Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pilot Review: The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth (FOX)
Premiered March 1 at 9pm

Having one person anchor a show all on his lonesome is a tall order, and having two instead of one isn’t all that much better. It can be very alienating, obviously, but it also means that focus can’t be shifted elsewhere if a given character isn’t working perfectly. This show doesn’t exactly have that option, though it has succeeded so far at multiplying its number of characters by two each episode. The first installment was essentially a half-hour parody of “Cast Away” with Will Forte serving as sole player and narrator. The end of that episode changed the dynamic considerably, adding Kristen Schaal as the last woman on earth. I’ll admit that Carol’s obsessions with not ending sentences with a preposition and stopping at stop signs in the deserted post-apocalyptic future are entertaining, and elicit some great reactions out of Forte’s Phil. Wanting to get married before they have sex to repopulate the earth, on the other hand, just makes her seem like a crazy person, and I’d much rather see Phil drive his car into the store for a closer spot than have him roll his eyes endlessly at her excitement over wedding preparations. Her tics are about following societal conventions and rules, while being married feels like something wholly antiquated, even just for the sake of humor. This show just feels very lonely, and I’m not sure it’s a welcoming or humorous enough place to spend even just an hour a week, even with the dependable Forte and Schaal leading the way.

How will it work as a series? Episode two was dramatically different than episode one, so who knows what episode three will be like? I suspect that it will lean towards the antics of the latter half of episode two, in which Phil and Carol are constantly competing over survival tactics and judging each other for how they behave. That doesn’t seem like it will be terribly funny, at least not consistently.
How long will it last? A while, potentially. The pilot numbers were surprisingly high and catalog this one firmly in the positive category, signaling good news for FOX during midseason and a productive companion to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Right now, a renewal is looking pretty likely.

Pilot grade: C+

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