This weekend was the premiere of Will Forte’s new show The Last Man on Earth, which is about— you guessed it, you brilliant human— the last man on Earth. Now, I wasn’t expecting much from this show, mostly because I’m not the hugest fan of Will Forte, so imagine my surprise to realize: this is a f*cking brilliant television show.
The Last Man on Earth spends no time trying to explain how Will Forte’s Phil Miller inherited that title. There’s the briefest of mentions of “the virus,” but that’s it. No explanation (yet) of how Phil survived, and the world that he lives in is a tidy one. There are no zombie hordes, no bodies strewn about (apparently the virus either disintegrated corpses or everyone considerately died in hospitals), and this illness must have taken over so quickly that all homes and stores were left intact, with more than enough supplies for one man’s lifetime. The extreme convenience of Phil’s environment makes room for what the show is really about: how weird and lonely and funny a person can be when left alone. Because this show is incredibly funny. Will Forte paints a brilliant picture of how just about every one of us would behave in his situation, from decorating his new claimed home in priceless art and White House rugs, to blowing shit up cause you feel like it, to his most inspired creation: the margarita pool.
But every moment of comedy has severe undercurrents of tragedy. Like the weird, disturbingly sweet scene of getting a lesson in mortality from the mannequin you’ve been lusting after.
Or the fact that Cast Away got some things seriously right.
When the last woman on Earth shows up in the form of Kristin Schaal, things take a turn, and the second episode (which premiered the same night) is not quite as impressive as the pilot. In many ways, I wish there could be an entire show of nothing but Forte and his inflatable friends, but that’s also entirely unsustainable. Luckily, Schaal’s Carol is fascinating (in an intensely, deliberately irritating sort of way) enough to move past the “this sucks because she doesn’t look like Alexandra Daddario” joke. Yes, Carol’s appearance is Phil’s equivalent of Henry Bemis’ broken glasses.
But ultimately, Phil is no place to judge. He is her equal in everything he hates about her. The idea of the last two people on the planet being terrible and mediocre, but in opposing ways, is a great one. And Will Forte (I’m surprised and somewhat pained to say) nails it perfectly.