Why you should be watching Fox's excellent 'The Last Man on Earth'


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.

The comedy about the end of the world may not be a ratings juggernaut like the two previously mentioned shows, but it was just picked up for a second season.

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 Chris Miller Will Forte

Getty Images

The comedy power trio of Phil Lord, Will Forte, and Christopher Miller.

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 humor 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

The Last Man on Earth

Fox YouTube Channel

"The Last Man on Earth" was shot on location in the Arizona desert.

Breaking Bad

AMC via Netflix

Will Forte won't compare "Last Man on Earth" to "Breaking Bad," but he does cite it as an influence.

Traditional sitcoms are typically limited to a few spaces. It could be somebody's living room, a bar, or a coffee shop, but they typically don't go too far beyond that.

"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

Last Man on Earth Kristen Schaal

Fox YouTube Channel

Carol (Kristen Schaal) first popped up at the end of episode one.

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).

last man on earth episode descriptions


Here are the episode descriptions for four back-to-back episodes of "Last Man on Earth" from Xfinity. Some of the other episode descriptions were more informative.

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

Last Man on Earth Will Forte


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 realized 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

Last Man on Earth January Jones

Fox YouTube Channel

Melissa (January Jones) found Phil and Carol in Tucson at the end of episode three.

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.

Last Man on Earth

Fox via YouTube

Until more people show up, these are Phil Miller's best friends in Tucson.

"The Last Man on Earth" will be back for season two sometime in the near future, hopefully before the apocalypse.

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