To its cult followers, The Last Man on Earth is the funniest, most binge-able, underrated show that’s featured on TV in recent times. Like Game of Thrones, The Last Man on Earth features a high body count albeit on a larger scale due to a cataclysmic event that’s wiped out most of Earth’s population.
But what The Last Man on Earth does better than George R.R. Martin’s epic tale is filling every episode with laughs and dramatic cliff-hangers which leave you wanting more. None more so than the season one finale, which features a shocking death of a big-name star that rivals, if not surpasses, Sean Bean’s Ned Stark losing his head.
With a cast full of former Saturday Night Live stars such as Kristin Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Will Ferrell, Last Man was always going to be hilarious. But if you can believe it, that list of comedy greats isn’t why the show will have you in stitches.
What makes this dark comedy a must-watch is another SNL alum, Will Forte, who plays Phil ‘Tandy’ Miller, a kind-hearted yet overwhelmingly annoying goofball who makes the horrible realisation that he is the last man on Earth. After travelling across the US, Mexico and Canada, Tandy witnesses the deadly effects the virus has had in decimating Earth’s population and after failing to find any fellow humans heads home to Tucson, Arizona.
In addition to his fellow SNL stars, Forte is joined by a stellar ensemble cast that features January Jones, Mary Steenburgen, Mel Rodriguez and Australian actress Cleopatra Coleman, who incidentally keeps her accent. Jones in particular shows that her gift for comedic acting was criminally underutilised in Mad Men. Oscar nominated Steenburgen plays the sharp-tongued Gail Klosterman who rarely parts with her wine glass, and Mel Rodriguez (Better Call Saul) plays Todd in a stand-out performance all while wearing his pants as high as he possibly can.
In a clever homage to Tom Hanks’ Wilson in the film Castaway, Tandy desperately attempts to fill the crushing void of loneliness by drawing faces on several sports balls he becomes close friends with. Under the weight of unimaginable isolation Tandy meets Carol, played by the very funny Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show, 30 Rock), who arrives just in time to save our hero from imminent danger.
While it’s the relationships between Tandy, Carol and the rest of the cast that make Last Man compelling, however hard he tries, Tandy can’t quite connect. Throughout the four seasons he feels that paradox of while it sucks to be lonely, sometimes it feels even lonelier when you are surrounded by people.
The way Forte’s Tandy is constantly at odds with and able to piss off every one of the various members of the group is a particular highlight. He has constant issues with how to be a friend and partner and at one point even ends up with a spell in the stocks.
This is where The Last Man On Earth differs from other end-of-the-world shows like The Walking Dead for example. The show does tackle big issues, like our looming extinction due to global warming and out-of-control consumerism, but does it in a way that makes you laugh rather than cry. Its commentary about capitalism and the plunder of Earth’s resources is serious but at the same time not preachy – its main concern is the gag.
A good old-fashioned prank war in season two ensues between Tandy and his brother Mike (Jason Sudeikis) with one of the brothers gently shaving off one half of the other’s body and facial hair to the song of ‘Falling Slowly’ from the film Once. The sight of Will Forte with half his hair remaining is a constant running gag. Many of their scenes together encapsulate the fun, silliness and poignancy of this show.
Also a delight is the fourth season story arc that features yet another former SNL star who plays a serial killer to rival any of the murderers you may have seen on Dexter.
With winter here there’s no better way to spend the end of days than watching The Last Man on Earth. And trust me, you won’t be disappointed in this finale because unlike Game of Thrones at least you’ll have laughed all the way to the end (of the world).
Watch The Last Man on Earth Fridays 9pm on SBS VICELAND (HD channel 31). All four seasons are also available at SBS On Demand.
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