Review: ‘The Last Man on Earth’ Detours From Network Norms, And We Love That

Review: ‘The Last Man on Earth’ Detours From Network Norms, And We Love That
Cast: Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman.

last_man_on_earth_article_story_largeThe premiere episode airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on FOX

This review is based solely on the premiere.

Bottom Line: Breaking away from formulaic sitcoms and network comedy is risky and quite brave, considering how much money (and how many jobs) is at stake to get a show developed these days. But NBC took a huge chance on “Welcome To Sweden,” a decidedly un-network-y comedy that works (very well in my opinion), so FOX goes with this interesting, stark and introspective dramedy that is funny, but also makes you think. Kudos to writer/producer Will Forte and directors/producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord as “The Last Man on Earth” is a study in the frailty of the human mind and condition when you face utter and total isolation, the funny bits, the lonely bits, the desperate shock that one deals with in preserving shreds of sanity. There are great comedic moments but don’t kid yourself, this is no guffawing knee slapper written to the beats of traditional sit-commery. Yes, I just invented that word, and to be 100% transparent here, my tastes in TV comedies run towards “Broad City,” “Eastbound & Down” and “Silicon Valley.”  Based on the one episode, we recommend it highly.

One day, an average man, with an average background and pretty much average everything: Looks, intelligence and skills, sets out to find anyone in a world that changes in what we understand to be a sudden event. We don’t know why, there are no special effects enhanced “walkers,” but one man is solo in a country full of things…expensive, luxurious, unattainable things he can finally experience. Think Dom Deluise’s excessive “Treasure Bath” scene from “History of the World Part 1″…as the decay and insane in the membrane clock starts ticking.

“Things,” like food items, homes, and infrastructure all age quickly, especially when plumbing, power and people aren’t there to tend to it. Our world, quite frankly, is one big power outage and disaster away from a taste of Phil Miller’s new life.

The year is 2020, a few years after a deadly virus has swept planet earth leaving only one man left on the planet – Phil Miller (Will Forte). He used to be just a regular guy in a non-descriptive life but now, he is all alone, or so he thinks. The premiere is Phil’s journey traveling to every city, state and coast to coast crossings, all over North America which nets no one. Nada, not even a dog.  As he returns to his hometown of Tucson, Phil is grappling with the “why’s” he is left behind with no one, especially female company, to ask these questions out loud.

Without spoiling the episode (because there is a twist), use your imagination: Left to his solo devices, he barges in to a high falutin’  neighborhood, where all of his “souvenirs” are brought in to display in a gaudy mishmash of “whatever” decor. Slowly, surely his isolation gnaws, his solitude becomes imprisoning, and a pervasive loneliness and melancholia sees his mind begin to play tricks on him.

A few months later Phil is in full-blown depression and temporary psychosis. His humanity has devolved into animalistic behaviors and his lack of societal structure nets one smelly hairy dude.

This is where I must end the review, as the twist to the series is one that has me piqued and ready to return as a faithful watcher. I truly enjoyed the chances all parties took with this unconventional network series and I hope it resonates with you too.

4/5  (based on one episode)

What will the future bring for “The Last Man on Earth?”

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