The Last Man on Earth is something rare, a single cam sitcom which feels entirely original. Nothing is entirely unique on television. You’re The Worst was in many ways unique, but did so by showing a romantic comedy in a new way. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic television science fiction shows, but none done as comedy as Will Forte has. This post has spoilers regarding the events of the first two episodes.
Being a comedy, it can get away with a preposterous set up. In the first episode we learn that a virus has seemingly killed everyone on earth but one man. Three are no rotting bodies, and no signs of civilization collapsing. Forte’s character, Phil Miller (whose name comes from the writer and director pair of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), went to all fifty states in an RV, searching for other living people, with no difficulty getting gas. He raided the Smithsonian and other museums for decorations for his ultimate home and shouted in every state asking if anyone was around. Of course the show is not entirely implausible. Phil realized that he could have missed some living people in his ride through each state so he spray painted the message “ALIVE IN TUCSON” around the country.
Phil ultimately moved into a neighborhood in Tuscon which is much like my neighborhood (other than for the different climate). After traveling around the country, an area where air conditioning would be preferable, and there is limited precipitation, hardly seems like the best idea. If not staying in his own home for the sake of familiarity, a less affluent house which has practical measures such as an out house would seem preferable to cutting a hole in a diving board to make the world’s biggest toilet. Perhaps he could find the home of a survivalist who had everything he needed. If I didn’t stay in my home, I might also consider a facility such as a hospital. I could tolerate sleeping in an on-call room or former patient room in return for an emergency generator system (assuming I had any idea as to how to run it).
The Last Man on Earth has a simple solution for its implausible situation–keep the viewers laughing continually. Phil does everything you’d expect a single guy with nobody to judge him to do, and more. He started with simple outdoor bowling with pins, progressing to knocking down aquariums full of water and making cars explode. He spent time in a kiddie pool filled with the ingredients for a giant Margarita, even with salt all along the rim.
If it was me, I would stock up on batteries for notebook computers, tablets, and/or smart phones and use them to view DVD’s plus media in digital form. I’m sure that with a bit of searching of abandoned homes, Phil could have found plenty of portable hard drives which were well stocked with porn and other movies. He did use a generator one day to view Castaway, and mocked Tom Hanks for talking to a Wilson volleyball. Months later he had an entire group of imaginary friends and drinking buddies made out of balls.
The first half hour was fine with only Phil. He periodically spoke with God, in addition to all the balls, to make up for the lack of others. While the first episode was quite funny, it was hard to see how they could make an entire television series out of this. Before viewers got bored, Phil got bored with his life. Fortunately, just before killing himself, Phil saw a fire. Not only had someone seen his signs, it was someone who had a bra hanging up to dry. Unfortunately, after a rather funny scene in which they met which included fantasies and wetting of pants, Phil found that it was someone he wouldn’t sleep with if she was the last woman on earth (as she appeared to be).
Carol, played by Kristen Schaal, is the opposite of Phil. While Phil would leave even more destruction beyond him than was necessary to get supplies, Carol followed all the old rules as if there were still others around. She even objected when Phil ran though stop signs.
At least Carol is more practical than Phil. She is not content to live on canned goods and Twinkies, and realized they should come up with a way to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. She also thought the two were meant to repopulate the earth, and eventually Phil became horny enough to go along. This relationship was not consummated by the end of the second episode which aired as Carol insisted upon getting married before having sex.
Schaal had to keep her role secret so that viewers wouldn’t know that a last man on earth didn’t preclude a last woman. In addition, January Jones, Mary Steenburgen, Mel Rodriguez, and Cleopatra Coleman have been cast for undisclosed roles. Forte is vague as to what their roles will be:
“There are twists and turns,” Forte recently told E! News. “Other people show up, and we do have flashbacks and dreams, so we do have some exciting people involved. Kristen Schaal, who’s one of the funniest people around, January Jones, Mary Steenburgen just signed on. I don’t want to give away what roles they play, but it’s an amazing group of people.”
Carol was added to the show before Phil’s solo antics lost their humor, and the banter between the two added a new element to the show. Another woman could shake things up. Carol probably wouldn’t accept having Phil also sleep with someone such as January Jones after they are married. However, if she is serious about repopulating the earth, this would be the obvious thing to do, along as an irresistible act on Phil’s part.
There is no way to know if this show will still be as funny after running for weeks, but at the moment it is one of the funniest and most original comedies on television. It won’t be the only sitcom with a post-apocalypse idea in its premise. I’m now rushing through the third season of House of Cards, which became available on Netflix last Friday, to save time for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which premiers on Netflix this week. It is the latest comedy from Tina Fey, originally planned for NBC before NBC essentially ended its run as the network home for quality programing. The premise is that the Kimmy Schmidt, played by Ellie Kemper, has been held captive by a doomsday cult for fifteen years. She escapes into the world, but instead of the expected post-apocalyptic world she is a person who has become out of place in our world.