Review: ‘Man Seeking Woman’ Takes the ‘Traib’ Into Dangerous Territory

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In its first episode, Man Seeking Woman established that it wasn’t playing on the same field as other television comedies. Its strange brand of humor goes beyond non sequiturs, it’s more about using absurdity to amplify reality. Not only does Josh’s (Jay Baruchel) blind date happen to be with a Scandinavian troll, but his ex has entered into a new relationship with Adolf Hitler, who faked his death and is still alive at 126 years old. But all wasn’t bleak for Josh as at the end of the episode he secures the phone number of Laura (Vanessa Bayer) on the train ride home. The moment of triumph was greeted with robust cheers throughout the world. Everything was coming up Milhouse for Josh.

The second episode, entitled Traib, concerns Josh trying to move forward after his fleeting moment of triumph. Before Josh can even think of calling Laura, he must exorcise all of his ex’s possessions. After his friend Mike (Eric Andre) calls in an exorcist to carry out the deed, Josh must figure out what to say to Laura. But sending a cold text isn’t as easy as it sounds. First Josh seeks the consul of his sister Liz (Britt Lower). When that doesn’t yield satisfactory results, Josh’s problem is taken up by the greatest minds in the world. During the rigorous debate about the proper course of action, Mike gives an impassioned plea that Josh send a dick pic. Rightfully, the consensus was perhaps that wasn’t the smartest choice. However, the date doesn’t go so well. Before long, Josh is back in his apartment, his evening coming to an ugly, unceremonious end.

The biggest takeaway from Traib is how the episode feels more focused than the series debut, Lizard. The debut, while quite funny, was a bit overstuffed. This episode’s story is much simpler, which allows the jokes to slowly form and quickly payoff. The roundtable debate about what text to send to a person you just met is near universal. There’s a nervousness, an anticipation, about finally sending some innocuous words. Then the waiting. And the waiting. The segment is the strongest of Man Seeking Woman’s first two episodes. There’s also a strong refutation of men’s most baffling behavior – the dick pic. While it’s obviously deplorable behavior, it persists so much that it must consistently be demeaned in comedy.

In a guest role, Vanessa Bayer shines as Laura on the disastrous date. Her interaction with Baruchel when her food is awful is so subtly perfect in the context of the show’s amplified absurdity. Man Seeking Woman does do fantastic job at playing to Jay Baruchel’s comedic chops. In the role of a timid, socially awkward good guy, Baruchel carries impeccable comedic timing en route to romantic fatalism.

As I’ve said before, Man Seeking Woman has created a world with no rules. It can explore familiar themes with an unpredictable comic vibe. But while the first two episodes of the series have been promising, it doesn’t seem like they’ve quite found their stride. This is a series on the precipice of being something special, whether they can put it all together remains to be seen.

Man Seeking Woman is on FXX Wednesdays at 10:30pm and is streaming through the FX Now app.

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