Man Seeking Woman succeeds by flipping its script
FOR TWO SEASONS, those of us who’ve been watching FX’s Man Seeking Woman have watched as Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel) comes constantly close to happiness, never to quite reach it. It’s always been a programme built on two things: surreal flights of fancy and contstant, bone-deep romantic embaressment, finding constant new ways to mine such things for humour. As much as has already been said about the experience of being young, single and permanently fucking up, there comes a point where enough has been said about such things and maybe it’s time to tell a different story.
And so we enter season three, a lot of the pieces are still the same: Josh is still working terrible job, Josh’s sister (Casual‘s Britt Lower) Liz is still at her law firm, his best friend (The Eric Andre Show‘s Eric Andre) Mike, well, no one really knows what Mike does but there’s one big difference, Josh has a girlfriend for longer than one episode in the form of Lucy (Katie Findlay). What works well about changing up the language to instead of exploring the ‘seeking’ section of the title but to taking it to a simpler level of comparing ‘man’ and ‘woman’. They don’t even do the cop-out of making Lucy a female Josh, she’s a very different character with her own motivations, an actual group of friends instead of just Mike and a job that appears to be going somewhere as a Graphic Artist. Now the early days of a relationship are in no way more original than the single twenty-something but seeing the progress from the latter to the former so early into the programme’s existence is a promising sign of the developing maturity of the writing staff and especially of showrunner and New Yorker favourite Simon Rich.
The show is always going to build more press for its surrealist humour than for its intriguing character relationships and on that regard, season three doesn’t dissappoint. Multiple highlights include Lucy’s journey home with not just a Tim Robinson featuring parody of ghost hunting teams, the like seen in Insidious but also an incredible riff on Where The Wild Things Are and an oddly perfect recreation of a 50s Communist panel Witch Hunt. That’s just in one episode. It manages to fit in so much (in its annoyingly trimmed down running time. 19 minutes an episode is not enough) and bar the odd segment that seems very forced, an early series rib on immigration seems both a hint undercooked and possibly a little poor taste, it’s executed with detail, rich imagery and an almost annoying level of ease. It helps that as well as the superb main cast, they are able to get a high calibre of guest actor (obviously none as high as André) including TV stalwarts such as Peter Gallagher as Josh and Liz’s Dad and Richard Kind as God. Yes, that God. Richard Kind is also the Best God. I didn’t intend for this article to become another Richard Kind fan-post, as there are so many of them, but it’s happened. What, you mean you aren’t watching Red Oaks? then what are you even paying your Amazon Prime subscription for, you are missing out on some premium Richard Kind. I digress, long story short, the acting’s good.
Even in its third season, the show has still sadly not worked out how to balance out its screen-time sadly. While Liz gets her third edition of Woman Seeking Man (this one is still not quite as good perhaps as the one where she has an affair with Santa but it’s still superb) and it does wonders in immediately integrating Lucy and making her feel like she’s been there this whole time, even giving Josh and Liz’s Mom and Stepdad, Tom (Robin Duke & Mark McKinney) plenty of juicy material, sadly this all leaves Mike with little to do. What Eric André gets, he turns into gold playing best friend, cult leader and all his other roles as well as he’s played sex pest, obnoxious bro and romantic rival in previous seasons but it still feels like in terms of material, he is very much there to be occasionally cut to instead of ever really feeling like the focus. Even in his storylines, it becomes more about Josh than him. That may be the sad truth of such a lazer-sharp focus upon its leads that with such brilliant pinning down of their arc, it can leave bits around the edge undeveloped.
The big question that has to be asked is ‘where can the show go now?’ If it has another season (and that seems a big if as I don’t know who else is watching), they seem to have covered everything they need to, I mean the title has even been satisfied, the man no longer has to seek. Even the season finale would function wonderfully as a series finale. On a selfish level, I would love the show to continue because, heck, I love it but if they did, what would they have left to say? If were given the opportunity, I would be incredibly excited to find out but if this truly is the end for the show, well they went out on top form creating a unique, lovely little Indie Rom Com that plays out over about 7 hours (or two and a bit Boyhoods). Plus, it gave us Eric André as The Joker which is something, I can never be thankful enough for.
You can find Joe on Twitter here.