Two episodes into Man Seeking Woman’s second season, two girlfriends for protagonist Josh Greenberg. After last week’s failed relationship with Kelly, Josh had a new flame, Claire (played by Liane Balaban), in “Feather.” Unfortunately, Claire is a not-Joshero-sexual — that is, she is not sexually attracted to Josh, like most of the world including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Carmelo Anthony. The episode was still funny — buoyed by trailer fodder/anthropomorphic sex toy “The Kyle” — but Man Seeking Woman may have finally pushed its premise to the brink.
There are seemingly endless ways to tackle a young single man’s insecurities. Translating them to television, though, is quite hard. In “Feather,” Josh’s sexual prowess is at stake, as he and Claire are not a good match. To spice things up, they buy the Kyle, who is “a big jacked dude that fucks your girlfriend,” according to the sex shop salesperson. He’s one of the lone bright spots of the episode. No matter how intentional, Josh is painfully awkward. He’s like a little boy, afraid of his own masculinity. Granted, his meekness is an important part of his character, but when used to less comedic ends, the viewer ends up as limp and unsatisfied as Claire.
Part of “Feather”’s frustration is the absence of Man Seeking Woman’s typical magical realism. Instead of sprinkling surreal tidbits throughout, the episode focuses on three main moments: a talking condom that urges Josh to make a move on Claire, the Kyle, and the not-Josh-ero phenomenon. Still, none of those extended jokes stand up to last week’s insane revelation that Josh and his best friend Mike had a kid. And Kyle — the best of Josh’s personified insecurities — is a punchline that wears out — like that condom on its last day before expiration.
There is a fine line between sympathetic and just pathetic. Man Seeking Woman tends to walk that line quite well. “Feather” falters. Throughout the episode, Josh has a very selfish belief that the relationship should exist on his sexual terms. While it’s obvious that their couples therapy session is meant to show what’s wrong with him and not her, it’s still awkward to watch him try to paint her boredom as the issue — not whatever’s going on for him. As compared to other, better episodes where Josh tries to attain something he doesn’t have, in “Feather” he attempts to maintain something that’s not working. He spends most of the episode pandering, trying just as hard as we are to find a reason why he deserves more opportunities with Claire.
The second season of Making Seeking Woman is not doomed quite yet. “Feather” was not ridiculous and absurd enough to balance Josh’s more desperate tendencies. The shtick isn’t new anymore, though. If the show can continue to succeed, it will need to freshen its approach or risk consistently telling the same increasingly tired story.