If the idea of a lovelorn 20something finding out his blind date is a troll — not an Internet meanie but a leathery, wart-covered creature from under a bridge — tickles your funny bone, then FXX’s “Man Seeking Woman” is a good match. Based on Simon Rich’s short-story collection “The Last Girlfriend on Earth,” the show, which Rich also created, bets heavily on hyperbole: You might be tired of sad-sack white dudes moping about their failure to get laid, but what if they were followed around by an actual raincloud that showered them in frigid water and dead pigeons? What if his attempt to poll friends on the right way to phrase a text to a potential date turned into a war-room scene out of “Dr. Strangelove”?
Starring Jay Baruchel, “Man Seeking Woman” never goes an episode — or at least not the first three that were sent out to critics — without an inspired bit. In the first, Baruchel arrives at a party to find his recent ex-girlfriend already has a new beau, and it’s Hitler — yes, der Führer himself, played by an unrecognizable Bill Hader. Doesn’t she find it a little odd that shortly after breaking up with her Jewish boyfriend she’s dating history’s most notorious anti-Semite? “Don’t make this about you,” she responds.
The aforementioned war-room scene, featuring a nifty cameo I’ve redacted from the excerpted reviews below to preserve the surprise, is another peach, an obvious joke successfully taken to the heights of absurdity. But “Man Seeking Woman” runs, and frequently falls afoul of, the risk that obviousness enhanced will simply be obviousness compounded. (The troll bit is DOA and goes on way too long, but bonus points for naming her Gorbachacka.) Like, we get it already. Like the late, fervently unlamented “Mixology,” the show comes with a grotesquely bro-ish best friend (Eric André) whose vile advice is a lot less funny than it’s presumably meant to be: “Crush gash” is the new” smash it out.” Give a try — starting with episode 2, if you want my advice — and see if it’s for you, but be sure to heed the wise word of Vulture’s Margaret Lyons: “Do not watch this show high.”
Reviews of “Man Seeking Woman”
Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter
I watched the three episodes that FXX provided and laughed throughout, taken in by the often simple but absurd comedy at hand and how effortlessly it was being doled out. Some of it was lighter in spots than others, but the series has a very distinctive comedic voice and a striking visual approach that it keeps up through the episodes. If “Man Seeking Woman” were an animated series, it would be full of crazy asides and flashbacks to scenes played out as the characters speak of the events that befell them in the last few days or weeks. But it’s not animation, so when sad-sack Josh Greenberg (Baruchel) splits from his girlfriend Maggie (Maya Erskine), he walks out on a sunny day and a rain cloud (and birds) pours down on his head. This is repeated a few times.
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times
The stories in “The Last Girlfriend” are high-concept humor pieces, more S.J. Perelman than J.D. Salinger. But they are also love stories, and “Man Seeking Woman” plays like a sketch comedy with an emotional through-line. It begins as a familiar tale of urban romantic anxiety and then quietly morphs into something richer and stranger, mixing the ordinary and the uncanny without comment.
Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe
If you haven’t figured this out yet, “Man Seeking Woman” is plenty weird. But it’s also wild, wily, and, depending on your taste for high-risk jokes that don’t always fly, wonderful. It’s unlike almost anything else on TV, which is doubly satisfying because the subject matter — single people negotiating the world of dating — is so common these days.
Noel Murray, A.V. Club
It’s not that easy to make vibrant comedy out of material that’s often better suited to the page, where readers can visualize some of the more out-there elements. And honestly, Man Seeking Woman falls flat about a third of the time. The good news is that each episode is made up of a handful of vignettes, and the three episodes sent out to critics—“Lizard,” “Traib,” and “Gavel”—all have as many inspired, hilariously funny sequences as moments that strain to connect.
Hank Stuever, Washington Post
While the premise may not sound like the kind of show that television is running short of at this particular moment, “Man Seeking Woman” is something else entirely — a fantasy about a man whose heart is too tender for Tinder and yet is unable to ignore his worst instincts and inner thoughts, which rear up in clever ways.
Andy Greenwald, Grantland
“Man Seeking Woman” delights precisely because it never dallies. Anything is possible, from invading sex aliens to flying, haunted bras. By privileging the internal over the literal, “Man Seeking Woman” achieves its own hilarious kind of truth. It’s not plausible. It’s relatable.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
When one of the sketches works — like a sequence in the second episode where Josh winds up in a military command center where the generals nervously monitor the results of a text he sent to a girl he met on the L, or a running gag in the third episode where Josh keeps winding up in court on charges of boyfriend misconduct — it can be explosively funny. On the other, when a sketch doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work, and then you’re trapped in an idea that’s not only gone wrong, but keeps going wrong until you will feel trapped in misery right along with Josh.
Brian Lowry, Variety
“Man Seeking Woman” is all about one person’s hyperbolic quest to overcome loneliness, where the odds against finding somebody are of epic proportions, at least in Josh’s mind — a point underscored by the sci-fi-like title of Rich’s book, “The Last Girlfriend on Earth.” While that’s not an especially original conceit, the sheer acid-trip-style quirkiness coupled with Baruchel’s perpetual confusion make this a worthy addition to the FXX lineup, with the disclaimer that even the FX networks’ most-admired comedies (see “Louie”) haven’t gained much traction ratings-wise, certainly compared with the dramas, perhaps because of their off-kilter tone.
Margaret Lyons, Vulture
I’m dazzled by “Man Seeking Woman’s” willingness to follow its ideas, to burrow into its surrealism the way a cat makes a hiding spot in a leather boot. But it comes at a time when my appetite for stories about sad white dudes and their quests for love — quests that always seem to hinge on “what’s the deal with women????” — is at an all-time low. It is by far the most interesting entry into that genre in a long time, but it is not a genre I’m dying to see more of, nor is MSW’s attitude new in any way. The three episodes FXX made available for review suffer from a raging case of Nice-Guy-itis: When will some understanding woman — instead of these awful trolls — finally see all Josh has to give? Maybe when he stops being such a listless herb.
Maureen Ryan, Huffington Post
The main problem is, “Man Seeking Woman” tries for the kind of weird, imaginative wit you find on “Archer” or “Louie” but the new show doesn’t have the craft, ideas or skills to back it up. If there were at least a few fresh ideas or characters worth following at the core of “Man Seeking Woman,” it might work, but instead of taking flight, the more high-concept scenes usually end up feeling strained, derivative or unfunny, or some combination of all three.