I’ve been a bit ill recently, nothing serious, I am on drugs with long names containing lots of x’s and y’s from the doctor that seem to have sorted the issue. They do, however, have the side effect of keeping me awake at night. This has actually given me some extra writing time – which has been quite productive – and has also allowed me to indulge my passion for late night TV when I am procrastinating . The most brilliant show I have discovered is The Last Man on Earth, currently repeating seasons 1+2 with a couple of episodes a night on Dave (that’s the TV channel not the guy down the pub).
LMOE is a dark post apocalyptic comedy – a bit like ITV 2’s Cockroaches but so much better - the writing is frankly genius. Will Forte is one of the writers and also stars as Tandy (his actual name is Phil but he ends up using his middle name Tandy, but there’s a whole plotline to explain and I have digressed enough) seemingly the last man left on earth after a virus has wiped out the rest of humanity. After travelling around the USA looking for fellow survivors, he returns to his home in Tuscon, but leaves ALIVE IN TUSCON written on road signs across the states.
He gets back home, moves into a mansion, fills it with Van Gogh’s, suits of armour, and Babe Ruth’s baseball bat, all whilst wearing Hugh Hefner’s pyjamas – well you would wouldn’t you. Realising he is all he alone, Tandy proceeds to go on a drunken masturbatory bender: filling a paddling pool with tequila, befriending sports balls a la Tom Hanks in Castaway, and playing ten pin bowling with fish tanks. All while developing a massive crush on a local shop mannequin, and amassing a gigantic porn collection. At the point where he is about to commit suicide from loneliness and despair – yes it’s dark - he sees smoke. There are other survivors.
We are quickly introduced to Carol – played by the wonderful Kristen Schaal who I have loved ever since Flight of the Conchords – who provides a quirky passive-aggressive optimism for the future, and later Melissa (played by January Jones) and Gail (Mary Steenburgen) Todd (Mel Rodriguez) Erica (Cleopatra Coleman) and Phil (Boris Kodjoe). This group provide the core focus of the story, although there are side plots and surprises, and it’s a great cast. They are a very tight unit, and each character beings something unique to the party. I particularly love Mel Rodriguez as Todd, whose genial compassionate nature provides a counterpoint to Tandy’s obsessive OTT madness, and Cleopatra Coleman’s Erica who has a lot more to her past than meets the eye.
Tandy is an idiot. In series 1 he is a maddeningly-frustrating-ego-driven-sex-obsessed-moron, whose cretinous logic and spite leads him into disaster after disaster. You hate him, as do the other survivors except the ever forgiving Carol. Forte’s performance is inspired but the way the character develops over the series is great. It is not a repetitive formulaic sit-com, which is where Cockroaches fell down. By the end of season 2, when we see how Tandy has buried his parents and may have to bury his brother (called Mike who had been in the international space station when the virus hit, but again, digressions) from the virus, the character has become more appealing, and his special brand of insanity more understandable – dare I say loveable – if just as cringeworthy.
We follow Tandy and Carol and the others as they cope with the emotional effect of the apocalypse, and this is really why the show is special. There is some beautiful observational humour about human nature, and in places it’s quite dark, but that is only to be expected. I think most post cataclysmic shows, books, etc all deal with how the humans rebuild the world, but LMOE deals with the emotional fallout in a way I have never seen before, but it is brilliantly conceived. In this they have a cast that continue to complement each other even as changes – additions and subtractions – to the group happen. The dark moment when these people who you have grown to love push the isolation bubble containing Tandy’s brother out of their mansion is a terrifying indictment of humanity and them, but it’s perfectly understandable. Tandy’s heroism at that point is probably the ultimate redemption his character needed to regain the viewer (and again the writing is so good it makes me green with envy) human nature is exposed in all its frailty and brutality, as well as love and compassion.
The cast develop as a unit, and, with Tandy’s crazed personality leading them – from dogged indefatigability rather than any perceptible leadership qualities - the unexpected always happens. As a viewer you really don’t know what’s coming, which keeps you on the edge of the seat in what is a slow paced comedy rather than a gag-a-minute jokefest. Don’t get me wrong; I have literally laughed myself hoarse watching Tandy, Carol et al, and there are some killer lines, but in most sit-coms the situation is quickly forgotten as a standard comedy takes over. LMOE is far cleverer and the setting gives vast comedic opportunities as well as added drama and mystery which the writers excel in utilising. It really is quite special.
I can’t wait for Season 3 to start in the UK – it is currently showing in the states - and we await a decision from Fox as to whether a season 4 is in the offing. It damn well better be, I will be so pissed if it gets canned. So, if you’re up late at night in the UK check to see if LMOE is on, or get it on catch up. I really recommend it.
So, 1.20am in the UK, and I have an hour to wait for the season 2 finale. When does season 3 start?