Last Man on Earth Writers’ Room Walkthrough Part 7

Our series on Last Man on Earth Writers' Room continues with episodes 13 and 14.

Editor’s note: The Fourth Wall is knocking down barriers between entertainment industry talent and the audience. This recurring feature is a platform for creators, actors, and industry insiders to bring the readers behind the scenes of the production process. In our latest installment, we removed the curtain on the writers’ room for the second season of Fox’s hit comedy, The Last Man on Earth. 

This part of the walkthrough looks at episodes 13 and 14 from Last Man on Earth’s second season.

Note: This interview has been edited for brevity

The Last Man on Earth Season 2 Episode 13: “Fish in the Dish”

“Carol is back on the campaign for repopulation with Phil, and Todd’s juggling act finally puts him over the edge.”

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Written by: Liz Cackowski; Directed by: Jared Hess

DEN OF GEEK: You guys have Jared Hess stepping in to direct this episode. I know he’s not only directed Forte and Sudeikis before in movies, but he’s also directed a script that Emily Spivey’s had a hand in. Was he someone that you were trying to get over to the show in the past, or was it just a matter of timing on his part? 

ANDY BOBROW: Will just came in one day and said, “Hey I was talking to Jared Hess and he was saying he likes the show and I said ‘wanna come do one?’” It was kind of serendipity that Jared was willing and also available. That’s one beautiful thing about having Will Forte. Everyone who works in comedy thinks very highly of Will. If any other show called Jared, he would weigh it more carefully. But Will Forte calls, Jared says sure. 

We’ve already spoken about Carol’s art in this walkthrough, but it hits a new peak in this episode. There are so many brilliant Masturbatorium production details going on here like the sequined rain/sperm. Was this situation a bit of a nightmare like Carol’s decorations in “Secret Santa,” or did it come together rather easily?

This one was easy. Our Art Department has the Pilbasian art style down. In the production meeting, they asked how big should the women on the wall be and I said, “Friggin huge. You know, like those murals you see on the freeway.” That was my big contribution to the scene. Making the mural huge. They took it from there. As for the baby wall, all the script said was “magazine pictures of babies.” They really plussed it with the sequins and the rain. Liz Cackowski worked with the art department and gave them some direction, but they really get the tone and they know what the hell they’re doing. They executed it perfectly. And those baby photos were pics of our cast and crew.

Please tell me that that painting of all of those strong women is hanging in someone’s house…

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Like all our props and set materials, that painting is property of 20th Century Fox Television, and they absolutely keep track of that stuff. Maybe you can convince them to auction it off when the show is done, but for now, it stays on our stage.

Fertility once again is put front and center here. Tandy’s infertility had kind of been hinted at before, which obviously shows some foresight on your part. You mentioned that the topic of childbirth on the show really caused a divide in the writers’ room between sexes. What was it like reopening the topic here, especially with Carol so adamant about it? 

The fertility thing was a big discussion in the first season, as we felt like it was dominating Carol’s personality and it had the potential to turn her into a flat character – just being too baby crazy. So that’s why we felt the need to ease up on the baby stuff. But by the time this episode came along, we had laid off the subject for several episodes in a row, and the relationship between Carol and Tandy had grown into something way deeper, so we all felt it was time to talk about the baby thing again. It was especially worth it this time around because it wasn’t an episode about Carol being obsessed; It was more about Carol being very practical and smart about this task. Plus, you know, it was mostly about jacking off, so we knew we were in our wheelhouse.

Todd is kind of out of control. Was there any discussion about him choosing Melissa or Gail, rather than being caught in the middle? His actions are at least coming from a human place. 

Yes, definitely. We had had the fun of him being with Melissa and then kissing Gail. And we were well aware of how that kind of story can get sitcommy. With a guy sneaking around and stuff, it’s definitely in Friends territory, not that that’s such a bad thing, but, you know, familiar. So we felt a real obligation to make it our own. Whenever we talked about him getting caught, or him choosing one over the other, it felt like, well that’s how these stories always end, so that’s why we just didn’t want to do it that way. So rather than figure out how to end it, why not just stay in it? We had put ourselves in a relatively familiar corner, and the most surprising thing we could do was stay in it.

I was pretty excited to see that you get back to Mike only two episodes after his big episode. It feels like you wrapped up a lot by the end of this one, that did him returning just make sense? Did you think about holding it off longer or changing things? 

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No way. Will had asked Jason to be in the show last spring, and we took as many episodes as we could get from him. If Jason had more availability, we would have gotten to this point sooner. One thing that worked really well for us was the fact that people assumed Jason would be just a cameo or something. Like I think, since he’s a bigger name and you don’t see him doing television, people were conditioned to think he’ll just show up for a cameo here or there. 

When we aired 211, which was all Jason, I think people were pleasantly surprised he did a whole episode. And then we saw people online speculating that we would yank their chain and not get him back in until late in the season. Like we saw people pre-emptively complaining about the lack of Jason. So we were thrilled to be able to say, “Psych, he’s in the show now.”

The Last Man on Earth Season 2 Episode 14: “Skidmark”

Tandy tries to host a party for the group and Todd’s luck takes a turn for the better.”

Written by: Kira Kalush & Matt Marshall; Directed by: Claire Scanlon

DEN OF GEEK: Did it just naturally make sense to have everyone loving Mike, too? Sudeikis is pretty damn charming…

KIRA KALUSH: We all decided that Mike should be Tandy if Tandy ever grew up.  As an audience, we cheer Tandy on because we know there’s a great guy buried in there; so with Mike, we wanted him to have the finesse to win people over that Tandy never had.  And yes, we were fortunate enough to be working with an exceptionally charming dude. That didn’t hurt.      

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I think I laughed just as hard at Mike’s guitar performance as I did at Tandy’s two episodes earlier simply because he’s so damn good. Tandy just looks miserable and wishes that he was him. 

KIRA KALUSH:  Originally in this scene, Tandy was supposed to pick up a guitar and join in and completely ruin the song.  (And then throw John Lennon’s guitar in the fire.)  It was hilarious but once we got into editing, it worked better for the story to have Mike sing solo and then give Tandy his turn later with “We Didn’t Start the Virus.”

MATT MARSHALL: It also provided Mike a nice emotional moment to remind the audience that Mike was alone for a long time and those scars are still fresh. But in typical Tandy fashion, while everyone else comforts Mike, Tandy just sees it as his little brother stealing the spotlight yet again. So in turn, Tandy literally turns a spotlight on himself when he performs later at the concert he puts on.   

 “Skidmark” is a pretty painful nickname, were there any others that were being thrown around? 

KIRA KALUSH: Honestly, I think Will had Skidmark on the brain and that’s the end of that story. But we’re not 100% sure of that. Andy, do you remember? 

ANDY BOBROW: I don’t totally remember, but I just did a cursory check of the room notes and I didn’t see any alts. I think it’s a safe bet it was always just Skidmark. Kind of like the name Tandy. You’d think we labored over it, but stuff like that comes out of Will’s head pretty much good to go. 

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Was there a lot of talk about how much you wanted to use Mike to demystify Tandy’s past?  You’re pretty careful with what you reveal but it’s kind of crazy that he’s almost like a flashback in human form. There’s a lot of power in being the only sibling to a character on the show. 

KIRA KALUSH: One of my favorite things about Mike showing up is that Tandy is forced to face his past. We all have those embarrassing childhood stories/obsessions/haircuts that we want to forget and then you grow up, leave home and you can kind of start over and get a new stylish haircut. Everyone in this world gets to start over except for Tandy.  We didn’t want to reveal too much right off the bat, but we wanted to show that Tandy has always been this way.

You kind of get to re-visit season one Tandy through the idea of Mike making him regress. It makes a lot of sense and is a nice return to that aspect to the character. 

MATT MARSHALL: Season 2 has been about Tandy’s redemption. He’s been trying so hard to make up for being such a turd to these people. And once he’s finally gotten everything he’s wanted, his past catches up with him with the arrival of Mike and we’re reminded of the petty, jealous Tandy from season 1. Mike is a constant reminder to Tandy of everything he’s been trying to escape.

KIRA KALUSH: I’d also say that Mike is everything Tandy wants to be. It kills him that his brother can walk right into the group and have that acceptance he had worked so hard for.  

Todd’s polyamorous relationship with Melissa and Gail is really interesting and it’s exactly the sort of stuff this structureless society should be exploring. Did you stumble upon it organically? Was anyone against going in this direction? 

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KIRA KALUSH: Personally, I love both Gail and Melissa so making Todd choose between them hurt my heart. At first I was a little hesitant because I was thinking, “Is this some sort of sick misogyny infiltrating my brain?” But then the more we talked about it the more I really came to see that this is the way of the new world. Gail loves Todd, Melissa loves Todd, Todd loves them both and Melissa and Gail care enough about each other that they want the other to be happy. This seemed like the best solution. 

MATT MARSHALL: The great thing about LMOE is that we can do things other shows can’t. Who says a three-way relationship can’t work or is taboo or violates the norms of a civilized society? And we knew that an uncomfortable Todd is a hilarious Todd to watch. Mel Rodriguez is great. 

Oh my God, that reveal at the end is so, so wonderful. Was it always the revenge plan?

KIRA KALUSH:  Will had been wanting to shave half his face for a long time so it was just a matter of finding the right place for it. Getting Mike to do it as a way to launch us into the next episode just worked so perfectly.

MATT MARSHALL:  Will isn’t afraid about making himself looks stupid if he thinks it’ll help the show. Or inspire Halloween costumes.

Our walkthrough on the second half of Last Man on Earth’s second season continues all week.

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Our walkthrough on the first half of Last Man on Earth’s second season can be read here.