As of writing, four episodes have aired of Fox’s new sitcom, The Last Man On Earth, created by and starring Will Forte. Forte worked with two other writers to develop their original concept, which was originally intended to be a feature film, into a full series. It was pitched around to multiple networks and online services before being picked up by Fox.
The plot, simply put, follows the adventures of the eponymous character as he clings to survival the post-apocalyptic landscape of America in the year 2021.Two years prior to the shows beginning, a global virus wiped out practically all life on earth (or at least in the continental United States). While this seems like an overdone concept, the show takes the ‘last person alive’ premise of well known properties like I Am Legend, 28 days later, and Omega Man and replaces the lead, stereotypically a cunning man of action, with a bumbling sad sack played by Forte himself.
At the opening of episode one, we see Forte’s character, Phil Miller, at the tail end of a two year long trek to scour the country for fellow survivors and to leave signs foretelling that he can be found in Tucson, Arizona. Unfortunately, his searching proves fruitless and he returns home. Finally acceptant of his life of solitude, he proceeds to live out the next six months of his life by making the most of his isolation. What follows is a youtube style blur of property damage, priceless artwork, pyrotechnics, exploding cars, fish tank bowling, and margarita pools.
While Phil’s newfound freedom keeps him occupied for quite some time, he eventually realizes that no man is an island, and in his desperation for human contact, he begins going down the list of movie cliché companions, including his own reflection, a female mannequin, and finally a selection of sports balls with faces on them, a practice he had considered unrealistic while watching Tom Hanks do it only months ago.
Unable to continue on, Phil gathers his ball friends around him to witness as he attempts to drive head on into a massive boulder in the desert. Seconds before, he spies the smoke of a campfire in the distance, and rushes to investigate. In the final moments of the pilot, we discover that the fire belongs to another survivor, a young woman named Carol, played by Kristen Schaal. Unfortunately, unlike Gravity Falls, 30 Rock, Flight of the Concords, and Bob’s Burgers, this is one show that Kristen Schaal doesn’t improve.
After this point, the show makes an awkward sharp turn into far too familiar territory. The majority of the episodes other than this one have revolved around the domestic disputes of Phil, a nihilist slob who wants humanity to go down in a blaze of glory, and Carol, a devout christian intent on keeping the traditions of society alive. She berates Phil’s lifestyle, and insists he reform. It’s the outdated (misogynistic) man vs. woman dynamic that hasn’t been funny since Jackie Gleason or Lucile Ball, the nagging woman come to ruin the carefree man’s fun. They argue about everything from cleanliness, to traffic laws, to grammar, to how to pronounce the word tomato. Eventually, Carol posits that they have been chosen by God to restart society, and offers to sleep with Phil for the purposes of repopulation. Sexually desperate Phil is willing, but recoils when she insists that they must be married first. Eventually, Phil begrudgingly complies. After their marriage is officiated, another survivor named Melissa, played by January Jones, arrives in Tucson.
So that’s where we are now. Four episodes in and already the shark has been jumped (and this was a show that started by killing 7 billion people, so this must have been one hell of a shark). What started out as an original comedy about a single man coping with the isolation of a dead world swiftly became a generic sitcom about a bickering couple, a shotgun wedding, and a love triangle between the beautiful new girl, the unfaithful husband, and the nagging wife. What happened? How did this show turn into something so familiar so quickly? The first episode was original, funny, and quite brave in its dark humor. I honestly would have loved to have seen more. Now it feels like any other network sitcom. Just take a few extras out of the background of Threes Company, and you’ve got a perfect match. My interest has completely plummeted.
I know they say don’t just a book by its cover. Still, I’ve read the first few chapters now and, honestly, the cover was better. Im afraid this show is veering way off course, slowly becoming the same thing you’ve seen dozens of times before but with a coat of Day-Z paint. Replace arguing over housework with arguing over the lack of running water. Replace forgotten anniversaries with forgotten trips to go get gas for the generator. For what it’s worth, I get the joke they’re trying to make. Even if there were only two people left alive, they’d still find a way to get wrapped up in each others pettiness, but that point doesn’t justify the boilerplate stories in the second, third, and fourth episodes.