Mid-season premieres are usually a dumping ground for new television. While everyone is distracted by the season premieres of Parks and Rec, Girls, or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and other shows coming back from midseason hiatus, networks tend to shove their lesser programs right in the middle. Yet among all the boring sitcom retreads and tired CSI spinoffs, three shows stand out as legitimately memorable, in some way or another.
Man Seeking Woman
FX and its offshoot, FXX, have now replaced HBO as the network releasing a steady stream of great, under-the-radar programming. Their newest offering, starring Jay Baruchel, takes a conventional rom-com arc and takes the tropes to a surreally literal level. The show starts out with Josh (Baruchel) breaking up with his girlfriend and talking with his best friend. Yet the twist of the show is that every subconscious emotion is literalized within his life. Josh’s sister sets him up on a blind date with an actual troll. His ex-girlfriend is now dating Hitler (“My relationship with Dolphy has nothing to do with you”). It’s a polarizing show, destined for cult status at best. It also perhaps qualifies as one of the worse offerings the network has to offer. Yet that doesn’t mean that the show isn’t worth watching. It’s original and intelligent, and there is truth behind the ridiculousness. While the show hasn’t quite earned the label of “emotionally resonant,” Man Seeking Woman is manages to be painfully, giddily, and absurdly funny.
Togetherness, by far the season’s best new show, is the new comedy from the Duplass brothers. The Duplass brothers previously produced the delightful indie comedies Safety Not Guaranteed and Jeff Who Lives at Home. Togetherness joins Girls and Looking as a television show about a very specific group of people. This time it’s about middle class thirtysomethings in LA. The idea that this show is flawed because it doesn’t have a “broader scope” or characters with greater social awareness, is both misguided and irrelevant. Togetherness is so perceptive and understanding of its characters that it manages to find a universal emotional core. The writing strikes the right balance between biting and empathetic, and the cast is uniformly excellent.
Galavant is ABC’s new event television show, and it is truly something. The premise is a half hour comedy-musical set in medieval times. The cast is full of unknown actors and actresses. It also is a strong contender for the worst show currently on television. It’s an event, more than a television show, something so focused on being novel that it ends up failing in every regard – the acting, the writing, the plot, and the music are all a train wreck. Galavant is, in its own peculiar way, the anti-Princess Bride. Wit has been replaced with crude, broad humor and romance with snide cynicism. Yet thinking about why the program is such a blatantly terrible piece of garbage is more thought than the creators put into the show. Despite the fact that virtually every element of this show is an absolute mess, the mess never stops being at interesting.