FOX announced the cancellation of its post-apocalyptic comedy The Last Man on Earth this past May which brought it too an end after four seasons and left it on a cliffhanger ending. That series never had a large audience throughout its four-year run, but it developed a cult following that helped it to sneak past the Network Executioner each season until its last. And the fact that FOX did not give it one final season but instead outright cancelled it sure seems like a short-sighted decision for the network.
The show had amassed 67 episodes by the end of its fourth season, and one more round of at least 13 eps (18 was its typical order) would have taken it to a total that would make it more attractive to the syndication market, where shows really start to turn a profit (and FOX co-owned it so the network would share in those profits). Instead, its lower episode count and the fact that it ends on a huge cliffhanger makes the show less marketable for an encore run. I realize that FOX had less hours to program in Fall due to adding Thursday Night Football to its schedule, but The Last Man on Earth could have filled up time on the schedule when other shows were in repeats or even had a Summer run. Had the network gone that direction, they likely would have made more money in the long run. But apparently word came from above to cut under-performing shows and they didn’t think much about the long-term impact.
Fans did make an effort to save the show, but their rather modest campaign was overshadowed by higher profile attempts to save Lucifer (also cancelled by FOX) and Syfy’s The Expanse. As a consolation, though, series star Will Forte revealed what would have happened in the fifth season. (Warning, spoilers ahead in case the show gets a surprise renewal or a comic book wrap up.) The mysterious group that appeared in the last episode would be revealed to be scientists who had been hiding out in a bunker until the virus had died out. But as it turns out, Tandy and the other immune survivors are carriers and they infect the scientists. Thus, they die off leaving the group on its own once again. Forte goes into more detail in the interview that he gave to Vulture.
For now, though, fans have to accept the cliffhanger ending and perhaps the story will continue in comics or some other format down the road. The entire series is available on Hulu for those who may want to check it out. Just know that it has a rather unsatisfying ending, but the journey getting there is plenty of fun.
Aired: 2015-18, FOX, 4 Seasons Totaling 67 Episodes
Created By: Will Forte
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, Mary Steenburgen
Buy The Last Man on Earth on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com: