Last Man Standing
TV Series Review
For much of the 1990s, comedian Tim Allen ruled the sitcom airwaves with his popular Home Improvement. (Everyone say, "Ar-ar-ar!") After the show's eight-year run, you might've thought Allen would've said everything he had to say about family or manliness or power tools.
But you would've thought wrong.
In a rare feat, Allen now heads his second successful sitcom on ABC. And he's older, grouchier and (in his own eyes) manlier than ever.
Of Testosterone and Tiaras
Allen plays Mike Baxter, a dealer in gear for the discerning sportsman (camouflage, rod-and-reel sets, maybe the occasional bazooka) who's now making sales pitches on this newfangled thing called "the internet." But he's not just trying to sell a better set of waders: He's on a crusade to help men get a little more … manly.
"We baby-proof our lives now," he grunts, waving a Bowie knife in front of a webcam by way of refutation. "Bumps and bruises were the way that you learned," he commiserates with his boss, Ed. (He's saving his "I walked through 17 feet of snow to get to school, and it was uphill both ways" story for sweeps month.)
Perhaps Mike feels he needs to expend some extra testosterone at work before it's completely annihilated by the waves of estrogen that wash over him when he gets home.
Mike and wife Vanessa have three grown daughters. Only one, middle child Mandy, lives at home with her new husband, Kyle. But all three are a big part of Mike's life. And, in their own unique ways, they push him. Sometimes they push him into a kinder, gentler view of the world. And then sometimes they just … well, push. I mean, spending so much time with a wife and three daughters would be enough to make even a manly man like Mike start fiddling with carburetors and binge-watch Chuck Norris movies. Right?
To Affinity … and Beyond!
Now, Mike's not onscreen just to teach us a thing or two about how everybody else needs to change their tune. He's there to learn how he has to change his too. He'll do absolutely anything for his daughters. But despite the fact that Last Man Standing weaves those moments of tenderness and bonding into the laughs, it's earned raspberries from most television critics, who've called it a tired, tortuous glorification of Neanderthalish behavior. A few have accused it of homophobia: In the pilot, Mike frets that if his grandson Boyd attends a school that teaches "sensitivity and tolerance," it'll lead to the lad "dancing on a float."
I'll accuse it of making fun of pretty much everybody, even the grumpy middle-aged men it caters to. This isn't a tirade about how traditional manly values are being subjugated so much as it's a statement about how we all get off track sometimes—enhanced by a laugh track. It's not trying to say, "Aren't women silly?" (Or homosexuals, for that matter.) It's more like, "Aren't we all a little silly?"
Which doesn't mitigate the fact that Last Man Standing is a little silly itself—and a little loose with its content. Yes, the show is one of the only truly conservative outlets on television. But Mike and the fam still trade sex-oriented jokes and prime the pump for some toilet humor too. And foul language can be harshly suggestive as well.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Tim Allen as Mike Baxter; Nancy Travis as Vanessa Baxter; Amanda Fuller as Kristin Beth Baxter; Molly Ephraim as Mandy Baxter; Kaitlyn Dever as Eve Baxter; Hector Elizondo as Ed; Christoph Sanders as Kyle