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'Man Seeking Woman' premiere recap: Show seeking gimmicks

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Lizard” | Aired Jan 14, 2015

I know two things to be true. One, the trailer for Man Seeking Woman advertises the show as one with lots of visual gags and imagined scenarios. Two, pilot episodes are often not the best way to judge a show. But here we are, so let’s begin this journey.

The show opens with twenty-something Josh (Jay Baruchel) moving out of the apartment he and his ex-girlfriend shared. She gives him his lizard. He gives her a handshake. He walks the streets of Chicago with a rain cloud just for him.

As a pilot episode is prone to do, we get an introduction to other main characters; here, we meet Mike (Eric André), Josh’s best friend and a ladies’ man. He urges Josh to get out there and screw his brains out to forget the pain. “If you wear this shirt tonight, you will crush gash,” Mike says. Disgusted, Josh replies, “Every gash is someone’s daughter.” It’s a clever, albeit graphic, exchange that tells us a lot about these characters and their sexual confidence.

Man Seeking Woman

The things that Josh does after being dumped seem right out of a how-to-write-a-romantic-comedy handbook: going a blind date, meeting his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, and asking out a girl. The ideas themselves are not original, but each one gets its own fantasy vignette. Josh is set up on a blind date with a literal troll, a squat monster in a halter dress who lives in a dumpster. The troll grunts and does trolly things while Josh tries to make conversation—only to end in a knockdown, drag-out fight with the troll biting his leg. The lesson learned here? Some women are ugly, and sometimes dates go bad.

Josh attends the party of his ex, Christine, only to learn that her new boyfriend is Hitler. Literally, Adolf Hitler. He’s now 125 years old and a perverted old man. Josh tries to tell everyone how horrible Hitler is, and his friends take a predictable stance: “Of course Josh would hate the new boyfriend.” From here, Hitler taunts Josh, being handsy and raunchy with Christine. Again, it’s a good idea—and probably sounds really good as a pitch in the writers’ room—but the gag goes on too long with not much more to say about it. Hitler rides around with Christine on his lap, sucks his fingers, and generally makes crude jokes. It’s uncomfortably long. The lesson: You’ll always hate your ex’s new love.

Man Seeking Woman

Act three sees Josh meeting an attractive woman (SNL‘s best asset, Vanessa Bayer) in an empty train station. They’re both a little awkward and hesitant, but Josh takes the high road. He asks her out directly, and she says yes. Elated, he gets a call from the MacArthur Foundation asking him how he accomplished such a feat, which is endearing, and Jay Baruchel’s unadulterated joy is a true delight. The basic rule of comedy, “heightening the situation,” is used diligently: As a news report is broadcast, paparazzi hound Josh, and he gets a congratulatory phone call from Obama himself. The lesson here? Asking someone out is really friggin’ hard. Josh is on top of the world … until his lizard gets eaten by a bird.

I wasn’t expecting a deep dive into the psychological states of the characters, but I think this might have gone too far in the opposite direction: The fantasy sequences are based only on a surface premise, following the formula of “What if [blank] was actually like [blank]?” And, as if assuming the audience don’t get the joke, the writers hit us over the head with it several more times to the point of staleness. I can’t help but feel the show doesn’t trust its audience with something more involved or, dare I say, intelligent.

Obviously, I’m not wowed by this pilot. However, there is something about this premise that excites me. There’s something earnest and whimsical about presenting dating life in these broad visual metaphors. It feels like it’s from an earlier time, when comedy wasn’t just shitting on everything.

Man Seeking Woman

My hope is that the fantasy element isn’t used to the detriment of any character development or any connection to the characters. As it is, the characters are pretty broad and fit into tired tropes. The nerdy shy guy, the best friend who can talk of nothing but bangin’ chicks. On the other hand, the premise of the show opens itself up to limitless possibilities and scenarios, and is almost foolproof against running out of ideas. Just as I expected, Jay Baruchel and Eric André’s charisma go a long way. Josh’s cousin plays a bit part, but here’s to hoping we meet more women who are more than just love interests for Josh.

Man Seeking Woman

I have enough faith in creator-showrunner Simon Rich not to give up yet. There’s a lot of potential here—let’s hope it’s put to good use.

Man Seeking Woman airs Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30C on FXX.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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