Had they drawn it as one of those adult-themed, lonely-loser, late-night cartoon series, FXX’s “Man Seeking Woman” (premiering Wednesday) might have been as easy to swipe away as a run-of-the-mill dating profile.
Instead, it is a live-action comedy that often moves and thinks like a cartoon, to great effect, in a hallucinatory world of socializing where a blind date who seems like a troll is, in fact, a gross little troll, and where a trio of alien sex robots show up to your apartment on the night your neat new girlfriend sleeps over.
Based on short stories by humor writer Simon Rich, who is also the show’s creator, “Man Seeking Woman” stars Jay Baruchel (“This Is the End,” “How to Train Your Dragon”) as Josh Greenberg, a 27-year-old who has just been dumped by his longtime girlfriend (Maya Erskine).
Egged on by both his best friend (Eric André) and his older sister (Britt Lower) to revel in his peak bachelorhood, Josh sets off on an awkward journey to find love or sex or both. While the premise may not sound like the kind of show that television is running short of at this particular moment, “Man Seeking Woman” is something else entirely — a fantasy about a man whose heart is too tender for Tinder and yet is unable to ignore his worst instincts and inner thoughts, which rear up in clever ways.
When Josh debates whether to text a woman he met on the subway (“Saturday Night Live’s” Vanessa Bayer), the scene shifts to one of those high-security situation rooms where analysts and military commanders argue over the exact wording of the text and then panic and elevate threat levels when a reply doesn’t arrive within the first minute after it is sent.
“Man Seeking Woman” has a firm grip on its own sense of absurdity. The sketches within the overall story are hilarious but somehow subtle enough as to not be overblown. When Josh goes to a party at his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, he is astonished to learn that she is now seeing Adolf Hitler (Bill Hader, with much makeup), who is 125 years old and gets around in a grandpa scooter.
Josh’s friends at the party keep telling him to chill, but how can he? It’s Hitler! Here in the room with them, and dating Josh’s ex — Hitler! (Who quickly ascertains — as any viewer will — that Josh is Jewish.)
Like most half-hour comedies that hang their humor on nuance, “Man Seeking Woman” is better sampled than summarized. At 32, Baruchel is a smidge too old for the part, but his sincerity and sense of timing fit the job perfectly. After passing through hit films and other projects that made all his friends famous, it seems only fitting to see Baruchel shine in a story that’s all about the nice guy who finishes last.
(30 minutes) premieres Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. on FXX.