Mashing up Terry Gilliam-like fantasy with early Woody Allen, “Man Seeking Woman” uses the tagline “Love is strange,” and as created by Simon Rich based on his short stories, this FXX comedy is indeed that. Starring Jay Baruchel as the lovelorn protagonist, the early installments of this 10-episode run embark on bizarre flights of fancy, more peculiar than fall-down funny, but worth watching nevertheless. Counting Lorne Michaels among its producers, the show possesses a decidedly male tilt that meshes with the network’s profile, although whether those qualities translate into Show Finding Audience might be another matter.
Baruchel is certainly well-cast as Josh, a sad-sack sort who, at 27, is both a bit directionless and still pining for Maggie (Maya Erskine), the girlfriend who dumped him after six years (or four, depending on who’s keeping score). Yet when he agrees to be set up on a blind date by his sister (Britt Lower), the other party turns out to be a troll. No, literally — like something out of “The Hobbit,” with warty gray skin, pointy ears and about 2½-feet tall, who promptly eats the rose that Josh offers her.
Continuing along those lines, when Josh goes to a party and meets Maya’s new boyfriend in the second half-hour, it’s Hitler. No, really, looking unexpectedly spry for a guy who’s 125, while triggering indignation from the other attendees due to Josh’s negative reaction. Then again, as the third episode makes clear (in very funny fashion), perhaps the only thing worse than being alone for a dreamer like Josh is the fear that being in a relationship will close off fantastic sexual opportunities.
And so it goes, with Josh lurching from one crisis to the next, while being egged on to find love — OK, more like meaningless sex — by his pal Mike (Eric Andre, the host of his own Adult Swim show), one of those too-convenient buddies with whom it’s hard to imagine someone like Josh actually hanging out.
Still, why sweat the details? “Man Seeking Woman” is all about one person’s hyperbolic quest to overcome loneliness, where the odds against finding somebody are of epic proportions, at least in Josh’s mind — a point underscored by the sci-fi-like title of Rich’s book, “The Last Girlfriend on Earth.”
While that’s not an especially original conceit, the sheer acid-trip-style quirkiness coupled with Baruchel’s perpetual confusion make this a worthy addition to the FXX lineup, with the disclaimer that even the FX networks’ most-admired comedies (see “Louie”) haven’t gained much traction ratings-wise, certainly compared with the dramas, perhaps because of their off-kilter tone.
Not that “Man Seeking Woman” is perfect. But until the next truly great nerd-seeking-love comedy comes along, hey, watch the one you’re with.