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TV | LAST MAN ON EARTH

Will Forte thrives as a leading man

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Last Man on Earth (Fox, Sundays, 9:30 pm) does away with all the detritus of the apocalypse. No zombies, no demons, no leftover corpses or automobile wrecks or post-rapture clothes piles.

Just an empty, lonely playground of a world for Will Forte, the last man on Earth. It's a gutsy premise for a sitcom: For the vast majority of its premiere it's willing to have only a single character, just farting around, talking to inanimate objects. For making it work, credit goes to executive producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord, modern-day Rumpelstiltskins spinning terrible ideas (The Lego Movie, say) into pure gold. Their animation sensibility shines through, with snappy visual gags and perfect timing.

In this area, Forte, also the series showrunner, thrives. An early scene is hilarious almost entirely because of the half-hearted awkward shuffling manner in which a bearded, pantsless Forte shoots out a store window.

Enter Kristen Schaal. Forte's dream come true: Another human! And nightmare: Kristen Schaal! She doesn't want Forte to steal art from the White House or use a neighbor's pool as a giant toilet. Schaal's character has raised some critics' eyebrows — nagging no-fun women are a tired trope — but I see her as actual progress.

Woman on TV are allowed to be funny, usually sarcastic or snarky, but are rarely allowed to be just plain weird and unattractive. But Schaal is gleefully both. It's one thing to chide a man for parking in a handicap spot; it's another to do so when there are literally no handicapped people left who would use it.

Yet sitcoms have a tendency to change rapidly as they age. Four episodes in, the cast of Last Man On Earth has already tripled in size. And the introduction of January Jones, a far more conventional female sitcom character, is a warning that without constant vigilance, the show could slide into hackier, Tim Allen-type territory. The fall from Last Man on Earth to Last Man Standing is shorter than one might think. ♦