Turns out GOB Bluth was right: Phil Miller has made a huge mistake. His wife and noted grammarian Carol is not the last woman on Earth. The other entry is January Jones. Her name is Melissa Shart (take that, Standards & Practices!), and she is, to put it mildly, hot.
Whether it’s “Three’s Company” or “Community” or even “The X-Files”, the ratio of two women to one man immediately alters the sexual dynamic between characters. It follows, then, that if the characters are the last – and therefore, sexually desperate – people on Earth, this dynamic makes things more awkward and, luckily for us, hilarious. Phil Miller now has to pretend to lift weights, actually shave his rat-nest beard, buy the Hot Girl a car. That none of these endeavors work in his favor makes me love the show even more.
“Last Man on Earth” does add moments of poignancy: watching Carol and Melissa leafing through wedding “photos” is a charming, almost-normal scene. And Phil is still a good guy: he simply hangs his head in resignation when Carol uses an overly ribboned door sign to remind him of their marriage.
A few years ago, I attended a panel discussion about “Mad Men”, led by January Jones, Jessica Paré and Matthew Weiner, at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Until that exact moment, I’d never much cared for Jones. Betty Draper was a hugely unlikable character and I found Jones’ acting frigid and grating. But she completely changed my mind. She spoke insightfully and elegantly about playing Don Draper’s wife, a woman as tightly wound as 1960s’ era ladies’ underwear. It was clear that Jones’ acting chops were legitimate, and that she didn’t think the role would define her career.
I find it interesting that Jones returns to our screens, via network comedy, at about the same time as the final seven episodes of “Mad Men” (an event my heart and mind aren’t yet emotionally equipped to handle). Melissa Shart is pretty ordinary – real estate agent, Akronite, divorcée – and I think Jones is smart to underplay her. She’s aware that this is new TV terrain, and that this show’s audience may only know her as one of the sexually willing American gals at the end of “Love, Actually”. Log into Netflix to check, I’ll wait.
The slapstick humor – Will Forte taking a hammer to his thumb, getting his mouth bloody: comedy gold – is a great visual gag and a cool exploration of evolution’s social mores. The feminist in me recognizes that a man like Phil would climb Mount Everest to sleep with Melissa – she is more attractive than Carol. His doughy frame and K.D. Lang-esque face aren’t bettering his odds. And his social contract prevents him from having sex with the more preferable woman. This isn’t so much a situation of “Will they, won’t they”, but “How does he work with this?”
By the way: anyone else really curious about the writers’ room’s relationship with raisins and tomato sauce?