Ever hear that someone is literally Hitler? Hyperboles are a common but powerful part of speech: They can convey sadness, frustration and excitement as language that makes everyday occurrences larger than life. In FXX’s new comedy “Man Seeking Woman,” hyperbole becomes real as the fantastic and surreal go hand-in-hand with the mundane, creating a unique perspective for the TV romantic comedy.
“Man Seeking Woman”
Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m.
The show opens with Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel, “This Is the End”) parting ways with his girlfriend of four years (or six if you count the e-mailing), Maggie (Maya Erskine, “Betas”). Josh shows a quiet sense of defeat as he tries to keep open opportunities with Maggie, as the two decide if they might be able to be buddies. Josh walks away followed by his own personal raincloud. The raincloud is the first of the magical reality moments in the episode. By using such a common image, “Man Seeking Woman” preps itself to dive into the absurd world that it has created.
Josh’s sister Liz (Britt Lower, “Unforgettable”) sets him up with a friend from Sweden, only to learn the friend is an absolute troll – a troll as in being born in the Scandinavian Forest and “she moved here last year so she could run her nonprofit and live underneath the Wabash Bridge.”
Creator Simon Rich, a former writer for “Saturday Night Live,” has adapted his own short story collection “The Last Girlfriend on Earth” into “Man Seeking Woman.” There’s definitely a sense of Rich’s sketch and short story writing influences in the show with most of major events of supernatural comedy forming the meat of the episode. Rich takes tropes associated with romantic comedies and inserts enough insanity and exaggeration to make the situations enjoyably clever.
Interspersed between are more grounded moments in Josh’s life as he tries to gain his confidence back. However, some of these moments feel like they’re just biding time untill the next comedic set piece. These bits are aided though by the efforts of Baruchel who makes Josh more than a sad sack who hasn’t been laid in a while. Josh’s efforts show heart, and that makes it saddening to see him try and fail.
In a world where the extremes of ideas exist, Baruchel serves as the straight man to the absurd happenings around him. This is best seen when he attends a party hosted by Maggie and her new boyfriend who is literally Hitler (an unrecognizable Bill Hader, “Saturday Night Live”). In the world of “Man Seeking Woman,” the crazy events are accepted as normal by most characters, and Josh is the only occasional detracting voice, “I thought he died like, years ago?” Josh questions, only for his friend Mike (Eric André, “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23”) to answer, “Nah, he faked that. Yeah, he’s been hiding in Argentina since, like, the ‘40s.”
By using common exaggerations and spinning them into a real world setting Rich has created an insane but relatable universe. Even though Josh’s experiences veer into the preposterous, there are still the common struggles of getting over a relationship or reclaiming one’s self-confidence to tie fantasy to reality.
It’s hard seeing Josh stumble and fail in such large ways that it is a relief to see him succeed when he gets the phone number of a woman called Laura (Vanessa Bayer, another “SNL” cast member). The corresponding response by the show’s universe is uplifting. Even though life’s difficulties can seem larger than life, the smallest victories can bring us insurmountable joy.