The best comedy debut for a network television show in a very, very long time.
It seems like every month we have a new zombie or apocalyptic movie or television show. The Last Man on Earth takes this premise that feels so worn out and over used and makes it fresh, funny and irresistible.
Will Forte of SNL and MacGruber fame plays Phil Miller, the seemingly “last man” on Earth. Truly. The show opens with Phil driving across the country searching for any remaining human beings. When he’s unsuccessful, he leaves a note on every state line sign saying “Alive in Tucson.” As in Tucson, Arizona where he has taken up residence.
We don’t know anything of what happened to the rest of the human race except that the show starts off in 2020, a year after the virus. That’s it. Nothing else. We know Phil had a family, but was unmarried and didn’t have any kids. He’s all alone now.
And apparently, he’s glad he’s alone as he tells God he doesn’t need anyone. He’ll be just fine. But six months later, his humanity seems to be disappearing at a faster rate than he expected. He’s drunk all day and trashes his home, even turning his swimming pool into the “poop pool.”
I don’t want to ruin anything so I’ll stop writing about the plot here, but read below the spoiler alert for more discussion.
The talent at work in the show is extraordinary. Will Forte both stars and is the creator. He’s perfect for the role playing someone we can all connect to, despite being an overgrown child. The pop culture references are great as are the jokes. It never feels boring even though Forte is the only one on screen.
Beyond Forte, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative team behind such hits as The Lego Movie, 21 and 21 Jump Street, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, clearly have their hand in the show. They’re geniuses when it comes to premises that seem worn out and making them fresh and funny. They know their pop culture and are so in tune with what makes an audience laugh and makes an audience connect with their characters that it is astonishing.
The show has so many places it can go on such a thin premise. And it’s the genius of Forte, Miller and Lord that we can thank for it. I can’t wait to watch more.
Which brings me to the SPOILER ALERT (scroll down to keep reading):
The show debuted with the first two episodes and there’s no way I can write about the pilot without also getting to discuss some of the plot points in the second episode.
So, the first episode ends with Phil trying to kill himself but stopping because he spots smoke from a campfire. At the start of the second episode, Phil is rushing to the source of the smoke, where he comes across a woman. Carol. The biggest wish in his life. He might be the last man on earth, but she’s the last woman. And she’s annoying as hell.
Despite Carol’s annoying nature, Phil is a slob who doesn’t care about anything approaching cleanliness or following rules but has fun however he likes. Carol on the other hand wants Phil to stop at stop signs, corrects his grammar and calls a tomato “toe-maa-toe.”
So, they’re the last man and woman alive, which Carol reminds Phil means they have to repopulate the world. But they kind of hate each other so Phil is at ease letting humanity die off with him and Carol.
Soon, Carol is moving in next door to Phil and trying to connect with him, which Phil wants nothing to do with. But he can’t help himself, and they are quickly engaged. They’re like Adam and Eve but with 7-11’s.
All of this feels expected in a way, but it’s the good kind of expected as the storytellers are guiding us there. None of the plot twists feel cheap but instead feel organic to the characters and the situation they are in.
Seriously, this premise is so great and leaves so much room for the show to find stories. Forte was smart in his creation for the show because he doesn’t overload the pilot or second episode with much back story or exposition. We don’t know how people died. Or what each character’s life was like before the apocalypse. And that’s perfectly okay because we know the show will let us know all of this eventually however it chooses to do so. There’s no rush as it’s such a good time spending time with these two characters. And I hope we get to spend a long time with Phil and Carol.