Wednesday, January 14, 2015

'Man Seeking Woman'

The generic title of Man Seeking Woman doesn't indicate the surreal tone of the comedy starring Jay Baruchel as a lonely single guy in Chicago, and it isn't going to do the show any favors in its struggle to find an audience. Relegated to FXX, the network where FX sends shows to die (exception: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Man Seeking Woman seems destined to air for a single low-rated season and then disappear, leaving only semi-fond memories. It's not a terrible show, but it's not distinctive enough to overcome its disadvantages, nor is it outrageous enough to compete with It's Always Sunny, whose 10th season serves as a lead-in.

The bare bones of the premise are as simple as the title implies: After getting dumped by his longtime girlfriend, slacker temp Josh (Baruchel) is looking to meet someone new. He has a best friend (played by Eric Andre) and a sister (played by Britt Lower) who help him. But Josh's mundane relationship struggles are portrayed with a heavy dose of surreal fantasy that exaggerate the metaphorical difficulties of dating. Ever feel like you've been set up on a blind date with a troll? Josh ends up having dinner with an actual troll, who lives under a bridge and eats garbage. Ever feel like your ex's new significant other is the worst person in history? Josh's ex-girlfriend turns out to be dating Adolf Hitler (played by Bill Hader). And that's just in the first episode.

While these bits offer amusing takes on the overblown drama of relationships, every joke is drawn out into a set piece that lasts several minutes, meaning that they're consistently beaten into the ground. When Josh gets dragged into a relationship courtroom for perceived violations against his new girlfriend, it's sort of funny, but by the third time he's there defending his case, the joke has entirely lost steam. I was mistakenly hoping for a grounded but raunchy romantic comedy along the lines of the excellent You're the Worst (which recently received the FX kiss of death by being transferred to FXX), and the weird thing about Man Seeking Woman is that it's still trying to be that kind of show amid all the fantastical touches. But the fantasy bits just end up putting the emotions in air quotes, since every step in Josh's dating journey becomes a belabored sketch. A show about a single guy who actually dates trolls and fends off sex aliens might be refreshing, but Man Seeking Woman reduces those elements to cheap punchlines in what turns out to be a pretty unremarkable romantic comedy.

Premieres tonight at 10:30 p.m. on FXX.

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