In the aftermath of a viral plague that kills most of the world’s population, Phillip Tandy Miller is alive in Tucson.
Miller, the main character of Will Forte’s new show “The Last Man On Earth” only remains so until the end of the pilot episode. Rather than resolve the protagonist’s main problem, it soon becomes clear that Phil Miller himself is his own greatest enemy. The way the viewer sees Phil is much like how other survivors see him. Unfortunately, he is blind to his own faults. It is difficult to tell if he is developmentally stunted, or has simply regressed due to years of isolation.
This is a world where a man compensates for lack of running water and plumbing by cutting a hole in a diving board to use as a makeshift toilet seat for his aptly named ‘toilet pool.’ And despite this seemingly grotesque and irreverent workaround, this is also a man who is subsisting mainly on canned ravioli, cereal and beer.
The scenario is absurd, but only because of how much sense it makes upon deeper inspection. The creature comforts that remain in a world without any society or economy are poor consolation. Phil Miller is a native of Tucson; he grew up there, he even remarks at one point that it is the city where his parents are buried. His ties to the abandoned city keep him from traveling away from it, but the only positives lie in his memory. He is stuck in a ghost town, and spends his time watching television, talking to imaginary friends and ruminating.
Forte was inspired by the television show “Life After People,” which speculated on the potential effects of neglect on the man-made structures and comforts that humans tend to take for granted. “Life After People” time lapses over decades and centuries, and shows massive effects over time. Forte’s world, though, is one after most people, and is set only a few years from present day ,in 2020.
He hangs masterpieces in his mansion, and his friends are sports balls with faces Sharpie’d on. His extravagant bathroom is useless without plumbing.
Phil Miller loses his personhood. So, as many do in times of personal crisis, he prays. He prays for someone to be out there. He prays for a woman, and then for a prettier woman. When the prettier woman becomes interested in someone else, he prays for even more people, and then prays for no more men.
There is a recurring theme in the show of Phil praying, oftentimes sarcastically, sometimes mean-spiritedly. But his prayers are always answered. Never as expected, though.
Phil asks, receives and regrets. He squanders the opportunities given to him rather than taking them as chances to better himself and improve. Still, he keeps getting more chances. He keeps receiving forgiveness.
He improves little by little, but Phil Miller is one who had such greatness thrust upon him that he could not support himself any longer. He gets tangled in webs of lies. As more and more people trickle into Tucson, he becomes territorial and commanding.
The show builds a believable social dynamic between the individuals who slowly come to populate Phil’s neighborhood. Phil has to come to terms with the fact that even when there are people on Earth, unless he shapes up, he can still be miserable, and still be alone.