Why Man Seeking Woman's third season is its best so far

The show risked becoming boring. Then Lucy showed up.

Pigs fly in season 3 of the FX show.
(Image credit: FX Networks)

Amid a sea of baggy shows that don't quite know what they're doing and are taking too long to do it, FXX's Man Seeking Woman stands out for its focus and speed. Simon Rich's surrealist comedy — about a 20-something Everyman named Josh (Jay Baruchel) looking for love — starts its third season Jan. 4, and it continues to be an admirably tight show. A series built around taking a figurative expression and making it literal has every reason in the world to get messy: What if your ex's new partner was actually Hitler? Suppose you go to a sex shop and your partner chooses "The Kyle," an Australian beefcake in a life-sized Ken box? Whole movies could be written around these premises, but in Man Seeking Woman, they constitute just one of the three ruthlessly disciplined acts that make up a single 20-minute episode. "I always try to make things as economical as possible," Rich has said. "I always try to make the turn sudden. I try not to shift a scene gradually, I try to shift a scene dramatically." And it usually works.

This new season, Man Seeking Woman pivoted suddenly indeed: If its first season could be paraphrased as "Man Misses Woman" and its second as "Man Seeks Woman," its third is "Man Finds Woman." But there's a caveat: A character who's never been introduced before takes up so much screentime that the series could just as easily be called "Woman Gets Man." Josh has a girlfriend. Her name is Lucy, she's played by Katie Findlay, and she has seized center stage.

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Lili Loofbourow

Lili Loofbourow is the culture critic at TheWeek.com. She's also a special correspondent for the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor for Beyond Criticism, a Bloomsbury Academic series dedicated to formally experimental criticism. Her writing has appeared in a variety of venues including The Guardian, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate.