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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Man Seeking Woman: “Pitbull”

Illustration for article titled Man Seeking Woman: “Pitbull”
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Man Seeking Woman’s heightened universe and format, featuring only a few, longer set pieces each episode, is a high risk, high reward gamble. When a sequence works, it’s spectacular (for example, the fantastic text summit in “Traib”). When it doesn’t, the episode sputters to a halt. After two episodes of mostly successful conceptual fantasy, “Pitbull” is the show’s first significant misstep, going for disappointingly literal sequences and abandoning the emotional truth that underpins the series’ best moments.

“Pitbull” opens with the episode’s most successful sequence, Josh being interrupted from a planned intimate moment with himself by his right hand, voiced by Sarah Silverman, who just isn’t feeling it anymore. Silverman is great in this brief spot and with the kind of month Josh has been having, it’s not surprising even his hand is ready to leave him. The design of the hand’s eyes and mouth are fun and unlike the later sequences, this one runs just long enough to be effective. Josh and Mike’s night out at the bars (after some pre-gaming, authentic Mexican cuisine, and 10,000-piece puzzle completing) doesn’t work anywhere near as well. Sloppily shotgunning beers feels out of character for Josh, who is far more fastidious with his meal prep, and while the bit improves with each of Josh’s new distractions—bringing back Infinite Jest to be Mike’s breaking point is an admittedly great capper—it never elicits the belly laughs of “Lizard” or “Traib.”

The most tiresome of the episode’s sequences is its final one, as Josh excuses himself from his eagerly gyrating date to head to the bathroom and look for his penis, which has abandoned him after a long evening of drinking. Rather than repeat the approach of the opening and have Josh hold a conversation with the uncooperative portion of his body, the writers try something new and have him frantically call around looking for it. This may be an entertaining premise, but it holds no emotional truth. In “Lizard,” Josh discovered his ex had moved on to a total jerk, Hitler, and none of their mutual friends cared. In “Traib,” Josh was haunted by Maggie’s lingering presence in his life, in the form of her possessions. Here, his body is betraying him, but rather than play with that idea and Josh’s attempts to come up with a solution, we watch strangers rifle through boxes and listen to a bartender fight a pitbull. If the writers were married to this idea, the episode needed to commit to it, to take it to the extremes of the previous episodes’ sequences. As soon as the writers decided not to (or discovered they couldn’t) actually show a penis, talking or otherwise, the entire concept was doomed.

The moment most in keeping with the established tone and approach of the series is Josh and Mike’s conversation about Mike’s spiral eyes, and the reveal that this ability is why Mike is so successful with women and Josh constantly strikes out. Both Jay Baruchel and Eric André are great in this scene, playing it completely straight, and as a way to literalize confidence’s power as an aphrodisiac, it works well. It also removes free will from the equation and turns every woman Mike interacts with into a sex object, and laughs this off. Women aren’t attracted to Mike because he’s cute and fun and confident. They dance with him because he wills it and, the episode argues, if women aren’t responding to Josh, the blank-slate audience surrogate, he should just put the whammy on them like Mike does and take away their ability to say no.

For a series already struggling with gender parity—yes, Liz and Mike operate as equal opposites, both giving terrible advice, but the rest of the women on the series (here, Sarah and Josh’s hookup) are portrayed far less charitably than the men—this is a significant problem. It turns the episode’s strongest fantasy element into its worst and the series’ most disturbing, particularly since unlike Maggie dating Hitler, there’s absolutely no sense that the characters or writers think Mike’s spiral eyes are a bad thing. There’s plenty of space for offensive material in comedy, provided it’s funny. There are nowhere near the laughs in “Pitbull” to make up for its problematic content.

Stray observations:

  • Credit where it’s due—Josh and Mike have mad puzzling skills, and having them get recognized by the bouncer is a nice touch.
  • The audio mix in the first bar is great, keeping the likely deafening club music to a polite distance as Josh sits sadly alone.
  • Mike also returning to the bar for his dick is a nice touch that complements his dick pic speech and recantation in “Traib” wonderfully. It’s not enough to make up for the rest of the sequence, but at least the episode ends well.