How long can a weekly TV comedy with just one character sustain its joke? Creators Chris Miller and Phil Lord (those goofball geniuses behind the ‘Jump Street’ and ‘Lego Movie’ franchises) and co-creator/star Will Forte put that premise to the test with the new Fox sitcom ‘The Last Man on Earth’. The first pair of episodes are really damn funny.
I suppose that plot description isn’t entirely accurate, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The year is 2020. One year earlier, the entire population of Earth was completely wiped out by an unexplained virus. Or, almost completely. Forte stars as Phil Miller (see what they did there?), the sole survivor of the apocalyptic disaster. He opens the first episode traveling all 50 states in a big RV searching for anyone else left alive. He doesn’t find anyone, but he leaves a lot of signs pointing in his direction. (Hence the episode title, ‘Alive in Tucson’.) Disappointed, he returns home, moves into an unoccupied mansion, and waits for God to send him some hope. God doesn’t seem too interested in helping him out with that.
In the meantime, Phil does what he can to keep himself occupied and entertained. This mostly entails collecting useless junk, finding creative ways to destroy shit, and getting really piss drunk. Even with literally the entire world at his disposal and no society or laws to restrain him, it doesn’t take Phil long to go crazy with boredom. He lets himself sink into a disgusting slovenly state. When even he can’t stand how pathetic he’s become, Phil finally plans to kill himself. But that’s when he sees a small column of smoke in the distance.
Phil races in the direction of the smoke and finds a campsite with a bra hanging on a laundry line. His prayers have been answered, and even better it’s a woman! A gorgeous, sexy young woman who can’t take her hands off him… Well, that’s what he imagines. The reality is less exciting.
In the second episode of the premiere, called ‘The Elephant in the Room’, Carol (Kristen Schaal) introduces herself. She’s not what he was expecting. In fact, she’s downright annoying. Carol has hardcore OCD compulsions to obey traffic laws and correct Phil when he ends sentences with prepositions. He quickly decides that he hates her, but she won’t leave him alone. She moves into the mansion next to his and makes it her mission to fix him.
Carol believes that they survived for a reason, and that it’s their purpose in life to repopulate the Earth. The fact that this would entail any children they have engaging in incest doesn’t occur to her. Desperate for sex and without any other options, Phil agrees to give it a shot, but even then she infuriates him by insisting that they get married first.
The show doesn’t address the question of what happened to the bodies of all the people who died (the planet should be littered with rotting corpses), but it’s a comedy and that would be kind of a bummer. That aside, it does a really funny job of skewering the post-apocalypse sci-fi genre. Forte’s brand of humor is a good fit for the Lord/Miller team. A lot of the gags in the premiere are hilarious, and I eagerly look forward to seeing where this premise can go.