I remember back in 2002 watching the start of the zombie thriller 28 Days Later, where the main character Jim wakes up in a London that was devoid of all signs of life. Before the zombies make their appearance, we get a small bit of the film where this man is the last man alive in this massive city his for the taking. Well needless to say the zombies and other survivors show up and ruin the rest of what could have been a fun story about a guy living in a giant empty playground. Luckily for me Will Forte and a small team of writers created what I had loved about the start of 28 Days Later and straight up made a show called (and about) The Last Man on Earth which aired on FOX this past spring, and if this show was the last show on Earth I wouldn’t be upset.
This show starts off as a figurative story about the last man on the planet… from what we know to begin with. The show sets up this fact by showing Will Forte’s character Phil Miller traveling around the United States in an RV with a loud speaker looking for life. Along his journey he spray paints “ALIVE IN TUCSON” on billboards in hope that someone may see it. This does a great job at setting up the scenario. While later we find out that it was a virus that wiped out humanity, the show doesn’t really focus on that fact too much. It’s not really pivotal to the story and we’re left just assuming that Phil had some kind of immunity to the virus. Well Phil is alone for quite some time over the course of the pilot episode, over a year or two if I remember correctly. We get montages of him doing everything many of us would want to do if we were the last people on the planet. During his trip around the United States he grabs up a ton of iconic historical artifacts like the Declaration of Independence, the Presidential Seal rug from the oval office, Hugh Hefner’s smoking robe, Mike Tyson’s boxing attire, several famous paintings and more. Honestly I love the pilot episode because it really gets out a lot of the fun stuff that people would want to do at the end of humanity before starting in on the main story.
I wouldn’t say the fact that Phil isn’t the last person on Earth is a spoiler, but sorry if you feel that it is. The show would grow old pretty fast without other character interactions, so of course it’s statistically inevitable that other people are alive and luckily for Phil they see his “ALIVE IN TUCSON” signs and come right to him. I won’t however spoiler who the characters are because meeting each and every new survivor (however many there may be, I won’t spoil that either!) is really the fun and charm of this story. Each character added is cleverly designed and it’s so fun to watch how that new character mixes up the story and situations it puts Phil in. Here’s the thing though, this show does a great job at making us love and hate Phil throughout the season. We empathize with him and want him to succeed but at points this show was so delightfully painful to watch because Phil is so ignorant and stupid that it drove me crazy! He’s selfish, a pathological liar and honestly somewhat childish, which makes him loveable and a great character to watch struggle to survive in a mostly empty world. This allows all the supporting characters to contrast extremely well with Phil’s character to keep the show fun.
I would have guessed jumping into the pilot of this show that it would get boring or stale after a while, but the writers of this show did an absolutely fantastic job at creating unique characters and putting them in situations that are not only realistic, but hilarious at times. While some people have been over analyzing the show and certain plot points calling it feminist or chauvinist at times (yes both… I know right?), a re-hashed story or nothing new, I have to disagree with every single one of them. As someone who has gone to a film school and was taught how to write screenplays and scripts, I know that there are certain beats in a story that are used in almost every single story out there whether people recognize them or not. That isn’t something you should fault writers for doing when everyone else does it. I’m not saying you have to go to film school or anything, I am just trying to say… people and learn to sit back and enjoy some stories every once in a blue moon without all the nitpicking. I just say that because a lot of the reviews I’ve seen on less official review platforms write that some of this show is sexist in one way or the other to get a rise out of people and I really think people should just be allowed to enjoy new stories and watch them unfold. People have written that they’ve quit watching this show because when Phil meets someone of the opposite sex, he becomes this sex hungry pig who will do anything it takes to sleep with them. Well hell… I can’t really blame the guy after two years of being alone. I find it once again on the side of realism. Not to mention that anyone’s main thoughts at the end of humanity should be re-population. Plus like I said earlier, Phil’s kind of a scum bag anyways, so you shouldn’t fault him when he’s supposed to be incredibly flawed. I can only hope that there are more people enjoying this show at the same level as I do, because it really is one of the better shows on television at the moment.
Each situation the writers put their small cast of characters in keep the story fresh and highly entertaining, while at the same time addressing realistic situations like finding power, water, restoring some kind of civil order and of course… re-population. I don’t think there was a weak episode in the whole season for me. Each episode ends with a twist or a line that makes you want to watch more immediately or laugh out loud. With only thirteen episodes in season 1 and a second season already in the works, I am excited to see where the show-runners take this show. It’s really like The Walking Dead with no zombies and a bit of Everybody Loves Raymond mixed in. As someone who really didn’t care for Will Forte and his style of comedy before this show, I have to say I’m a huge fan of his now. The show is everything I wanted to see after the opening scenes in 28 Days Later, and the twists and turns the show took me through gave me a good range of emotional responses during the series. The season ends with a quite interesting twist that I didn’t see coming, and I really can’t wait for season 2 already. I urge everyone to check out The Last Man on Earth and let me know in the comments your opinions on the show! I’ll be discussing the show more during this week’s Geeks On Screen Podcast (Friday 9pm PDT) where we’ll be talking Post-Apocalyptic movies and TV shows, so be sure you tune in for that!