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Saturday, May 28, 2022
Smasaltof

'The Last Man on Earth' represents the best in new television

Will Forte’s new sitcom, “The Last Man on Earth,” focuses on the new, post-apocalyptic life of Phil Miller, the last living man on Earth, as he attempts to survive and thrive in his new surroundings. It’s also one of the best new shows on television this spring. Will Forte is a comedic mastermind, and unhinging him to do all of the things we would do if we were trapped in the world alone is solid gold. However, it’s not just Forte that makes the show great; everything from setting to script conspires and aspires to make “The Last Man on Earth” worthy of praise.

The setting of the show could actually be my favorite part of it. “The Last Man on Earth” takes place in a southwestern city that looks like everybody just got up and left it without packing. While the show refers to an erstwhile plague that wiped out human civilization, there’s no sign of it as the show picks up, nor any flashbacks that explain how it happened. This allows Phil to travel around the country as it is today, doing things that we would do if we were all alone in the world. He takes things from the White House, takes art from museums, lights things on fire, doesn’t wear pants and generally lives it up. I believe this adds an air of reality to an otherwise unrealistic program.

However, Phil’s mental problems are also addressed early on. First and foremost, it’s lonely to be the last living man. Phil draws faces on different varieties of balls in order to simulate friendship, much like Tom Hanks did in “Castaway.” These scenes are both hilarious and horrifying. Watching Forte bounce off himself (sometimes literally) is amazing, but it’s terrifying to imagine oneself in a similar situation; it’s all fun and games until you’re the last man on Earth.  The overwhelming loneliness of being alone is the crux of the entire show, and it does a great job of conveying that message.

Even when Kirsten Schaal is introduced as (maybe) the world’s last woman, the show scoops her up and continues on its merry way. In her own way, Schaal’s Carol is as broken as Phil, expecting her destiny and dream life to unfold with Phil at her side, and being disappointed when her reality does not even come close. When she tells Phil that she will not have sex with him until they’re married, it shows that she’s still holding on to the tradition and formality of a world that’s now entirely lost to her. The friction this creates between Phil and Carol as he copes by letting go while she insists on holding on serves the dual purpose of driving character development and being very, very entertaining.

“The Last Man on Earth” is, in my opinion, the crown jewel of this season’s new shows, both cable and network. I’m excited to see where the last couple on Earth go next.

What would you do if you were the last man on Earth? Like the show as much as Jake does? Let him know at smasal@wisc.edu

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