Think of the best TV comedies of all time: Seinfeld. The Office. Friends. Arrested Development. Know what they all have in common? An array of main and minor characters who each bring something unique to the show. Would Seinfeld work without the hundreds of quirky people Jerry and crew encounter? Would Arrested Development work without Michael being the serious to everyone’s insane? These characters fill out show. They’re necessary. It’s why FOX’s The Last Man on Earth should fail miserably.
The Last Man on Earth doesn’t have 8-10 main characters, it doesn’t have that guy good for one snide remark an episode, it doesn’t have a Soup Nazi; The Last Man on Earth has Phil Miller (Will Forte) and Carol Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal). That’s it … at least for now, and we’ll mention that later.
The show kicks off with Phil searching for other signs of life after something mysterious wiped out Earth’s population. (It’s a lighthearted comedy, so we’ll ignore the lack of bodies and the insane amount of things still functioning properly.) After he determines he’s the only one left, he starts living like no one could judge him. He uses his pool as a toilet, he drives his car through the front of stores instead of finding a parking spot, and he ditches pants on a daily basis. While mildly amusing, this portion of the show is slightly challenging. Forte does a masterful job of keeping your attention, but his one-way dialogue with God can only carry the show so far.
Enter Carol. She’s a quirky stickler for the rules who’s also been spared. The chemistry between Forte and Schaal is perfect from the jump. As they evolve into an old married couple at warp speed, you realize you already know everything about these characters. In a way, it’s too simplistic, but the comedians make every joke feel fresh. And since there are no other characters or storylines to worry about, every little joke consumes all your attention. But the brilliance lies in the situation. Arguing about the pronunciation of “tomato” shortly after a massive loss of life on Earth seems markedly funnier. The setting becomes the hilarious other characters the show doesn’t have.
Now, based on casting credits, we know there are a few more characters on the way. January Jones will pop up at some point. That said, we’re talking less than a handful. Maybe that will be needed down the line, but for now, we’re happy watching Forte and Schaal bicker about grammar during the apocalypse.