‘The Last Man on Earth’ Review: A New Hit For Fox
FOX has been due for a hit a while now and it looks like it finally found one in The Last Man on Earth, created by and starring Will Forte.
Forte, known for his years on Saturday Night Live returns to television as Phil, the unlucky man to be the last one standing after humanity was wiped out by a virus in 2019. Phil spends two years traveling through all of America only to find no one. (Oddly, the virus not only wiped out humanity but all the cars on the road too.) His reaction to the truth of being absolutely alone is both funny (the bowling scene, the margarita pool) and incredibly sad (the bar scene).
Though this is a comedy, there’s enough pathos to Phil as he spends more and more time by himself, talking only to an indifferent God. For every two scenes of porn shopping and art stealing, there’s a scene of severe loneliness verging on a nervous breakdown. You still can’t help but laugh, but you feel bad about it too. This is to the series’ advantage; though it is ostensibly a comedy, there’s still enough room to add a secondary layer to Phil’s character that rings sad and true.
Eventually, Phil decides to kill himself surrounded by his friends (balls he’s drawn faces on) only to find that there’s another survivor – a woman! Unfortunately for him, Carol (Kristen Schaal) is a type-A personality who wants to hold on to the old world norms. She doesn’t want Phil to park in handicapped spaces, she wants him to stop at reds and stop signs. She wants to fix him, so they could get married and repopulate the human race (though neither of them points out the lack of genetic diversity to make this a viable option). She clearly doesn’t much like him – he’s the embodiment of sloth – but he’s the only game in town. Phil doesn’t much like her in return – she is a humorless vegetarian – but she’s the only game in town.
Admittedly, though, the introduction of Carol does take the wind from the sails a little bit. Her controlling nature and mirthless personality really screw up the pacing of the show. While I do like Carol well enough, it was a bit too early to introduce her. Phil’s solo story was still very much engaging, charting the course of a man with complete freedom and enjoying that freedom, only for it to grow stale because there’s no one to share that freedom with. We didn’t have that much time for that joyous from freedom to turn into suicidal depression. Introducing Carol at the end of the second episode rather than the end of the first would have fixed that, but it’s a fairly small complaint in a show that has a lot going for it.
Last Man on Earth mixes comedy with a very well thought out response to this kind of isolation. That realistic reaction makes Phil more grounded as a character and makes us appreciate the ways that he acts out; it makes the jokes funnier and sadder. It’s too early to talk about sustainability, but Forte, along with writers Emily Spivey and Community‘s Andy Bobrow, make this series worth checking out.
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