Idiot Box: “The Last Man On Earth”

“The Last Man On Earth” On Fox

Devin D. O'Leary
3 min read
Only the Lonely
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Apparently, former “SNL” star Will Forte was shocked when FOX bit on his pitch for an unusual, single-camera sitcom. He had expected to sell “The Last Man on Earth” to a risk-taking cable outlet. Not to a major broadcast network like FOX. Kudos to whatever executive green-lighted this one, however. Forte’s offbeat foray into sci-fi comedy is one of the funniest, brightest spots of TV’s midseason.

Forte stars as Phil Miller, an ordinary schmuck who wakes up one day to find himself the last living man on Earth. No zombies, no aliens, no nothing. He spends a year or so traveling the United States searching for fellow humans, but returns home to suburban Tucson empty-handed. There, he comes up with increasingly unhinged ways in which to pass his lonely days and nights. (Fish tank bowling? Margarita swimming pool?) No longer satisfied with his crummy apartment, Phil commandeers a giant mansion and stocks it with all the stuff he’s “acquired” on his journey across the US: the rug from the Oval Office, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, a T-rex skull, a pile of Rembrandt paintings. (Hey, nobody else is using them.) Mostly, though, our man Phil gets drunk, neglects his personal hygiene and talks to himself.

Now this might seem like a slim premise for a weekly TV show. Will Forte talking to himself every week? But the writer-producer-creator-star has worked some canny magic here. He’s drafted as executive producers (and directors of the pilot episode) Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (makers of
The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street). He’s deftly mixed some hilarious jokes (seriously, who doesn’t need a Margarita pool?) with an occasionally, genuinely melancholic tone. And he’s cheated a little bit. By the end of the first episode, it’s clear the show’s title is literal. Phil is the last man on Earth. But he’s soon joined by the last woman on Earth (Kristen Schaal from “30 Rock” and “Bob’s Burgers”).

Post-apocalyptic tales involving one man and one woman aren’t anything new. They stretch at least from 1959’s
The World, the Flesh and the Devil to 1985’s The Quiet Earth. But Forte comes up with a clever twist. What if you were the last man on Earth and you met the last woman on Earth, and she was horrible? After enduring 18 months of solitary confinement, Phil is gifted with a shrill, neat freak grammar Nazi who tap dances on his every nerve. What now?

“The Last Man on Earth” very likely has a few more twists up its sleeve. Other cast members—including January Jones and Mary Steenburgen—have already been announced. Whether they’ll show up in flashbacks or in the flesh remains to be seen. Most encouraging of all, though, is the news that Forte insists “The Last Man on Earth” is a 13-episode series that will not be renewed for a second season. That allows him the freedom to fully explore and expend his story in one tight run. I, for one, can’t wait to see what hilarious, inventive, bittersweet craziness comes next.

“The Last Man on Earth” airs Sundays at 8:30pm on KASA-2.

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