There’s a lot wrong with ABC’s new Tim Allen comedy, “Last Man Standing,” not least of which is that it’s a generic, laugh-track sitcom steeped in lame 80’s humor. It’s essentially a remake of “Home Improvement,” only the television show is exchanged for YouTube videos, and the sons are exchanged for daughters so that Tim Allen’s Mike Baxter can better play on gender stereotypes. He’s an unfunny Al Bundy crossed with a Tea Party activist, a “man’s man,” which means: A little racist, a little homophobic. Still, it’d be one thing if Mike Baxter was the butt of his own jokes, an asshole Archie Bunker who managed to expand his worldview thanks to the perspective of three daughters and a boozy wife. But in “Last Man Standing,” his worldview is proven correct by the plotlines: It is sissy to baby-proof your house, and liberal day-care providers will turn your baby into a Nancy. Ranting and raving online about the demise of machismo validates Mike Baxter’s conservative worldview by making him a viral success.
Here are a few lines from this show that demonstrate Mike’s philosophical outlook:
“Last Man Standing” is not simply a bad sitcom; it’s a bad sitcom with a conservative agenda: Modern men need to suck it up and lay off the hair gel, while women — good-natured and open-minded as they are — are ultimately wrong to coddle their children and should know how to change a tire. The world would be a better place if it were ran by real men who knew how to handle a knife and shoot a gun.
Yet, it’s almost a shame that “Last Man Standing” is as bad as it is because it wastes the talent of Nancy Travis (So I Married an Axe Murderer), who left “Hart of Dixie” to come over to this sitcom and roll her eyes at her TV husband and humor his sexist remarks for 22 minutes a week. She is responsible for the one amusing sequence in the first two episodes; incapable of lifting a baby-proofed toilet seat, she resorts to the baby potty. Kaitlyn Dever (the young girl on “Justified”) is also wasted as the “sensible” daughter, as opposed to the dim boy-obsessed daughter (Molly Ephraim) and the got-knocked-up-at-prom and is raising a child out of wedlock while living with her parents daughter (Alexandra Krosney). In other words, she’s the Bristol Palin of the show, and what her baby is missing is the influence of a father. Mike Baxter plays that role as well, promising to mold his grandson into a real man, that is to say: A xenophobic, gay bashing conservative asshole.
It’s fitting that “Last Man Standing” aired against the Republican debate last night. After the show, I flipped over to the second half of the debate and noticed some similarities between Tim Allen’s character and about half of the GOP Presidential contender field (Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum): It’s not just that I disagree with their politics, it’s that I think they are awful human beings. “Last Man Standing” likewise is a show that I don’t find very funny, but more fundamentally, the lead character is a bad person and instead of belittling his intolerance, the sitcom celebrates it.
I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit; in fact, last night’s hour-long block was the most watched 8 p.m. comedy premiere in seven years, as well as the highest-rated new comedy series on ABC this fall.