FXX’s Man Seeking Woman returns January 6, 2016 for its second season. The first season successfully tugged at the heartstrings while contrasting the sappiness with crass humor. But creator Simon Rich and star Jay Baruchel are probably best off transitioning away from the hapless single guy narrative to keep the show fresh and interesting moving forward.
Man Seeking Woman revolves around the trials and tribulations of Josh Greenberg (Baruchel), a late-20-something temp living in Chicago, as he struggles to regain confidence and his sense of self after getting dumped by Maggie Lee (Maya Erskine), his girlfriend of six years. His best friend Mike Bunk (Eric André) constantly urges him to go out and look for one-night stands while his sister Liz (Britt Lower) tries to set him up with her friends for meaningful relationships.
The show is part romantic comedy, part science fiction, as all the psychoses that Josh, as a single guy, feels come to life around him. In one episode, for example, Maggie’s belongings come to life, haunt Josh’s apartment, and attack him; they have to bring an exorcist to cleanse the place. In another, Josh enjoys 15 seconds of fame, complete with news interviews and TV coverage, for getting a woman’s number on the train. However he feels on the inside gets portrayed in the real world, adding sentimentality and relatability — because we’ve all blown tiny moments, like the first text to a potential partner, out of proportion — as well as ridiculousness to the show and the protagonist.
But for Man Seeking Woman to stay enjoyable, something’s gotta change. The premise that Josh is the world’s biggest loser can last only so long. The various cliches of the single life — blind dates, bad hookups, rebound relationships that don’t last — work in the show because of how exaggeratedly Rich presents them, but there are only so many moments to go through. For Season 2 to be as good as Season 1, there may need to be less woman-seeking in Man Seeking Woman.
In four different episodes from the first season, Josh manages to briefly maintain a relationship. In one (“Dram”), he fakes his own death to try to avoid having to tell her he’s not that into her — he has to do it anyway in the end. In the next (“Sizzurp”), Cupid makes a pretty woman fall for Josh, but it doesn’t work when they’ve got nothing in common and he gets jealous of every man who says “hi” to her. He finally finds someone he likes in “Gavel,” but throws it away at a chance to get back with Maggie — spoiler: It doesn’t work. And in “Branzino,” the episode with his strongest relationship, he changes his personality to force a relationship just for the sake of having one. It’s over by the episode’s end.
Josh doesn’t seem to learn much from each episode, really putting the situational into sitcom. The storyline, as a result, focuses on his stagnant personal life. It’s always one step forward and a supernatural seismic thrust back. In order to build sustained interest and anticipation from episode to episode, it would really benefit the show to see some personal growth and extended storylines. Characters do recur in Season 1 — like Maggie’s fiancé Graham (Miles Fisher) — but nobody with whom Josh maintains a relationship.
The surrealism can and should stay, but it needs to find other outlets so it doesn’t feel stale. As a Season 2 promo shows, Josh gets thrown around like a rag doll, being real-life swiped on Tinder. It’s a silly, enjoyable personification of the rejection we feel putting ourselves out there. Still, it’s just an extension of Season 1. What it does show, however, is that Rich is still finding creative ways to express Josh’s anxieties. He should just do it in new situations.
If nothing else, it can become tiring to watch Josh fail and fail over and over again. Despite how badly he messes up relationships, he’s a likable character because of how earnest and bashful he is. It’s heartwarming to see when he catches a break. He deserves for something to go right before he gets in his own way. Plus, he managed to date Maggie, a normal person, for six years. How could he have done that if he sucks so badly? It would add another dimension to his character to see him function and maintain a working relationship.
Not everything about Man Seeking Woman needs to be rearranged, though. Given that Man Sought Woman and Now Has to Navigate the Complexities of Balancing Another Human’s Well Being and Emotions With His Own is a bit of a mouthful, they should keep the title.