Transitioning a show about a single man or woman into one about a relationship can be an even tougher adjustment than the one actual singles go through when they pair off. Not only does it alter the structure and tone of the storytelling, not to mention the kinds of stories that can be told, but when we’ve been following only the one character for a long time, our sympathies are almost always going to be with them over the newcomer, no matter how charming they may be.(*)
(*) A rare exception: How I Met Your Mother, which ironically did too good a job when it finally came time to introduce the title character, given that the plan (spoiler) was to kill her off at the end of the finale and have Ted get back together with Robin. Had audiences liked the Mother even slightly less, the finale twist might have inspired a smaller furor.
Leave it to FXX’s always-inventive romantic comedy Man Seeking Woman to come up with a surprisingly elegant solution to this eternal dilemma, by turning over large chunks of the new season (it returns tomorrow night at 10:30) to Lucy, the new girlfriend of Josh (Jay Baruchel), played by Katie Findlay (Rosie Larsen from The Killing). In three of the four (non-sequential) episodes sent to critics, Lucy is in fact so prominent that a newcomer to the show would likely come away from it thinking that she was the main character, and always had been.
Of course, the format and history of Man Seeking Woman lends itself to this kind of bending of perspective. The show, created by Simon Rich, has always been a collection of surreal sketches about modern dating life, where the women Josh is interested in might be in pre-existing relationships with Hitler or Jesus Christ, or Josh’s best friend Mike (Eric Andre) might try to escape having a serious relationship talk with his girlfriend in a sequence that resembles a kung fu movie. And once or twice a season, to reduce the workload on Baruchel — who was otherwise in virtually every minute of every episode — an episode will instead center around another character, like the time Josh’s sister Liz (Britt Lower) dealt with the guilt of dating a married man: Santa Claus.
Still, even with the show’s usual flexibility in mind, it’s startling and impressive how quickly Lucy becomes so central to everything — and how easily Findlay steps into such a prominent role on such a peculiar, funny show.
At various points over these episodes, Findlay ably channels Walter White, Sherlock Holmes, and Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark, to name just a few. And like Baruchel in the show’s best sketches, she manages to still retain some semblance of the regular character she’s playing even while in mid-pastiche. (Her belittling treatment of Dr. Watson in the Holmes bit is a delight.)