I’ve been watching Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing since its beginning. I’ve enjoyed the show all along although the last two seasons’ scripts were definitely at a lower level. Maybe they knew the series had almost run its course and the old writers had started to move on. But what was noticeable was a less skillful plot and dialog. And for all the angst from the left about its right wing slant the point of view was a mild libertarian stance with a few humorous jibes thrown at Obama or Hillary Clinton by Tim’s character (Mike Baxter). And just to make sure no one thought there was an ideological problem the wife played by Nancy Travis is a Hillary fan and a fairly mild feminist. My biggest disappointment was in the final season that only one small joke about Trump showed up in the show. That’s how timid they were. But all that aside, the show was refreshing because Mike was at least allowed to mostly correspond to a normal man of his generation. He wasn’t forced to make believe he didn’t like sports and cars and guns and hunting and fishing. He was pro-military and traditional in his ideas about gender roles and religion and unabashedly American. He spends a considerable time on the screen mocking his Canadian soy-boy son-in-law (Ryan) but at the same time he mentors this young man on family responsibilities for a husband and a father.
In 2017 Disney/ABC was in a snit about Trump being president so they cancelled Last Man Standing, even though it was the most popular show on Friday nights and doing well financially. Tim Allen who has been a staple of ABC and Disney for decades said he was devastated that they pulled the plug on him so needlessly. Next season (2018), when Roseanne Barr’s reboot of her show Roseanne featured a star that had some positive things to say about Trump and did land office business it immediately woke up some network geniuses to the fact that Last Man Standing was ready made to take advantage of that same audience. And when Roseanne’s show was cancelled because she said something politically incorrect about an Obama administration official, well, that same audience was now available for another show that had characters they could relate to.
Because 20th Century Fox was the production company that originally made Last Man Standing for ABC it wasn’t much of a stretch for the Fox Network to consider bringing back the show and hosting it on their network. And that’s just what they’ve done. Boy, this has been some wind up for a tv review!
Camera Girl and I watched the show on Friday night. It was pretty good. They started off with a set up where the Kyle character (one of the sons-in-law) is failing to find his favorite show on tv and his in-laws throw out some lines about networks being bastards for cancelling good shows and how it very rarely happens that a show is picked up by another network unless its fans are truly great. So, light fun, and here we go.
The show revolves around the family being split between conservatives and liberals quarreling about the Trump presidency. But the writers decide to completely leave out Trump’s name. Now that felt phony. Next the Canadian son-in-law Ryan gets so stressed about living in Trump’s America without any way to address his opposition to it that he decides he’s moving his family to Canada. When Ryan’s young son goes missing the family rallies around to find him. They forget all their quarrels and after finding him safe they use the happy outcome to cement their solidarity and agree to look for common ground. As is usual with the show, Mike ends the episode with a vlog from his office at Outdoorsman to talk about the importance of Americans finding common ground and there being two points of view, left and right. He does takes one small jab by saying that “of course one of them already has the word “right” already in it.
So, there it is. The show is back. And it is a nice middle of the road show that stakes out a spot for a character that is an American man who hasn’t been neutered and feminized. Is it a full-throated roar of defiance by the right wing? Hardly. Will it even acknowledge by name the Trump revolution? Hopefully. But so far, the verdict is still out. Is it funnier than last season? Maybe. My plan is to watch a few more episodes and then evaluate whether I’m still going to be standing with Tim Allen’s last man. Did you see what I did there?