The Last Man on Earth: Season 1 created by Will Forte (Si Fi Company, Lord Miller, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, and Mel Rodriguez.
The Death of Network Comedy
Ever since the cancellation of Better Off Ted, I’ve sworn off network television. What’s the point investing in a series when it will get cancelled? It has felt like a gradual slide toward mediocrity, as if anything daring or complicated might alienate too many viewers. Shows need to be just fine. If the quality isn’t up to par, nobody watches and it gets cancelled. But on the other end, if the show is too ambitious, it’ll get the axe because it didn’t get enough viewers.
So when Fox released The Last Man on Earth highlighting its unique qualities, I almost rejected it a priori. Surely it’ll never last.
Well, there’s nothing quite like it.
A Plague of Biblical Proportions
The Last Man on Earth begins with Phil Miller (Will Forte), presumably the last man on earth. Humanity, you see, has left the building due to an unspecified plague of Biblical proportions.
Phil spans the United States in search of one more person, rather humorously but unsuccessfully. During this search, Phil gathers the spoils of America—we’re talking the Declaration of Independence, priceless art, dinosaur skeletons—and leaves messages all over the interstate notifying people that he’ll be in Tucson.
Back in his arid hometown, Phil wallows in a margarita pool and does just about anything in inventive ways, like for example, bowling with cars. He jokes that he’ll never create a Wilson like that crazy Tom Hanks before assembling an entire bar full of face-bearing golf balls, tennis balls, basketballs, ping pong balls, etc.
Phil needs a companion of any kind.
Spoiler alert—I can’t really write a review any other way—Phil isn’t the last person on the earth.
Subversion of Expectations
What follows in Season 1 is a hilarious and inventive situation comedy. In many ways, it subverts expectations of the standard comedy. The obvious way exists within the setting—human civilization no longer exists.
The Last Man on Earth, however, also challenges the viewer’s perception of a protagonist. Phil Miller can be grating and often 100% unlikeable. Yet there’s something about the show that requires you to continue to tune in.
And so we return to the sad state of network television and the inevitability of cancellation. My wife and I took a chance on The Last Man on Earth assuming it would last one season anyway. How could you ever extend a premise like this? And the writers, it seems, figured early cancellation, as the season finale could function well as a series finale.
Yet somehow and some way The Last Man on Earth made it. Another season comes and I’m excited to see how the writers explore this strange and hilarious concept.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5