CHICAGO — Strange and absurdist, "Man Seeking Woman" taps into every insecurity that comes with being young, single and forever stumbling through relationships. The TV series is back for a second season (which began recently on FXX) and though its stories are primarily told from the viewpoint of a guy (star Jay Baruchel as Josh) occasionally the show will shift its perspective to that of Josh's sister Liz, played by Britt Lower.
"Teacup," an episode from last year, was one of the show's best — an anatomy of Liz's angst over a breakup and her looming 30th birthday. In the show's surreal style, she finds herself at a backyard tea party berated for her single status by a group of 7-year-old girls talking to her as if they were her peers: "Is that a real diamond?" a stunned Liz asks one of them, looking at the girl's ring finger. "It better be, or Richard is in big trouble," comes the reply. Another girl says defensively of her own ring, "I just wanted a simple band because I use a lot of Play-Doh."
"Man Seeking Woman" is full of pop cultural references and parodies-as-metaphors, all within heightened, surreal scenarios. Lower, who gives her character authenticity as a career-focused corporate lawyer, is a key part of why it works so well.
Comedy, she said, "was a surprise for me. I honestly thought I'd be doing Pinter plays and Shakespeare and Greek dramas. But my freshman year at Northwestern I went to a new student orientation and there was this improv group on campus and I thought, 'Well, that's the most terrifying thing I've ever seen.' They had auditions the next week and I thought, 'I'm just going to go and see what happens.' And it turns out that it was the best training I could have possibly ever had because it is all the things that 'Man Seeking Woman' absolutely requires."
She gave an example from an episode of Season 2 (which airs 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays on FXX):
"I improvised an entire scene with a 2007 Saturn car that was blinking its lights and honking (at) me but not saying human words. I had to believe as if I was meeting my brother's girlfriend for the first time, who is a very safe and reliable choice but perhaps a little boring and hard to relate to." (Yet another of "Man Seeking Woman's" surreal metaphors.) "In those moments, you can't prepare for that scene. You can't imagine how you might feel sitting in front of a car and talking to it. I mean, there wasn't a class at Northwestern about how to act with an automobile.
"But that's where improv training becomes so clutch. It's like, OK: behave honestly in imaginary circumstances. And that's where this show really shines — we stay super-grounded when the heightened scenario is to the nth degree."