MAN SEEKING WOMAN Season Two Review
In addition to adding progressively more X’s to its various incarnations, FX/FXX is slowly closing the gap on Adult Swim for a slice of the “weirdest show on television” pie. MAN SEEKING WOMAN is definitely weird – maybe not DREAM CORP, LLC weird, but “Hitler faked his own death in 1945, hid out in Argentina, and is now dating my ex-girlfriend” weird. Season one excelled by not only making you laugh at Bill Hader dressed as 115-year-old Hitler in a motorized wheelchair, but reminding you exactly how it felt when you saw the former love of your life with their new scumball squeeze. Does the sophomore season carry on the tradition of pairing Tim and Eric’s surrealist meltdowns with the crushing millennial reality of GIRLS like a fine wine and cheese, and can it continue to do so in seasons to come?
Considering the apparent immortality of the sad gangly white boy, probably
Season Two opens strong with “Wings,” “Feather,” and “Scythe.” This one-two-three punch fits right in with season one, almost as if they were leftover ideas the writers couldn’t quite squeeze in. “Wings” in particular shifts focus from Josh’s love life to beloved sidekick Mike (played by beloved Eric Andre), possibly one of the most welcome recurring aspects of the season. But “Feather” captured what I love so much about this show.
“Feather” sees Josh unable to sexually satisfy his new girlfriend Claire, so after some time spent looking through a directory for more illicit material, they head to a sex shop for a little silicone assistance. Claire ultimately settles on the “Kyle” which is, in no delicate terms, a giant hunky man who bangs your girlfriend. I asked my boyfriend, also watching the episode, if that’s how men really feel about their girlfriends using sex toys. Opinions are perhaps polarizing on this subject matter. Some men would love a real life sex doll especially if it helped to get their partner sexually aroused. Some men are scared of what their partner will think if they openly admit to wanting to involve something like this in the bedroom. However, if you bring it up first, they are much more likely to be open with you.
It seemed odd to me – there’s so many options for sex toys for your husband or boyfriend out on the market after all! Still, he confirmed, and after the episode ended we had a thoughtful discussion about it since I had no idea this attitude even existed. I never realised that men felt so threatened by the type of sex toys you find on somewhere like lovegasm.co and that pleasure so many women. So many of the jokes in MAN SEEKING WOMAN function this way, where I either identify deeply with the characters or I learn to look at something in a different way. A show that has me on the floor laughing and having a thought-provoking discussion in the same episode – in the same joke! – is an A+ in my book.
Thought-provoking, relationship-building material
Our entrance into “mid-season” territory presents the first big hiccup of season two: This season’s “Woman Seeking Man” episode (one of two this time around). Last season’s foray into the world of Josh’s older sister Liz was one of the best episodes of the season, but this one feels like a misstep. Lonely Liz begins a sordid affair with a married man – but not just any married man: Santa Claus himself. I love a good bizarre scenario as much as the next gal, but Santa sending sexually charged emails and relishing the experience of a toy train chugging along on a one-way trip up the wrong kind of tunnel was a little much for me. But perhaps it’s just my unabashed worship of Christmas getting in the way.
“NOT MY BELOVED CHRISTMAS”
After episode five, “Card,” brings it back around with Josh exploring his narrowing job options – another starkly relatable bit for us debt-saddled college graduates – we enter into the five-episode story arc of Josh’s pursuit of his cute coworker Rosa from meeting her in episode six to the “will they or won’t they” conclusion in the finale. This isn’t bad, per se, but we do start to see some repeated jokes. For example, a bit where Rosa’s boyfriend is literally Jesus is basically the Hitler joke from the pilot in different clothing.
Season One gracefully handled the overarching theme of Josh trying to get over Maggie by allowing him to get into plenty of wacky trouble while still tackling his main problem. With the Rosa arc, the story feels a little confined and the jokes become slightly contrived. The incredibly linear storyline doesn’t serve the surrealist tone of the show. In a way, the overarching plot of the second half feels like a crutch to keep the show from going stale as the seemingly unlimited wellspring of genius ideas begins to run dry. The arc starts off with a few pretty good gags (a line of suitors waiting for the opportunity to ask Rosa out American Idol audition-style and Josh’s post-rejection creation of maniac clone “Boza” are favorites), but wavers increasingly until the finale.
Look at them gangle… like a bunch of moody, entitled giraffes
Oh, the finale… The course of the season sees some forgivable missteps here and there with a few flat-out mistakes, but the finale takes the cake as a total letdown. The thing that puts MAN SEEKING WOMAN in a different camp than, say, everything Abso Lutely Productions has ever touched is its ability to stay grounded in a concrete emotional reality despite all its weirdness. The finale throws this almost completely out of the window for the entire second half of the episode, which consists of a giant robot fight between Josh and Mike. It would be one thing if this was a huge accomplishment in production design (another consistently impressive aspect from season one), but even that falls short. This is supposed to be the big knockout, but it’s a definite swing and miss.
Ah, yes, the emotional reality I yearn for
The real clincher here is that MAN SEEKING WOMAN has yet to be officially renewed for season three. At this point, it could go either way. The show is better without the serialized format, but does it need to be serialized to survive? There are still some hilarious, thoughtful bits this season, but they’re all packed toward the front end. Personally, I would be sad to see MAN SEEKING WOMAN go quite so early. It has just begun to break into Josh’s world outside his love life from the career-related pursuits of “Card” to a new found focus on his bromance with Mike. Hopefully a renewal will see the show moving in this direction and away from putting all its eggs in one Rosa-shaped basket.
All things considered, is this season worth a watch? Ultimately, yes. While not as mind-blowing as the first, it still brings some strong elements to the table early in the season while opening doors to possibilities for a third season. I trust this show enough to recover from this season’s mistakes given the chance. If you haven’t checked this show out yet, add it to your list.
MAN SEEKING WOMAN airs on Wednesdays at 10:30PM on FXX