Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Three seasons in and it’s still hard to explain the soaring achievements that FXX’s Man Seeking Woman accomplishes in each episode (sometimes multiple times an episode; sometimes multiple times in one joke). The show’s silly shtick is very much intact in the just-launched third season, but creator Simon Rich takes an interesting detour this time around into more linear storytelling.
No longer is each episode completely disconnected from the previous, as the show takes us on the continued journey of the giddy new romance between dictionary definition of millennial slacker Josh (Jay Baruchel) and the show’s newest addition, Lucy (Katie Findlay). Man Seeking Woman is still purely and endearingly Man Seeking Woman everywhere else, thank the TV gods. With new gags, running jokes and more surreal sequences than you can shake a bottle of ranch dressing at, all of which will make anyone who’s been on a date in their twenties laugh/cringe in delight/horror, Man Seeking Woman easily retains its status as one of the best comedies on television.
For the uninitiated, the show follows Josh’s misadventures through dating, being in relationships, dealing with a crazy best friend, and all the usual twenty-something “problems” highlighted by much more serious shows, but with a bizarre twist. The universe of Man Seeking Woman is at first rooted in ours, but every now and then aliens invade, giant robots attack, trolls show up as Tinder dates, and ex-boyfriends are revealed to be giant Japanese penis monsters (still the reigning WTF moment on a show filled with them).
Rich isn’t content just to throw every out-there idea at the wall and see what sticks, however, and fuels each ridiculous sequence with honest heart that results in some of the most relatable television in years. Take the subtly romantic opening scene of the new season, where we meet new girl Lucy amid a day of setting herself on fire while making toast, slipping into garbage, and getting attacked by a cougar at work. She eventually swipes right with a cute guy on Tinder and enthuses to her inquisitive roommate that her day was actually “pretty good.”
The endearment, and hilarity, only snowballs in the premiere as Lucy’s roommates resort to Trump-level tactics in order to get Illegal Boyfriend Josh out of their apartment for good. Like he’s been every season, Baruchel feels born for the geeky, lanky, blank slate that is Josh. He’s simultaneously perfectly characterized with his beloved cheat code-filled magazines stacked around his apartment and disgusting futon, but also a blank slate. Like an RPG, he’s easy to hang your own neuroses onto, to dress him up in your head and see yourself in his problems, aliens included.
That being said, the reigning champ of Man Seeking Woman is Josh’s sister Liz (Britt Lower), who appears momentarily in the first few episodes of the season but remains the show’s secret weapon. There’s no hint as to whether she’ll get her usual “Woman Seeking Man” episode this year (she better), but there’s a bottomless well of charm and razor-sharp wit to her character that makes her one of the most fascinating – and straight-up entertaining – people on TV right now. She plays an integral role in the second episode’s meeting-the-parents crisis, with one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud bits yet this season.
She and Baruchel click well with newcomer Findlay, who loses all of the snark and passive aggressiveness from her popular role on How To Get Away With Murder for a perfectly pitched “cool girl” girlfriend that never dips into unbelievable fantasy. And that’s the crux of Man Seeking Woman‘s creativity: all of these people and problems are achingly real. The premiere tackles not only the awkwardness of moving in with someone for the first time, but the necessity for compromise with the people you love in your life, even when neither side believes they’re wrong.
The social anxiety and yearning for some mystical perfect future is the heart that Man Seeking Woman wears on its sleeve, right before the arm underneath is bitten off by a rabid cougar. Really, the show is like a fever dream – a sort of cathartic form of therapy for anyone fearful of first dates, last dates, meeting the family, growing out of touch with a friend, being guilt-tripped by a parent, and more. It’s all wrapped up in obvious metaphors (Josh’s mom becomes a crazed fan when he starts dating Lucy and stops visiting home) that work repeatedly and emphatically because Rich and the rest of the writers know where to punch you where it hurts, right before they make you bend over in stitches and laugh about the bruise.
In that sense, Man Seeking Woman is a bit like the Black Mirror of romcoms. Even with the new season’s consistent story arc, each episode is laser-focused on a single issue at hand, and ties together with a thought-provoking, hilarious ending (okay so maybe not 100% the same as Black Mirror). The intriguing trick of the new season is that Josh is starting to show that he might finally have the ability to remove himself from the rut of single life. Where does that take Man Seeking Woman, when the Woman has been found? I’m not sure, but if these episodes are any indication, it’ll be shocking, funny, way too relatable, and probably involve ranch dressing.
Ingenious, refreshing, and crushingly relatable on a near-epic scale, Man Seeking Woman is easily one of the best shows on TV that you're probably not watching.