The Last Man On Earth
Comedy at the end of the world
Television’s been dishing out post- apocalyptic like it’s going out of style lately, with high- concept dramas that explore how humanity deals with world’s end. And that’s precisely why Fox’s The Last Man On Earth seemed such an inspired alternative. The comedy, created by Phil Lord and Chris Miller ( The Lego Movie) and star Will Forte ( MacGruber), posits that by 2020 a virus has run through humanity and all that’s left is average, 30- something Phil Miller. For two years, he traverses the continental United States in a camper van looking for someone else – to no avail. Phil leaves a few messages pointing to his ultimate destination in Tucson, Arizona and there he waits.
It’s certainly an intriguing idea with a lot of potential for a major US network to attempt, but it’s ultimately spending time with Phil that ruins everything. In the pilot episode, we get to watch him while away his days smashing fish tanks with bowling balls, turn a gorgeous mansion into his squalid den of gross, cut a hole in a diving board so he can poop in a luxury pool, creepily molest a storefront mannequin, and best Tom Hanks’ Cast Away shtick by talking to many inanimate balls ( a gag that’s 15 years mouldy).
Halfway through Phil’s awfully pointless, disgusting adventure, humanity disappearing starts to feel like a mercy killing for us all. That’s not to say that Forte doesn’t provide some moments of quiet pathos or humour – he’s a likeable actor – but his Phil proves to be a non- productive waste of space. It becomes increasingly difficult to root for Phil even when he gets desperate enough to off himself. He’s saved that fate by the first in a series of big twists that we won’t spoil here, but you can guess considering 13 hours of a one- man TV show is rather untenable.
It’s disappointing that the writers waste a premise with so much promise – where they could be exploring the smart, subtle absurdities of fickle humanity – by instead going for the easy poop, bro- judgement, Neanderthal man jokes. With every selfish, mean, horny- obsessed choice Phil makes, he’s more and more “that guy” in your office, family or circle of friends you wish a generous apocalypse would take out. Tara Bennett