Last night my inbox was blowing up (okay, like four texts maximum) about the comedy-watching decision that Wednesday night has become. For some cruel reason FXX airs It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia concurrently with Comedy Central’s Workaholics at 10 p.m. The choice, my friends, is nearly impossible. As one friend put it, “Watching Workaholics over Always Sunny would be like cheating on my oldest friend.” For the record, I chose Always Sunny, and God it felt so right.
But then 10:30 rolled around and the decision was basically unanimous: “everybody over to Comedy Central for Broad City!” Which I understand. People love Broad City. I don’t looove Broad City. I haven’t really watched Broad City. Apparently that’s a bad thing? Either way, I stuck around on FXX to watch the premiere of Man Seeking Woman, and it was the weirdest shit. And I loved it.
Let’s forget for a second that Jay Baruchel is my Canadian spirit animal. The premise of Man Seeking Woman is pretty simple: Mr. Baruchel’s Josh Greenberg must navigate the pitfalls that come after a serious breakup. Blind dates, the awkwardness of getting a stranger’s phone number, seeing your ex with a new guy, all that. In Man Seeking Woman is just so happens that your blind date is a troll that lives underneath a bridge, getting a stranger’s phone number warrants a Genius Grant and a call from Barack Obama, and your ex’s new boyfriend is Hitler. The Hitler. As in Adolf.
Where this show goes so right is the fact that these things are actually happening. This isn’t some Walter Mitty wah-wah seeing things because you’re sad situation. Josh just happens to live in a world where these things happen, and there’s no explanation. Hitler (played here by a heavily made up Bill Hader) has just been hiding in Argentina since 1945, and he’s now incredible at karaoke. And when you get set up with a troll on a blind date, it’s not because you miss your ex girlfriend so badly that any other woman in comparison looks like a troll. It’s because it’s a troll. Her name is Gorbitchka, and you do need to apologize for using the word “troll” in a negative fashion.
If this all sounds like one of those absurdist, past 12:30 Saturday Night Live sketches, it’s because it basically is. Showrunner and writer Simon Rich, whose book The Last Girlfriend on Earth the show is based on, was hired by SNL as the youngest writer in the show’s history. And at times, Man Seeking Woman does play like an extended sketch show, like three or four related premises strung together. But it all works, because what the show lacks in line-to-line hilarity it makes up for in general absurdity and a real heart underneath it. Who cares how outlandish the metaphor, as long as that metaphor hits home? You’re telling me you’ve never looked at an ex’s new S.O. and been like “fuck, that dude is worse than Hitler.” And who doesn’t want to be rewarded for life’s small victories? I’ve ridden a subway before. If I was able to hold a sustained conversation for more than one stop, I DO deserve a call from Mr. Obama.
In the end, it’s Man Seeking Woman’s blending of the insane and the real that makes it endearing. No one wants another show about dating, because they never seem realistic. Somehow, this show is the most realistic show about dating I’ve ever seen, and a later episode has Fred Armisen playing a Japanese Penis Monster. But dating is hard, people. Dating is weird. Dating is Japanese Penis Monsters. Thanks, Man Seeking Woman. See you after Always Sunny.