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia set the benchmark for the FX family of networks more than 10 seasons ago, showcasing the network’s boldness to be a little bit bad (though, you could make a case for an even earlier start with Howard Stern’s Son of the Beach); it’s not dissimilar to how FOX made a name for itself with Married… With Children and The Simpsons. It’s Always Sunny would beget outside-the-box comedy series like Wilfred, The League, Louie, Legit, and more recent additions like Married and You’re the Worst, both of which I covered last year. For FXX, 2015 started off with the premiere of a new show cut from the similar cloth: the Jay Baruchel-led Man Seeking Woman.
If you were to watch Man Seeking Woman without any knowledge of what you’re going to see, you might walk into it completely confused. Fortunately, the advertising for the series, which is rampant across the networks, doesn’t shy away from the absurdity of what the show offers. Imagine all of JD’s fantasies in Scrubs, then remove the blurry line between fantasy and reality and that is what you get with Man Seeking Woman. It’s a show that’s daring enough to start off its run with an episode in which Baruchel’s character, Josh, meets his ex-girlfriend’s new love: a very old Adolf Hitler, played by Bill Hader. It’s played straight, as no one else but Josh seems to mind that the perpetrator of history’s worst genocide is dating his ex, while they all criticize Josh for being jealous.
From there, the show tackles relatable concerns of looking for romance with a slightly skewed eye, like having a War Room meeting over what to send via text to a girl he just met on the subway. Anyone that has lived the single life in the new technological environment is sure to relate to the second-guessing and painstaking craftsmanship that goes into a text of that sort.
In this role, Baruchel is the perfect choice; he’s able to capture the everyman persona of a guy that really doesn’t know what he’s doing in the dating world, but it never comes off as helpless nor does it rely on Baruchel just being a “nice guy”. In fact, in the pilot, Josh is forced to apologize to a troll for calling her out on being a troll, a beautiful woman outside a nightclub for simply talking to her, and Adolf Hitler for holding a grudge about that whole Nazi thing. Because in the world of Man Seeking Woman, Josh is the asshole, much in the same way that Larry David inhabits a world of irrational people, yet he’s seen as the schmuck in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Two episodes in, I’m enjoying Man Seeking Woman. It’s a fresh take on the single life sitcom and does it with such a unique voice that it seems to have limitless avenues to trek down.