Tim Allen returns with 'Last Man Standing'
October 12th, 2011
03:13 PM ET

Tim Allen returns with 'Last Man Standing'

Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” was exactly what critics promised: a joke for joke, set design for set design, trope for trope revisit of the early ‘90s.

But while ABC's offering is reminiscent in oh-so-many ways of Allen’s former show, “Home Improvement,” it isn’t nearly as funny. There are laughs, but when you chuckle you’ll wonder how you could be so easy.

Allen plays Mike Baxter, a manly man who travels often for his job at an outdoor sporting goods store. He's also beyond cranky about the lack of real men in today’s world.

According to Mike, his gender has been co-opted by a bunch of AAA-reliant, scared-to-compete, dancing and tanning Internet punks.

To make matters worse, at home he’s surrounded by women and all of their tears, hair dryers and citrus-smelling products. Instead of three sons, as Allen’s "Home Improvement" character Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor had, Mike has three daughters as well as a grandson (his oldest is a single mom). His wife Vanessa, played by Nancy Travis, manages to put up with him - but she also knocks back some drinks. (As an aside: Isn't it about time we stopped with the "suburban mom who drinks glasses of chardonnay like water" stereotype?)

For some reason, Baxter is beyond incapable of communicating with any of his kids except his youngest daughter, “Justified’s” Kaitlyn Dever, who we know is a tomboy because she mutters about “being cooped up with hens” at home (just like dad!).

I get that the juxtaposition of hyper-masculine, old-school Mike with his more feminine, modern world is supposed to elicit jokes, and I think it could. But not the way it's currently written. There's no attempt to inspect gender and family dynamics in a fresh light, and instead of delivering Mike's intolerance with a wink, he comes across as simply intolerant.

Mike also seems to be vying for a crotchety sitcom dad of the year award; in the second episode, his oldest daughter admits even the family doesn't really know why Mike's so angry. But a dad who openly sneers when his middle daughter cries (even when it's about nothing more inconsequential than "Glee") and walks around huffing with hostility and impatience, I’m not particularly interested in watching.

It’s hinted that Mike will change over the course of the series – instead of flying off to distant locales for photo shoots, his boss (Hector Elizondo) tasks him with developing the sporting company’s Web presence. This is also how we learn about Mike's world view, since developing the Website means ranting into a video camera that men don’t hunt these days.

But by the second episode in last night's back-to-back premiere, we do get to see the softer side of Mike, when he trails after his daughter when she's delivering pizzas because he was worried about her safety. I took that as hope that he'll exhibit an ounce more sanity in episodes to come, but I likely won't stick around to see if that happens.

Frankly, "Last Man Standing" lost me with of the poorly played jokes as he dropped his grandson Boyd off at daycare. After learning that "Ruby’s two dads" were making pumpkin and flax muffins and that the kids were building a mosque out of pillows, Mike bolted, grandson in tow.

As he explained to his daughter later, Boyd wasn’t in danger with him at work, at least not as much danger as he would’ve been at daycare. “I just don’t think your kid should go to that school,” he tells her. “You know how that ends up – Boyd dancing on a float.” Yeah, no thanks.

So while I stuck around for the second half of this two-episode premiere, which focused on Mike’s objection to their family home being baby-proofed (real men don't baby proof, apparently), I didn’t need to watch it to know that this show wasn’t for me.

That’s not to say it won’t be for anyone else. As unlovable as Tim Allen’s Mike is, he still knows how to deliver a punchline, and the ratings so far are looking up: "Last Man Standing" was viewed by 13 million overall, according to Deadline.

If you watched it, what’d you think?

Filed under: Fall TV • television • TV recaps

soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Ciaraa Navinj

    Thanks, I've just been looking for info about this subject for a long time and yours is the best I've found out so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you certain concerning the source?

    July 11, 2012 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andrew

    Yeah I’m not surprised at all that Last Man Standing isn’t making the critics cheer. It was better than I originally expected though. But to be honest I was hoping it would be a little more removed from Home Improvement, there were just enough parallels between the two to notice and pull me away from the show. It was worth watching. I love that I can watch it on dishonline(dot)com too, since I never seem to be home when most of the shows I want to watch are on I look for other ways to see the shows I care about. I use my DVR a lot, but even as big of a hard drive as I have it fills up quick, that’s why dishonline comes in handy. It’s this great streaming site with a ton of content on it, provided free by my employer: DISH Network. I definitely recommend checking it out, especially considering non-dish customers still have access to a good deal of the shows.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Roe

    An avid hynter, advocating guns and hunting. Talking to the baby about shooting. Sorry, NOT funny to me.

    October 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |

    My daughter and I loved this show. It's great to see a good comedy return to primetime t.v. The crime shows and reality programs are getting to be a bit much. I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard watching a t.v show. Can't wait for next week.

    October 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tookiemonsta

    Of course critics aren't going to like this show (it's too low brow). I would have preferred to see Tim go the route of Ed O'Neill in Modern Family. That would have been a nice evolution of his career. I'm not sure why they're getting so much flack for politically incorrect jokes. I just saw "The Cleveland Show" with a joke, "Why do you believe in God? Because I'm a black woman in the South.......That's it." I just watched a Big Bang Theory with multiple jokes about deaf people. The list goes on.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. whatshisnameAZ

    I thought the show was great, I'll watch anything with Tim Allen.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Linda C

    Tim Allen & Nancy Travis are great together! We loved the humor and honesty. For us this show is a big hit.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Elmo L

    The show was funny.. and I liked it but then again, I've been a fan of Tim Allen for a long time.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. OSA6311

    I liked it – if one can't handle the un-PC humor, then they can change the channel, but it was way more honest and realistic than many of the other shows out there – very similar to my own household where my poor husband & son are over-run by my 3 daughters inmuch the same way.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim from WV

    I thought it was great! Like some of the other posts, we were able to laugh for a few mintues at another family which shares some of our issues. The best line was the one about the kids sensing their parents' happiness (relaxing on the patio for a few minutes) and needing to destroy it (screaming "Daaaaaaaaaaaaad!"). That is priceless. The critic writing this has his head up his rear. I think the show will last.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jackie

    My husband I loved it! We couldn't stop laughing. It reminded me so much to Home Improvement, which I liked too, just that instead of three sons and has three daughters and a grandson. Hope the show makes it, it's worth seeing.

    October 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. m

    the show appears to be similar to the same concept of the last show...we'll see!

    October 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NightStalker

    funny guy!!!

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    October 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. enigma

    Home Improvement his best show

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    October 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. enigma

    Tim Allen is such a funny guy!

    October 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Tina

    Tim Allen is funny. BUT this show bites. I know it's scripted, but it PLAYED like it was scripted. It didn't flow very well. And I don't know if any of the girls who played the daughters on that show can really act or was it just bad directing. I'm out.

    October 13, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  17. Daphne

    I didn't object to it because of the "Boyd on a float" comment, I object because it's such a walking cliche of a show, pandering to the lowest of the lowest common denominator – which means it will go on for years and years LOL Don't worry, gay people don't need defending and protecting – they're PEOPLE and as such, deserve to be made fun of along with the rest of. They aren't delicate little flowers in need of our protection and rescuing, they aren't sacred cows. Everyone deserves a comedy skewering, no exceptions.

    October 13, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  18. farmkid

    I really, really enjoyed the show. i grew up watching Tim Allen on TV and I don't think this show was anything like Home Improvement. I can honestly say that I haven't laughed so hard at the TV in a long time. I rarely ever watch TV because I'm so sick of the garbage on in the evenings. I just happened to be sitting down when this show came on. This show really is a breath of fresh air, and a good ol' television show that can be watched and enjoyed the way TV shows used to be. i was laughing every few seconds and this show has something that we can all relate to in our lives. I'm now going to try and tune-in whenever I can to see it. It's just one of those shows thats good for the soul. I hope it sticks around. We need more shows like this on TV

    October 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  19. Yeah

    It was great...Writers didn't care of being to politically correct. Something we are missing these days. Who cares if they make fun of a certain social group, if you don't like it DON'T WATCH IT!!!!!!! You are the controler of your tv. Instead people would rather watch it then complain. Some folks just have to much time on your hands.

    October 13, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
  20. Marrok

    Thanks to charlie crack, stupid cow, fix in tx, missy, starfire, moodancer for making marquee blog bad and boring.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  21. Magda

    I thought it was pretty funny

    October 13, 2011 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  22. eva marina

    the guy seems over the hill and physically bloated. it was uncomfortable to watch. he removes the kid from daycare so that he can immediately hand him off to coworkers at a gun shop? doesn't know where the kid is? oh that's hilarious.

    October 13, 2011 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
    • tookiemonsta

      It's a sitcom – which means situational comedy. Without funny situations, there's no comedy. Relax.

      October 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  23. chris

    As a guy who grew up in a all female world i can see myself being a mike baxter i gripe about the wuzziness of the world all the time with the bullying issues and the tolerance of things that shouldn't be tolerated this show is a breath of fresh air

    October 13, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  24. MariAnne

    Really liked it! Set to DVR to catch next week's.

    October 13, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  25. Mike

    Loved it!

    October 13, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  26. John

    Loved it!!! My wife and I watched it and laughed throughout. Great to see Tim Allen back, and adding Hector A. was a stroke of genius!

    October 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  27. LadyPriceless

    I watched the first episode and I love it! Tim Allen is too funny and I love watching him. It kind of reminds me of Home Improvement in a sense-lol!

    October 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Joewen

    Different shows for different people. Clearly the writer of the article has issues with men acting manly and gay jokes . In that case, watch Glee instead.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Michelle theodore

    I really enjoyed it. I thought Tim's character smacked of Archie Bunker a little bit. I play to watch again!

    October 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Ok

    Cnn did not take my comment but they took doo doo head! real class cnn

    October 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  31. ?

    Doo doo head is what he is

    October 12, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  32. @dixie dee

    U did not watch it ! It was on for a hour. Lol

    October 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Alan

    I enjoyed the show. I thought it was pretty funny. I also realized that I agreed with Allen's character most of the time. And I see that this review is from CNN. I guess that explains the negativity. I guess we can't expect some whiny, snivelling, hyper-sensitive liberal to appreciate the humor. I thought the show was refreshing because we have a male character that doesn't remind us of Oprah Winfrey with less testosterone.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • PooperSlab

      CNN Liberal based? Blahahaha what a putz. I hope your job doesn't consists of you handling sharp objects. What a mindless noob.

      March 5, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  34. be quiet

    Tim Allen is not funny. This will be cancelled before Christmas.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • frogface

      Guess what? It's almost the end of March and he's still on!!! Yay! Good show!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  35. ComedyFan

    I enjoyed the first 2 shows (or 2 shows rolled into 1). The show seems to take the premise of a man that wants to be a man's man. As such is confused about women's side of things. However, over the shows he begins to learn how to cope. Yes. There are stereotypes that are blown out of proportion. But, that is one technique used in comedy. At least this family is TRYING to support each other and are not completely dysfunctional. I like the first show a bit better than the second. For those who do not like it, think back to Tool Time. The writing got better over time as the actors/characters got comfortable with their parts.

    October 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • kat

      I'm confused by all the rotten haters out there who insist on commenting when it's obvious they either didn't watch the show or never will watch it again. Ok fine, you didn't like it. So say so and be gone with you. Why hang around to insult people who did like it. Find something else to do with you time – Maybe go bake some pumpkin & flax muffins.

      October 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  36. 80sGirl

    I think the writer of this article shouldn't have wrote at all. This show was good stuff. Just because you didn't like the humor, let me tell you i had a living room of about 6 that were rolling with all of Mike's lines and ways. Tired of seeing and hearing the same old hollywood plots. This show is way better than alot of the other garbage and reality shows on TV these days. Take me to the humor place with this show instead of all the crap bachelors or survivors that are out there. TV is about fun and this show was fun! JMO. GO TIM ALLEN!! Absolutely loved the show and will without a doubt watch again and again.

    October 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evel Knievel

      I think you meant "shouldn't have written" when "wrote" your comment. Idiot.

      October 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evel Knievel

      I think you meant "shouldn't have written" when "wrote" your comment. Idiot.

      October 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • ComedyFan

      Evel- Yes. The grammar is incorrect. However, the content is fine. I'm not sure why you signed your note "idiot" though.

      October 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daphne

      I know, it was kind of an abrupt wa to sign off. You should have said "Sincerely, Idiot" or something

      October 13, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  37. Tim

    He is lame jane

    October 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Sylvia

    I watched it and I liked it. I smiled, l laughed a little. Is it the greatest show on TV? No. I wouldn't even say 'not yet.' It has potential to be better, though. Watching Tim reminded me a lot of my own father and how he reacted to this former teenage daughter - right down to the un-PC opinions. That doesn't make the character unloveable in the least. I'm so sick of being inundated with bad reality shows and crime dramas and hospital dramas and Mad Men-wannabes that this was a breath of fresh air. I hope it sticks around.

    October 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • 80sGirl

      Totally agree Sylvia. hope it does stick around. It truly was a breath of fresh air from reality. 🙂

      October 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MariAnne

      Amen Sylvia....can't watch reality shows that have nothing to do with reality.

      October 13, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  39. sundagram

    tim allen was good..nancy travis wasnt!!.,...she was easily the worst thing about this show,,,super annoying as the mother and not at all suited to tim allen...iwhen this show goes under itll be her fault

    October 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  40. David

    I would rather watch this show than any other garbage on Tv these days especially DWTS....

    October 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Casondrah

    I don't think he is that funny.

    October 12, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  42. DixieDee

    Quite frankly I thought it was great to sit down and laugh at other peoples dysfunctional lives and unstable jobs. I do not want to have to solve great mysteries everytime I watch some TV – sometimes I just want to smile and feel happy for 30 miunutes.

    October 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Evel Knievel

    How'd this drunk get another show?

    October 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • 80sGirl

      Because he is funny unlike you. 🙂

      October 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • gale

      How does Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson keep going? Not to mention nearly every other Hollywood actor or actress. Fact is Tim Allen is a very talented and funny man.

      October 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      He is about as funny as a severe case of hemorrhoids!!!

      October 13, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
    • kat

      I'm a 40-something year old mom and watched the premiere with my 13 year old son (who LOVES Home Improvement and still DVR's any episode he can find on tv). I laughed out loud – a did my son at this show. I would have bolted from that daycare with my son in tow myself if that was me....the show is funny, you can admit that you laughed at something that's not "politically correct". Grow up kids – life isn't fair, everyone doesn't like everyone and Tim Allen is a funny man. That youngest daughter is hysterical too. But I think the mom maybe should cut back on the drinks – rum in her coffee? Ok.....

      October 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jacob

      I get that this show may offend some people, but get over it. there are tons of shows on television which are 110% politically correct just watch those. finally a tv show comes around that caters to the likes of "old school" manly men and it'll probably get taken off the air because every body today is too thin skinned to take a joke, or too intolerant to not let any tv show that isn't 100% pro gay, pc, or whatever else air on television.

      October 15, 2011 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |

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