'Last Man Standing' Review: Tim Allen's Return Needs 'Improvement'
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
My father loves Tim Allen. Home Improvement is one of his favorite TV shows of all-time, he'll stop to watch any of the Santa Clause movies if they come on during the holiday season and he even managed to find redeeming qualities in Allen's movie remake of The Shaggy Dog. With the premiere of Allen's new sitcom, Last Man Standing (Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC), my dad now has yet another thing to look forward to.
And he's not alone. For a large portion of America, Allen's return to television is something to get excited about. In Last Man Standing he plays Mike Baxter, a father of three girls who struggles to maintain his masculinity in today's overly metrosexual world.
Is the show any good? That's beside the point. The show isn't trying to be a critical success. It's not daring or original, it's just the same formula that Allen used 20 years ago. Take a man with a manly job (in this case it's as an employee at an outdoorsman magazine) and watch as he attempts to use the same skill set to deal with his out-of-control home life.
The biggest problem with Last Man Standing isn't the stale writing or subpar performances, it's that it isn't enough like Home Improvement. Take, for instance, Mike's boss at the magazine, played by Hector Elizondo (in what I believe is the low point of his career). On Home Improvement, Allen's character had a co-worker who was the voice of reason, but here Elizondo's character is a befuddled old man who doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on reality. If he were more like Al, it would be a huge help.
The same thing goes for the relationships with his children. Yes, they're all girls on the new show, but a few more heart-to-heart conversations and earnest emotions would go a long way. It might seem wrong to want Tim Allen's new show to be exactly like his old one, but he's a guy who's made an entire career out of playing the same basic character.
For eight seasons in the 1990s Home Improvement was a top 10 show pulling in huge ratings. In the 1993-1994 season it was the top scripted show of the year, averaging over 19 million viewers every week. If Last Man Standing wants to last, perhaps it should take even more inspiration from its roots instead of running away from them.
As it stands now, Last Man Standing is little more than a mediocre sitcom. It's nowhere near as terrible as new comedies like Whitney or Free Agents (or Man Up, which premieres next week), but it's also not as good as New Girl, Up All Night or Suburgatory. Last Man Standing is average in every sense of the word.
(Image courtesy of ABC)