Apocalypse is not considered to be a subject
which elicits yuks, so the idea of surviving in a post-apocalyptic world
would seem an odd subject for a sitcom. Well Will Forte (Saturday Night
Live, Nebraska) has created a sitcom with thorns, a show that is
effortlessly funny and yet it also is not afraid to wallow in mournfulness.
The Last Man on
Earth bypasses traditional sitcom rhythms and puts
together a weird vibe all of its own. It's difficult to build an entire
show on such a somber situation as having the whole wide world decimated by
a super flu. It's particularly tricky when you consider that there are only
seven characters in the entire season – eight if you count a new character
who is revealed in the final scene of the season finale, or ten if you count
flashbacks and fantasies. It's a whole lot of heavy lifting for a small
group of people to keep an audience tuned in and interested for 13 episodes.
While the post-apocalypse
of The Last Man on Earth is somewhat benign – there are no freeways
full of abandoned cars, and more vitally, no corpses strewn about everywhere
(what happened to all of them?) – the series does oddly capture the solitude
and moments of desperation and melancholy of the situation.
The series starts with
Phil Miller (Forte), who is spending his post apocalypse driving around the
United States, stealing national treasures and doing vaguely antisocial
things with flamethrowers and bowling balls.
The one smart thing he
did – perhaps the one smart thing that he has done in his life – is stop all
over and spray paint "Alive in Tucson" on billboards around the country.
Because of this, slowly throughout the season other survivors end up in
Eventually convinced that
the whole country is dead and he is indeed the last man on Earth, he returns
to his hometown of Tucson, commandeering an abandoned McMansion for his
home, stealing bushels of porn, swimming in a kiddie pool of tequila,
befriending a bunch of balls with faces drawn on them (a la Tom Hanks
Castaway, which he mocked earlier) and getting a crush on a hot mannequin in
a store window.
He's alone and honestly
massively horny. In fact he is just about to end it all when a woman
arrives. The problem is, that woman in Carol (Kristen Schaal of 30 Rock),
a woman who is not exactly gorgeous, a bit annoying, kind of a nag,
constantly correcting his grammar and who refuses to sleep with him unless
they are married – even though they are the last hope for sustaining life in
the human race.
He finally agrees to
marry Carol and starts a rather unsatisfactory sex life when Melissa
(January Jones of Mad Men) shows up, his dream girl – gorgeous,
sweet, and with much more in common with him than Carol. As Carol and
Melissa become fast friends, Phil starts plotting how he can leave Carol and
take up with Melissa, despite the fact that his obvious attempts make
Melissa more and more contemptuous of him. Then as more survivors slowly
filter in throughout the series (Mel Rodriguez, Mary Steenburgen, Cleopatra
Coleman and Boris Kodjoe), Phil's attempt to be the alpha male in this new
society become more desperate and pathetic. Eventually, when a true alpha
male also with the name Phil Miller (Kodjoe) shows up, he even loses his
name, being called Tandy by his co-horts from there on.
It takes a certain amount
of balls to make your lead character by far the worst person on the screen –
a habitual liar, massively jealous, needy, greedy and selfish. However,
somehow Forte makes Phil's whininess and weaselly qualities sort of winning
if not exactly likable.
As The Last Man on
Earth takes its eccentric trail in an abbreviated series worth of
episodes – and it's probably a good thing to binge watch this particular
series rather than waiting a week between episodes – it grows on you with
it's out-there world view. You rarely know for sure where the show is
going, and that is a very good thing. In a world where network sitcom execs
think it's adventurous to remake The Odd Couple for the umpteenth
time, here is something which is truly unique. And it has the added bonus
of being pretty damned funny.
It will be interesting to
see where the show goes from here.
Jay S. Jacobs
All rights reserved. Posted: September 27,