There is a weird expectation of comedy nowadays—to be dumbed down and made palatable for short bursts of attention. It’s a rarity to find a sitcom that explores new territories (that is not to say that a sitcom has to chart new territories or break new ground to be ‘good’—continued exploration of similar situations isn’t inherently bad. It’s familiar, and it’s comforting), Man Seeking Woman quelled my dread; a sitcom based on the tribulations of an awkward urbanite. Man Seeking Woman’s strength lies in its ability to extricate everyday situations into a layered ‘meta’ surreal rom-com.
For example, an episode sees a timid Josh Greenberg (played by Jay Baruchel) try (and fail) to navigate a relationship with a coworker. Much to his dismay, her boyfriend is Jesus (played by Fred Armisen). It leads to an intense display of one-upmanship and just kind of dissolves into nothingness. The show is incredibly talented in taking some pretty mundane moments of life and framing them from the viewpoint of a self-loathing, awkward, and self-conscious man-child. It’s always the worst fears that are realized at the end of episodes.
Man Seeking Woman expertly extemporizes on the quirks and fears of navigating modern day relationship. Maybe an ex’s new beau could be Jesus, or in one episode it turns out another ex’s current boyfriend is Hitler. It’s always the worst fear or worst projection that is showcased in the show. It is a moving feast of illogical timelines, non-sequiturs, and incoherency. It is very unfortunate that this show has such a low viewership—only hitting a peak viewership of 326 000 in its series pilot, culminating in a viewership of 241 000 in its series finale this month. Man Seeking Woman never received the attention it deserved during its original run, hopefully, the show gains cult status someday. It has every right to; it is intelligent in some areas that no other sitcom has ever managed to explore.
Maybe it was a tad bit too smart for its own good, but there is nothing wrong with being intelligent in the midst of a pool of mediocre sitcoms stumbling through a cycle of unrewarded renewal. It isn’t always going to be that way, though: the show got to tell its story and FXX ensured it remained on the air long enough to do so. It never apologized for its extreme ‘weirdness’, even if it appeared to be tasteless in a handful of situations. We as viewers deserve material like this, we deserve these few breaths of fresh air. We don’t have to settle for mediocrity. It is possible for a foray into existential questions that is equal parts enjoyable as it is troubling to thrive in ignored glory.