This article contains spoilers for “The Last Man on Earth.”
Sunday night television is usually ruled by AMC and HBO, who dominate the landscape with “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.”
But thanks to FOX’s “The Last Man on Earth,” which just had its season one finale on Sunday, May 3, network television once again rejoins watercooler conversation status.
For those who have not seen “The Last Man on Earth,” it stars Will Forte (who is also the show’s creator) as Phil Miller (a portmanteau of the show’s producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), who seems to be the last person alive after a deadly virus sweeps the planet. Phil travels around the country, steals priceless items from the White House, and then settles in a Tucson, Arizona mansion to live out the rest of his days.
If you missed out on watching the first season, here’s why you should catch up.
The show is backed by a creative force
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the miracle workers who turned “21 Jump Street,” “22 Jump Street,” and “The Lego Movie” into instant classics. Once again, they took an idea that could have been one dimensional (a man surviving the apocalypse) and gave it heart and a sense of purpose.
Lord and Miller are joined by Forte, the “Saturday Night Live” alumni who has written every episode of “Last Man” and stars in nearly every scene, expertly acting alongside a volleyball in one scene and a cow in another.
It’s great to see Forte’s odd and surreal sense of humour finally be rewarded. If you have ever watched any of his “SNL” sketches (which were typically too strange to air in the first half of the show), or 2010’s underrated “MacGruber” (which has amassed a cult following), then you will know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
It doesn’t look like a typical network sitcom
“Last Man” uses the expansive southwestern desert as its playground. It will remind you more of “Breaking Bad” than “The Mindy Project” or “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” After all, both shows open with men with questionable morals driving a giant vehicle through the desert. According to Grantland, Forte even cited the late AMC drama as a major inspiration.
The show is really good at keeping big plot points secret
In a world where spoilers are almost impossible to avoid, “Last Man” does an impressive job at holding in its biggest surprises.
If you watch the show on cable, you may notice that the description for many episodes simply read as some variation of “Phil Miller continues to live in Tucson.” (IMDB offers much more detailed breakdowns).
The only other show on TV right now that is this good at withholding information is “Mad Men.“
It leaves a lot to the imagination
Stories set in the future typically involve a lot of world-building. Yet, Lord, Miller, and Forte want us to know as little as possible. What caused the virus that ended the world? What was going on in that one flashback of Phil that we saw? Why does a cow show up out of the blue when it seems like even cockroaches haven’t survived this apocalypse?
That doesn’t matter. This is not a show about how the world will end, but rather how somebody might behave if the apocalypse occurred.
The protagonist is a terrible person — and that makes him compelling to watch
Phil Miller is a selfish person who sometimes borders on being a flat-out sociopath, and, yet, he is the one that we are supposed to root for while watching.
That’s what makes him so interesting. Phil will go to such extreme lengths to get what he wants without caring who he is hurting around him. In fact, his intention is usually to hurt others. It wasn’t until recently that he finally gained some self-awareness and realised he’s sort of a monster.
In the “Seinfeld” tradition, Phil is hard to root for. But unlike a lot of traditional sitcom characters, Phil also seems capable of change (emphasis on the word “seems”). Yet, every time a new person gets added to Phil’s world, the more selfish and awful he is willing to be in order to get what he wants.
Every episode is a pleasant, unexpected surprise
The ensemble started with just one character (Forte) and since the pilot, it has expanded to several more.
Sure, I could have watched an entire show of Will Forte talking to a balloon with a face drawn on it. However, the new characters bring new relationships, dynamics, and power struggles. It is much more willing than most network sitcoms to throw its characters into unfamiliar, uncomfortable situations. This unpredictability makes it all the more fun to watch, and your best bet is to start from the beginning.
“The Last Man on Earth” will be back for season two sometime in the near future, hopefully before the apocalypse.
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