January 14, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Man Seeking Woman”


MAN SEEKING WOMAN:  Wednesday 10:30PM on FXX – If Nothing Else Is On…

You know how on Family Guy a character will say “This is just like when________” or “You’re like________,” and there’s an instant cutaway to whatever the character was talking about, no matter how bizarre?  (An example from this past week:  Stewie accused Brian of being as useless as Black Widow in The Avengers, and we cut to the other Avengers ridiculing Black Widow for having no super-skills, before zipping back to Stewie and Brian.)   That kind of gag is the central building block of the new FXX sit-com MAN SEEKING WOMAN.

Except that while Family Guy is in and out of its bits in seconds, Man Seekin Woman remains in the same surreal situation for minutes at a time.  The result is more like a sitcom composed of loosely linked Saturday Night Live sketches, which makes sense, since series creator Simon Rich is a former SNL writer, and SNL deity Lorne Michaels is a producer of the new series.  (In case that’s not connection enough, Vanessa Bayer and Bill Hader show up as guest stars in the pilot.)   The show’s protagonist is schmendrick Josh Greenberg (schmendrick specialist Jay Baruchel), and in the pilot, when his sister Liz (Britt Lower) sets him up with a blind date, the date is literally with a troll, and we proceed to watch Josh’s dinner with the troll, who takes a bite out of his leg among other less-than-optimal date behavior.  Later, when Josh goes to see Maggie (Maya Erskine), the woman who broke up with him after six years, her new boyfriend is literally a 126-year old wheelchair-bound Adolf Hitler, who doesn’t respond well to Josh’s ethnic background.

The problem with all this is exactly the same one that bedevils many SNL sketches:  there’s not much to each scene beyond the initial premise, so as a sequence goes on, it just runs the same joke farther into the ground.  Vintage Mel Brooks may have been able to dig into Hitler being an ex’s new beau so that the comedy got deeper and funnier (and darker), but Rich doesn’t show much ability to do the same, and he doesn’t have Seth MacFarlane’s touch for building the strange into outright craziness.  (He also doesn’t have MacFarlane’s flair for nastiness.)  The half-hour starts to feel very long.  It doesn’t help that the show is visualized (the pilot was directed by Jonathan Krisel) with FX’s usual indie-comedy look, which doesn’t provide any stylization where the surrealism of the gags might be more at home.  No matter what strangeness is being depicted, it all has the same Sundance look.

The Men pilot is also very thin on characters.  Baruchel is so far giving the same sadsack performance he’s been doing for years, and the female leads are notably unsympathetic, Josh’s nagging sister and the ex who has no regard for his feelings.  The only other regular is Eric Andre, who was a bright spot in his recurring role on 2 Broke Girls, but is wasted as Josh’s more confident friend.  The only variation in the show’s first episode comes near the end, when Josh gets up the nerve to start a conversation with a woman (Bayer), and they have an awkward conversation that nevertheless ends with her giving him her number.  It’s not much, but it has a fumbling delicacy that the rest of the show lacks.

FXX has given Man Seeking Woman a strong lead-in with It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, so the series should have a chance to find an audience.  It needs to prove that it’s got something in its tool-belt besides cartoon jokes played at one-quarter speed.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."