One of the most consistently hilarious characters on Man Seeking Woman has been Josh’s overbearing mother Patti (Robin Duke). This lady commits so heavily to every manic line she’s given that I suspect she’s given her own kids the electric chair treatment after finding out about their girlfriends. Naturally, when it became clear that this story was going to be centered around her, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, Patti was wasted in what ended up being an extremely flat episode.
Once again, Patti can’t leave well enough alone when she finds out that Josh is in a new relationship. She gets her husband Tom (Mark McKinney) to track him and Lucy down in a flea market, and after a somewhat creative foot-chase, invite them to dinner. Liz comes in as a scholar on Josh’s parents, teaching Lucy the “customs” of the house, and then we’re on our way. Tom and Patti become enamored with Lucy over a ranch-dressed dinner, and Patti begins to stalk the young couple to the point of complete suffocation.
There really wasn’t any particularly creative gimmick here. In fact, if the chase scene at the beginning was taken out, one might mistake this for any other sitcom episode. Patti’s extreme coddling was not nearly as well executed this time around. For most of the episode, all she really did was pop out from corners. Duke, as always, threw herself into it like a pro, but she was really given nothing to play with.
The only gag with Patti that even dwelled in the territory of her previous brilliance was a quick throwaway bit where she tries to assassinate the president to get Josh and Lucy’s attention. That’s a really funny set-up, and if that had been the starting point for the episode, it could’ve been a lot better. Perhaps she could’ve started a whole revolutionary movement across America to get Josh and Lucy to spend time with her. She could reel them in by not just guilting them herself, but by getting the whole country rallied around her. That’s the level of exaggerated scale that makes the best episodes of this show work. Instead, we only see a quick glimpse of the assassination attempt through a TV monitor and see Patti pop out of nowhere (again) in a prison uniform.
We cap things off with what I can only guess is an Of Mice and Men gag that just doesn’t go anywhere. After Josh stands up to his mother, she goes into a catatonic state. He and Lucy go to make amends, and Tom is sitting out with a rifle, preparing to shoot her. One might think that we’d then see a practically brain-dead Patti that Josh would have to get through to somehow, with Tom an inch away from blowing her brains out. Nah. Instead, he just goes inside, talks things out with her, and it’s all honkey dory from there. No payoff, no edge, just a simple TV ending.
Last week’s season premiere of Man Seeking Woman promised us an entirely different show from previous seasons. I’m still in love with the idea of seeing Josh carry on with a real, long-term relationship. However, in order to make that work, the episodes need to focus on Josh and Lucy, and not so much on the auxiliary characters. “Ranch” was one of the show’s weakest outings yet. Not only did the set-up provide nothing unique from previous episodes, but there was almost none of the comic strip goofiness that perhaps could’ve sold it. Thus is the nature of the kind of show that’s basically a glorified sketch series. Some of them hit, some of them miss. I’m sure we’ll be back more sharp humor next week, but this was really a waste of a precious half hour.