‘The Last Man on Earth’ Review: Will Forte Takes Lord and Miller Through the Comedy Apocalypse
Conceptually, it’s hard to get a handle on The Last Man on Earth. The Walking Dead very much kick-started the post-apocalyptic TV craze, though the new FOX comedy (or dramedy?) charts a very different course on the matter, absent any bodies littering the globe, or major external threats to Will Forte’s Phil Miller. We’re given to understand that two years have elapsed since a mysterious virus killed off most, if not all of the world’s population, yet Phil’s biggest challenges lie not in survival, but rather loneliness, and boredom.
Without actually spoiling anything about Sunday’s premiere, it’s certainly a bizarre concept to develop an entire series around.
However hilarious, the first half of Sunday’s premiere might not bolster confidence in Last Man’s capacity to unfurl an entire series, making the most of Phil’s destructive wish fulfillment with increasingly entertaining sight gags, some of which have already been spoiled by clips and commercials. Not only does Phil seem entirely indifferent to breaking glass in any scenario, but so too did his travels around the country in search or survivors bring with it access to an endless supply of famous memorabilia and museum pieces, a hefty dose of visual humor permeating each scene
The end of the world and the death of humanity rings an understandably dour note, and while Last Man struggles to find cheer in Will Forte’s endlessly inventive destruction, the premiere devotes at least a few scant moments to Phil’s darker emotional state. Taking a few cues from Castaway, Phil eventually takes to an array of sporting equipment as conversation partners, even losing patience with prayer as an outlet for expression. We see at least one glimpse of the past that serves to highlight the solitary Phil at his lowest point, plumbing darker depths than we’d expect for an ongoing comedy series with a skeletal premise, and one created by Phil Lord and Chris Miller at that.
Keeping things spoiler-tight, the second half of Sunday’s premiere definitely expands beyond the premise of Forte’s Phil languishing in post-apocalyptic squalor, nicely complimenting the more isolated feeling of its predecessor, and offering much clearer insight into how the series could might progress beyond its central figure. It’s no secret that the series will eventually (somehow) incorporate comedienne Kristen Schaal and Mad Men star January Jones, among others, but we can at least offer that the second half-hour very quickly transforms Phil’s sense of personal hell, simultaneously offering a much wider spectrum of Will Forte’s comedic range, and quite a few emotional colors overall.
UPROXX recently expounded upon the end of Parks and Recreation as a potential death of network sitcom greatness, at least above more stock fare like Two and a Half Men, and The Last Man on Earth definitely feels like a uniquely ambitious swing at a challenging concept. I’ve seen as far as the third episode, which manages to add yet another intriguing wrinkle to grow the premise of the series, though it’s still difficult to imagine Last Man ever settling into a more comfortable rhythm from week to week. Sunday’s premiere lends primarily to the visual gags inherent to the premise, which themselves offer a lot of fun and surprises, but won’t give you much insight into what to expect even a few episodes from now.
Is that a downvote of The Last Man on Earth, then? I hope not, and the series is certainly worth your watch independent of the myriad comedic talent involved, but The Last Man on Earth feels (at least for the moment) much closer to a curiosity than a surefire hit. In the meantime at least, we’ve included the latest clips below, and judge for yourself, this Sunday at 9:00 P.M. on FOX!