One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
It’s been almost two years since we discovered that Phil Tandy Miller isn’t exactly The Last Man On Earth, and that the Fox sitcom which he anchors is both a giddy comedy with worthy characters and worthier jokes, and an interesting, how-long-can-they-keep-this-up-for episodic experiment. If not always consistent, the show has by-and-large done just that: in the face of insurmountable odds, Will Forte is still at the forefront of a show, script, and cast that might dip into uncouth silliness every now and again, but their goal of belly giggles delivers so abundantly that it’s easy to forget any other distracting negatives dotting its low points.
With the death of his brother, Mike (Jason Sudeikis) still hitting him hard, Tandy (Forte) has an entirely new problem, which came cruising up to the beach of the group’s lavish Malibu home in last year’s closing shot. Turns out Mike’s mentally unstable sailing buddy Pat (Mark Boone Junior) has stumbled upon Tandy and his friends, not knowing that he’s ironically found the brother of the man he was convinced was part of a group known as the “bunker people,” trying to infect him with the virus that’s wiped out most of humanity.
Besides him, not much has changed for the survivors in Malibu. Melissa (January Jones) is still upset about Todd’s (Mel Rodriguez) decision to see both her and Gail (Mary Steenburgen) at once; Carol (Kristen Schaal) and Erica (Cleopatra Coleman) are worrying about their unborn babies more than ever; and Phil is trying to come to terms with Mike’s death. Although it’s been a long time since the title of the show nestled a pristine curiosity (what’s a show with one character going to be about week by week?), The Last Man On Earth has mostly been able to balance premise disappointment with sheer, persistent wit, and the season 3 premiere is no different.
Gags remain best when delivered at Tandy’s expense (as expected, it’s Tandy vs. everyone when Pat shows up), but Forte has previously been such an entertainingly vile presence on the show that it remains cathartically humorous to see the group put his madness in check. Schaal is still the MVP of The Last Man On Earth, however. She has the best lines (“Yeah… that’s just fabric” she bemoans at one point when Gale references Tandy’s potential erection), and centers the weirdest parts of the show and characters with her own endearing eccentricities, like when she instructs Tandy to wear a pair of fake eyebrows, because she has trouble reading his “emotional states.” Their time alone was short in season 1, but even this far into the show it’s easy to see how the two could have been the source of enough dramatic and comedic material to occupy entire seasons on their own.
For that reason, it’s a bit disappointing when a show that was once so creatively brazen (the pilot, lest we forget, nearly ends with Tandy’s suicide) now lives on plain plot points centering around impending pregnancies and love triangles. Character interaction and dynamics are the bread and butter of any sitcom, which is why it was initially so WTF intriguing to see where The Last Man On Earth would go, but it’s not doing much with these stories to feel as persistently satisfying as its humor. The Todd/Gail/Melissa drama has grown stale by the season 3 premiere (although it isn’t brought up much directly in the episode), and the only potentially interesting bits of the pregnancy storylines come from how fast the show will progress them and – understandably – how it’ll be handled in the apocalypse.
It can bring down the show into slight blandness, but it never stumbles in its laughter-fueled recovery mode. It’s hard to know exactly how anything will play out over the course of season 3’s next 17 episodes, and that very episode count could potentially lead to some low spots if its anything like season 2 (which also had 18 episodes). Punchy brevity is where The Last Man On Earth shines and – in the premiere of season 3 at least – Forte and the gang prove that there’s still humor, life, and occasionally deft emotions left in the apocalypse, even if the eyebrows are fake. Boom.
It's become comfortable and placid in a few storylines, but overall, the season 3 premiere of The Last Man on Earth retains the show's sharp, belly-laugh humor and suggests a wild season is coming down the line.