For the last six years, I have been comfortable with very little knowledge of Tim Allen’s existence. His show, Last Man Standing, aired on Friday nights to modest ratings (usually in the 6 million viewer range), but the series presumably never said anything worthwhile enough to merit discussion. It just kind of existed over there on the sidelines away from my view, and it somehow managed to run for six seasons, creating only a blip of conversation at the end of every season when ABC left its future uncertain and Tim Allen started railing about liberal bias.
But in the Trump era, we pick sides, don’t we? And when ABC canceled Last Man Standing, that was seen as a shot against conservatives, even though it was my understanding that the cancellation had nothing to do with ratings and everything to do with costs (20th Century Fox paid for the production of the series for the first six seasons, but after that contract ended, ABC opted against picking up the production costs on the seventh season. I seriously doubt that the network that aired the Roseanne revival had anything against the series’ conservative agenda). Tim Allen framed the cancellation as politically motivated, conservative media picked up on it, conservative social media rallied around it, and Fox — which had canceled Brooklyn Nine-Nine — opted to take a chance on Last Man Standing and gave the show its old time slot on a different network.
In some ways, Last Man Standing pulled a Trump: Tim Allen took an innocuous business decision, turned it into something political, and stoked the base, so to speak. It worked, too. On Friday night, Last Man Standing returned with 10 million viewers, the best ratings for any comedy on television last week besides Big Bang Theory. It even drew a solid 1.8 in the 18-49 demo.
ABC inadvertently martyred Tim Allen, and now Fox is reaping all the benefits of that.
Of course, after Last Man Standing put up 10 million viewers, I had to see what the fuss was all about, and so I watched an episode for the first time, and here’s what I’ll say about the sitcom based on my one-episode sampling: It’s nothing. It’s basic. It feels like something out of the ’90s. It’s a bland laugh-track sitcom, and even this episode — which was entirely political — didn’t merit getting worked up over.
The entire open of the episode was a big meta-joke about a show that Tim Allen’s family is watching being canceled, but moved to another channel in the same slot because of the fans, after which the show takes up politics. There’s a strawman — the son-in-law — who is a stand-in for the liberals, a Canadian who freaks out because of the direction of the country and threatens to take his family and move to Canada. There is some speechifying disguised as jokes about how we should all just learn to get along; that we’re all family; that we should stop unfriending each other; and that the broken country is still worth fixing (using a broken-down motorcycle as a metaphor). The two political sides of the family snap at each other and call each other names, but ultimately decide that family is more important than politics, and the guy who was going to move to Canada decides, instead, to become a U.S. citizen so he can vote to cancel out Tim Allen’s vote.
It’d be easy enough to rail against the both-siderism of Last Man Standing, for suggesting that “our guy” was as bad as “their guy” (seriously, Allen honestly suggests that things were just as bad for conservatives under Obama as they are for liberals under Trump), and to take the show to task for suggesting that the problems in our country are merely a “difference of opinion,” ahem.
But you know what? Last Man Standing isn’t worth it. Tim Allen isn’t worth it. If conservatives want to spend a half hour of their lives each week wasting it on a boring, uninspired family sitcom with very little to say, you know, go for it. Watch a crappy sitcom to own the libs!
My only request is this: Please let Kaitlyn Dever go. I had no idea where she’d gone after Justified, and it was disconcerting to find out that she’d landed here (thankfully, I understand she’s now only a “recurring” cast member, and that she’s landed her own Netflix series, which will premiere in 2019).
Header Image Source: Fox