You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why ‘The Last Man on Earth’ Is a Comedy Dinosaur (SPOILERS)

There is, admittedly, something funny about a straight guy insisting he’s willing to have sex with January Jones out of a sense of duty to repopulate the planet. Yet the latest episodes of “The Last Man on Earth” also reveal this Fox series, in comedy terms, to be something of a dinosaur.

At the core of Sunday’s back-to-back installments (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) is a very old concern about physical attractiveness – namely, what if you commit to one woman and suddenly some previously unattainable goddess walks into your life? That’s essentially the plight facing Phil (Will Forte), who agreed to “marry” Carol (Kristin Schaal) when he thought they were the only two people left alive, only to have Jones’ Melissa pop up, putting Phil on the horns of a moral dilemma.

The conceit would be less problematic, frankly, if the show didn’t go so out of its way to make Carol irritating and obnoxious. Even so, when Phil professed his “I’ve never felt this way before” infatuation with Melissa – after having finally convinced the pair that he needed to mate with both of them, for the sake of mankind – it was clearly predicated on nothing more than how Jones embodies the ideal of physical perfection.

The producers then ratcheted up the ante, in terms of the question of how appearance relates to attraction, by introducing another male, Todd (Mel Rodriguez), derailing Phil’s little fantasy. Moreover, the fact that Todd isn’t anybody’s idea of a Chris Hemsworth lookalike was offset by his saintly qualities, forcing Phil to keep trying futilely to one-up him.

In a way, “Last Man on Earth” (a title that’s now merely ironic) is frittering around the edges of something interesting, in the same way the season finale of HBO’s “Looking” (and more SPOILERS here) explored questions of fidelity, putting the central couple at odds over whether on-the-side sexual dalliances were a deal-breaker in their relationship.

Indeed, the most recent episodes of the Fox series owe a considerable debt to “The Heartbreak Kid,” the 1972 movie (and let’s forget about the remake) in which Charles Grodin plays a guy who meets Cybill Shepherd on his honeymoon and suddenly decides he’s made a terrible, terrible mistake.

Like Phil’s affection, however, thus far the show is only skin deep, leaving itself open to the kind of criticism leveled at it by the Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan, who described the writing for Carol as “frequently awful and one-note … [casting] her into the thankless role of the hectoring woman who exists to remind a lead male character of rules, laws and social norms.” And with the addition of new characters, the series risks essentially morphing into “Gilligan’s Island,” if Gilligan spent all his time plotting to have sex with Ginger.

Fans might be tempted to say “lighten up,” and one can argue that the program’s goofy nature merits some creative latitude. Nevertheless, there is something deflating and shallow, in a “We’re still in1972” manner, about the execution of the premise – one where the message for men is that the worst thing that could possibly happen, even more than mass extinction, is being romantically tethered to a woman when someone who’s better looking comes along.

More TV

  • Super Bowl LII - Tom Brady,

    Verizon Plans Multiple Ad Plays Leading to Super Bowl Commercial

    If Verizon gets its way, its Super Bowl advertising plans will include a 60-second commercial during the game – and a half-hour documentary that gives viewers even more of what will be discussed in the ad. The telecommunications giant is often scrutinized for the communications resources it provides its customers, but its Super Bowl campaign [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized by the [...]

  • Naomi Watts

    Naomi Watts to Star in Jason Blum-Produced Quibi Series 'Wolves and Villagers' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomi Watts has been cast in the lead role in the upcoming Quibi series “Wolves and Villagers,” Variety has learned exclusively. The exact plot of the short-form series is being kept under wraps, but Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has previously described the show as “Fatal Attraction 2.0.” Jason Blum is executive producing the series, with [...]

  • HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops

    HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops Trailer

    “Revolutionary,” “superstars,” “the voice of true New Yorkers” — that’s how Spike Lee and other influential figures describe journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in the trailer released for HBO’s “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists” documentary. The film, which premieres Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows the two newspaper columnists whose dedication and wit [...]

  • Riverdale Chapter Twenty-Six

    TV News Roundup: 'Riverdale' Sets 'Heathers' Musical Episode

    In Thursday’s roundup, “Riverdale” is set to tackle “Heathers: The Musical,” and Freeform has announced its second annual summit. DATES  The musical episode of the CW’s “Riverdale,” featuring nine songs, will air Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. On the show, Riverdale High School takes on “Heathers: The Musical,” with queen bees Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content