Review: ‘Last Man on Earth’ smartly goes back to basics for season 2 premiere

A quick review of the “Last Man On Earth” season 2 premiere coming up just as soon as I address the White House press corps…

After a brilliant and imaginative pilot episode, “Last Man on Earth” squandered a lot of its potential (and the goodwill generated by that pilot) by deciding that the funniest possible story they could tell in this very clean and safe post-apocalyptic world was one about a loser who kept screwing up chances to have sex with women hotter than the one he had the bad timing to meet first. It just kept hitting the same one or two notes over and over, and I stopped watching for a few weeks before returning for the finale, where Phil got to show some personal growth right before being kicked out of his hometown by the other Phil.

If Will Forte and company were bound and determined to tell the “Phil can't have sex with Betty Draper” story no matter what, at least they could have first gotten more mileage out of the period when it was just him alone in the world, or at least when it was just him and Carol, and the focus was primarily on the enormous opportunities and tremendous difficulties created by living in a fully-furnished world with no other people around.

“Is There Anybody Out There?” very wisely returns to that mode, but with the added bonus of Phil having essentially turned Carol around to his ridiculous old way of living. They're using a stealth bomber to drive to a grocery run, living in the White House (and having really funny and disturbing sex talk about getting a bill through committee), and not worrying at all about the mess they're leaving behind. Carol's not exactly the female Phil, but she's loosened up to the point that Phil's willingness to go back and pick up the bomb is all she needs, rather than having him actually do it. It's a really smart use of Kristen Schaal, and a reassuring return to what the show did best last spring.

That's obviously not going to be the permanent mode forever, as Carol wants to go back to their friends in Tucson. Phil finds the cul-de-sac abandoned and his old house burned down, but we'll be seeing the others soon. I'll be curious if the show just reverts to Phil making an ass of himself every five seconds, or if the premiere suggests they recognized that the idea of a depopulated world as the ultimate playground was where the show worked best, and will keep doing that even after Melissa, Todd, and the rest are back in the picture.

What did everybody else think? If you grew frustrated last spring, was the premiere reassuring? If you were more into Phil's constant sexual frustration, did it feel like backsliding to do an episode like this? Are you enjoying Jason Sudeikis' solo scenes as Phil's astronaut brother?

Have at it.