“The Last Man on Earth”
Sundays at 9 p.m. on Fox
What would you do if you survived the apocalypse? No rapture, no zombies, no aliens, no vampires created by a supposed cure for cancer. Nobody else — just you and the open world.
Would you drive around the country searching for people? Steal your favorite pieces of art from museums? Walk around in your underwear? Tote around a personal flamethrower just for the fun of it?
“The Last Man on Earth” answers all of these questions with a resounding “YES.”
The show follows protagonist and title character Phil Miller (Will Forte, whose character’s name is a hybrid of co-creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), the everyday man and supposed only survivor of an international virus that has wiped out humanity. The first episode shows Phil traveling around the country searching for signs of human life, spray-painting “ALIVE IN TUCSON” on street signs across the country.
Phil has gathered a hoard of famous and iconic souvenirs from around the now-desolate nation, including a few Monet paintings, an astronaut suit, Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Hugh Hefner’s pajamas. He fills a kiddie-pool with margaritas. He breaks into stores by shooting through glass windows before even trying the lock. Phil quickly utilizes the perks of being the last person on the planet, only realizing the cons much later.
The title quickly becomes a misnomer. The show can add characters whenever they feel they have to. And with Lord and Miller (“22 Jump Street,” “The Lego Movie”) producing the show, it’s safe to say that these characters are in good hands.
Just a few months after he sets up his one man kingdom in Tucson, Phil starts to lose his head. His isolation quickly parallels that of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away,” complete with Phil’s veritable football team worth of sports balls that he talks to. His lonely life of no accountability quickly wears him out, with trash and stacks of X-rated magazines piling up around him. Phil’s brief arc goes from freedom to loneliness once he realizes that he actually misses people, especially women (seriously, the stacks of nudie mags are almost as tall as his two-story Jenga tower).
Phil’s prayers are answered in the form of Carol (Kristen Schaal): a crafting, alternative cooking, grammar fiend, rule stickler of a female counterpart. She’s one of those people who pronounce it “tomahto.” Carol is insistent that she and Phil are meant to repopulate the Earth, but won’t have sex with Phil unless they’re married.
The show’s newest characters are Melissa (January Jones), Phil’s would-be wife had he not met Carol first, and Todd (Mel Rodriguez), a fat-shamed, kidney-donating orphan (aka “Some Friggin’ Fat Guy”). These two characters seem to only serve as objects that Phil tries to manipulate or work around to serve his own purposes. For example, he tries to convince Melissa that he should repopulate with her, too, so that Phil and Carol’s kids don’t have to reproduce with each other, a plan that is later thwarted by the arrival of Todd.
Phil and Todd’s interactions are among the show’s most interesting. The average dramapocalyse would pick two alpha males to face off, but instead we have beta male Phil and Todd, who is a veritable gamma male and overall probably the sweetest person left on Earth. But Schaal’s a close second as Carol, doing an excellent job as the show’s most eccentric character.
Most of the show’s early charm comes from Phil’s own musings to himself, to God, to his league of sports ball friends and a female mannequin. But the truly weird interactions are between Phil and the other characters who continue to appear in Tucson. As more people show up, Phil gets weirder. Yet he remains at the helm, guiding us through the painfully awkward and subtle hilarity of each scene with the other survivors.
In one particularly awkward moment, Phil tries to humiliate Todd by playing a game of shirts and skins tennis, which instead leads to a story about how Todd donated his kidney to his brother who didn’t survive the surgery.
“The Last Man on Earth” is bizarre in structure and story, but that’s only because it’s like nothing else on television. The show illustrates that the collapse of civilization would not be as tense or action-packed as dramas would have you believe.
For the most part, “The Last Man on Earth” shows that life after life on Earth isn’t radical but just awkward.