Man Seeking Woman brings magical realism to the streets of (not real) Chicago

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Josh (Jay Baruchel) is unlucky in love. And most other things.
  • Michael Gibson/FXX
  • Josh (Jay Baruchel) is unlucky in love. And most other things.
Nothing exacerbates the millennial male's misconception that the world revolves around him quite like a freshly broken heart. Take Josh Greenberg, played by the adorably droopy Jay Baruchel, on the new FXX comedy Man Seeking Woman. When the lovable loser is given the heave-ho by his girlfriend Maggie, it's like a rain cloud is following him everywhere he goes. When his well-meaning—and more together—sister sets him up on a date with one of her friends, it's like the woman's a total troll. And when Maggie starts dating someone else, it's like no one cares that he's Adolf Hitler.

It's like that, except minus all the "likes."

Based on a book by Harvard-educated wood sprite Simon Rich, a celebrated humorist at the ripe age of 30 (do I sound bitter?), Man Seeking Woman uses magical realism to poke fun at our protagonist's perception of his problems, failings, and, occasionally, his successes. As Josh walks away from Maggie's apartment postbreakup, rain really does pour down upon his head; he's beaned by a pigeon that plummets from the sky. The Swedish transplant Josh's sister sets him up with is an actual green-fleshed troll who hails from the Scandinavian forest—"She came here to start her nonprofit and live under the Wabash Bridge," says sister Liz. When Josh makes the mistake of using the term "troll" colloquially, his date, Gorbachaka, violently attacks him, biting his hands and legs. No one reacts to the assault until Josh shouts that she's "just an ugly troll." Then everyone in the room gasps and gives him the stink eye.

The most fun—and most resonant—use of the surreal to illustrate the absurd depth of Josh's self-indulgent despair is Maggie's relationship with a 126-year-old Adolf Hitler, played by Bill Hader in old-man makeup that's as good as Johnny Knoxville's in Bad Grandpa (Oscar-nominated, if you'll recall). Josh comes to a party at Maggie's apartment, bottle of her favorite wine in hand, only to find out about her new squeeze—who everyone thinks is a pretty OK guy. When Josh, who's Jewish, reminds his roommate, Mike (Eric Andre), that Hitler killed millions of Jews, Mike dismisses the argument: "You just don't like him because he's dating Maggie." Mike's dippy Tinder date admonishes, "Don't make this about you."

Clever and pleasantly grotesque more often than it's laugh-out-loud funny, Man Seeking Woman deserves credit for, if nothing else, its visual ambition. And even if a 30-year-old Ivy Leaguer's autobiographical boohooing seems like unattractive material, Chicagoans will have fun picking out all the ways it succeeds and fails at being set here, even though it was definitely filmed elsewhere (Toronto, according to the Internet). For instance, I'm not familiar with a Belmont Red Line station (last I checked last night it was Brown, Purple, and Red—duh). That said, these guys would totally would live in Pilsen.

Man Seeking Woman, Wednesdays at 10:30 PM on FXX

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