Synopsis of 1×11: Phil’s post-divorce romantic prospects are very bright, as both Gail and Erica are interested in him now that he is “single.” Another man rescues Phil after he gets stuck on a billboard, changing his original message “Alive in Tuscon” to “Moved to Tampa.” The man takes Phil home, and much to everyone’s surprise, is named Phil Miller as well.
What’s frustrating about The Last Man On Earth isn’t that it’s sort of a bad show – lots of shows aren’t very good and it’s easy to just forget about them. It’s the way that it keeps teasing at the idea that it might become a good show and finally live up to the promise of the first few episodes, only to consistently fail to meet these new expectations. I have to keep giving the show a chance, but I’m quickly running out of patience.
Take the start of this week’s episode, for instance. Phil and Carol have finally gotten divorced, and the ending of last week’s “Pranks for Nothin'” signaled quite a bit of promise for a new, more honest series that finally has the chance to explore a different plot than Phil’s constant attempts to cheat on his wife. At the beginning of “Moved to Tampa,” we see it start to happen: he has dates lined up with both Erica and Gail, and Carol doesn’t even mind (and apparently neither do Erica or Gail – the show seems to make their characters absurdly progressive without ever addressing it just so the storyline can do whatever it wants). He’s living the dream! And to make sure he continues living the dream, Phil Miller does as only Phil Miller can do and writes “MOVED TO TAMPA” over his old “Alive in Tucson” sign to make sure no one else comes and screws it up. And then the ladder falls, leaving Phil stranded 50 feet in the air.
This opening signals a shift towards authenticity for the show, as the characters are finally talking about what they’re thinking for once. It happens so rarely that it feels like a breath of fresh air, but this time it looked like it was here to stay. But most of the rest of the episode features Will Forte going through predictable, unfunny freakouts on the billboard while all the female cast members sit around waiting for Phil to appear again.
By the way, now that the cast of The Last Man On Earth is large enough to support a proper subplot, Todd also struggles throughout with the fact that Melissa didn’t reciprocate when he says “I love you.” It’s a bit that gives Mel Rodriguez a lot of good acting moments yet doesn’t really go anywhere, but more importantly, it puts into perspective just how little the writers have developed the majority of the show’s small cast. Why does Melissa take saying “I love you” so seriously? No idea, because she’s still basically a blank slate. Same goes for newcomers Gale and Erica, who god knows why they have any renewed sexual interest in Phil even if he’s redeemed himself as a person.
Anyways, another new cast member shows up to rescue Phil just as things look bleak and brings him back to the group. The man is alarmingly attractive, can connect with every female member in the group on a personal level, seems to know how to fix everything that Phil doesn’t – oh, and because this show can’t do anything unless it makes the point as obvious as possible, he’s also named Phil Miller. So now we’re back to acting out the same “Phil’s jealous of the newer, more impressive man” line than we already went through when Todd showed up.
Not only does this episode frustrate and disappoint as the show’s other weakest work, but it’s almost definitely the least funny episode of the show’s run so far. Forte has a few good moments on top of the billboard, and I enjoyed Carol’s realization of the gravity of the situation of Phil willingly turned down sex with two women, but it’s the only episode where I can’t remember laughing out loud or even chuckling once. The show keeps going back to square one in terms of plot, but now it doesn’t even have its clever dialogue to support it through that. In other news, Fox recently announced The Last Man On Earth has been renewed for a second season. Frankly, I doubt I’ll be watching it.