Why you should be watching The Last Man on Earth
Andrew Jones | On 30, Sep 2015
Since leaving the career-launching juggernaut of Saturday Night Live, Will Forte’s output has been a strange beast: a starring role in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, a spin-off for his MacGruber character and an awful lot of supporting and cameo roles. Thankfully, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, his old friends from TV’s classic cancelled show Clone High, had a production deal in place with Fox Television after Brooklyn Nine-Nine launched to great success, and put all the pieces in place to bring us The Last Man On Earth – a show that is about (what else?) the last man on Earth, for a while at least.
The first season of the show sees Phil Miller (Forte) discover he’s not completely alone after a virus wipes out the world. He gets married to Carol Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal) and starts a suburban community in Tucson. Slowly, more survivors join, including January Jones’ Melissa, Mel Rodriguez’s Todd and, awkwardly, Boris Kodjoe as an alpha male, Phil Miller #2.
Over the first season the community grows, but as Phil Tandy Miller tries to get used to life with people again, the selfish nature of being alone for years is hard to shake off. Ultimately, everything our hero does is wrong in everyone’s eyes, or at least has ulterior motives, such as convincing his wife that he has to have sex with the only other woman in the world to avoid their children committing incest. Phil Tandy Miller isn’t a good man. He is, however, the protagonist we are stuck with, and in dealing with a selfish, petty man, we watch for laughs, for cringe, for pain, and for anger.
A fascinating take on sitcom tropes through to their most near-the-knuckle conclusions, The Last Man On Earth spends Season 1 really dragging Tandy through the mud, and spreading that dirt on everyone he meets, until they ultimately throw him to the wolves (not literally, the wolves appear to be as dead as humans, dodos and human-dodo hybrids). By the end of the first season, the show seems about to head in a completely different direction, having really played up the “life after people is tough, but life after people with people is impossible” angle, with a convincing friendship/back-and-forth/comfortability between Tandy and Carol, who never really hated each other as much as they seemed to in the early days.
Now, the future is joyously unclear, but the mini-series of Season 1 (13 episodes long, with a main thrust that has a clear beginning, middle and end) is a journey worth going on. The Last Man on Earth is laugh-out-loud with great frequency, the players are very good at committing to the drama and heightening the ludicrousness of the situations, visually, the end of the world looks stunning and each episode is paced so well that you won’t be checking your watch until you realise you’ve just sat through four-and-a-half hours of television. It’s a sitcom that shows genuine character and comic beats thrust into darker human drama, but never fails to make you laugh at the same time, which is the kind of balance that any good scale knows makes for quality weight. It is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting and enjoyable TV shows on the air at the moment, and worth going back over the first season to get to grips with the world, the players and the tone.
Season 1 to 4 of The Last Man on Earth are available to watch online in the UK on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.