Leis Like a Dog: The Last Man on Earth and the Sitcom Situation

What follows is a semi-review of The Last Man on Earth by @Leisdog – Christian from the podcast. In other words: neglect to give him feedback this time, not me.


 

O. K., instead of making a podcast this week I actually decided to write something, and what better thing to talk about than sitcom premises? It’s time to play the “TONS-OF-SHIT-TRYING-TO-REPLACE-X-TIME-SLOT” game.

If you don’t know how TV works, networks know that time slots are always dominated. There is a reason nothing is on but American Idol when you’re flipping through channels. IT’S BECAUSE EVERYBODY WATCHES AMERICAN IDOL AND NO ONE WANTS TO COMPETE WITH AMERICAN IDOL. However, all shows must come to an end and must be succeeded. Whenever a huge show dies, everybody fucking rushes to its mansion to take what’s left until the new owners come in.

This year, the dead show is Parks and Recreation, a once-amazing show with a terrible final season (we’ll save that topic for later).That means we’ll see a ton of horrible sitcoms with an idea only good enough to last the pilot episode until one finally gets picked up for a full season.

I liked this show.
I liked this show.

The latest sitcom with a concept that shouldn’t last longer than its first episode is The Last Man on Earth. Here’s the thing. Name one fucking comedy based on the apocalypse that was funny. Then try to name one that didn’t get boring after five seconds. Now ask yourself how a full-fledged TV show based on this premise, carried by one man, can be anything less than a total failure.

Chris Miller and Whoever

Oh.

Well now I’m listening.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s entire lives has been like those jokes from 30 Rock that make you wonder how they can shit talk NBC so much without getting in trouble. They’re basically the last bastion for satire in the mainstream. Clone High makes fun of school archetypes through historical figures. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs makes fun of kids movies while itself being based on a picture book. 21 Jump Street makes fun of unwanted reboots; its sequel fittingly makes fun of unnecessary sequels. And The Lego Movie makes fun of… well… everything. They are probably the smartest people in Hollywood, and somehow studio executives haven’t noticed that they are actually making good movies. That’s why The Last Man on Earth caught my eye. There isn’t a single work in Lord Miller’s catalog that doesn’t contain at least a smidgen of Hollywood satire, and I had no doubt The Last Man would contain tons.

The series stars Lord Miller’s personal slave Will Forte as the titular last man Phil Miller (subtle naming guys). I love Forte’s other work (especially Nebraska – funny that he was snubbed at the Oscars, too.), but I wasn’t convinced he could hold his own, since the comedy comes from his interactions. The first episode is basically a budget dump, where they said “let’s do all the cool things the last person on Earth would do.” Don’t expect any explanation of what he survived, besides a dumb mention of a “virus” at the beginning. It gets pretty stale, and it rarely gets better than “look he has that famous thing” and “look he did that thing we can’t do because of laws and decency.” Frankly [1], it grew tiresome, and the far more interesting scenes that talk about the depression loneliness causes made me keep forgetting I was watching a comedy. They’re hard-hitting, but only for the same reason a Holocaust movie is sad. It’s kind of been given. But right as I was getting ready to declare this Lord Miller’s first failure, a shining angel appeared to save the show.

kristen schaal aka mabel

Yes, he’s the last man on Earth, but there’s also a last woman on Earth. I’m not going to spoil the reason why Kristen Schaal saves the entire show (besides the obvious one), but this is where the satire comes in. Last Man is really a take on every single love interest single love interest in every sitcom ever made ever. The idea that two characters have to get together is put forward really early, what with the whole population count. Every single situation you’ve seen in other sitcoms is done again, except… well, there’s only two people doing them.

I know this is a short article [2], but all I really wanted to say is this: although this show seems like a terrible idea on the surface, in the hands of Lord Miller, it’s actually pretty interesting. The first two episodes are out, and they aren’t that good but I want people to give this show a chance so we can actually see a full season pan out, and see the Lord Miller magic come to fruition. This show is going to go places, and I hope it isn’t cut short. This won’t be nearly popular enough to earn a Serenity.


Meme Genie’s Footnotes

[1] Who’s Frank?

[2] Keep your voice down, they take your stuff down if it’s less than 3500 words. I’m doing you a favor here.

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