It’s been a few weeks since Fox declared war on the long-held tradition of TV pilot season. And no, “declared war” isn’t really an exaggeration; Fox’s Kevin Reilly is quoted as saying “R.I.P. pilot season,” presumably with scythe in hand and an icy wind rustling his hooded black cloak.
And in the weeks since, Fox has stuck to that audacious (and spooky) claim. They’re producing less pilots and developing full series orders without any kind of seasonal timetable, with Gotham and the Tina Fey/Margaret Cho joint Cabot College being the first to benefit from the new and improved network. And now comes a third: Last Man on Earth. Created by Will Forte, the series will see the Nebraska actor as, well, the last man on Earth. Originally, the series was meant to feature “two strangers who must ensure the survival of the human race,” but somewhere along the line, Forte must have figured out that you can’t call something Last Man on Earth when it has more than one person in it. Thankfully, the show is now being billed as having a single lead in Forte.
What makes the project even more exciting is that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are attached to direct. Right now, these two can do no wrong. The Lego Movie has touched the hearts and childhoods of every damn human being alive, and most of those human beings are anticipating 22 Jump Street with bated breath. It also helps that Lord/Miller and Forte already have a solid relationship: Forte voiced Abe Lincoln in Lord/Miller’s cult TV series Clone High (and in The Lego Movie), and did voice work for both of Lord/Miller’s Cloudy With a Change of Meatballs films.
So the big question about Last Man on Earth is…how does one fill an entire TV season with a lone dude wandering around a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland? One answer might be that Forte’s character isn’t actually the last man on Earth — if the series previously touted two lead characters, maybe the non-Forte survivor has been bumped back to a supporting role. Perhaps Forte’s character is delusional, and he’ll be lending his voice to a few imaginary friend supporting characters, not unlike Will Smith and his mannequin buddies in I Am Legend. Or maybe Lord, Miller, and Forte have come up with some genius idea, where one actor can babble to himself for half an hour every week and still be supremely entertaining. Forte’s certainly up to the task, with his range stretching from Nebraska nuance to Tim and Eric screamy dementia.
Either way, Last Man on Earth is one to watch out for, be it for the talent involved or the question of how this premise can possibly sustain itself for more than one episode (let alone more than one season). And if it works, Fox may have a gigantic, Lego Movie-sized hit on their hands. That is, as long as their whole “death to TV pilots” thing doesn’t have any unforeseen and disastrous consequences and destroy all of television as we know it. Hopefully it won’t come to that.