The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly American - ABC's "Last Man Standing"

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly American - ABC's "Last Man Standing"

There's a story in the Hammerle family folklore that goes like this: John went to see the Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap movie with his brother J.J. when they were both too old to be seeing that movie.  John was kind of like, whatever about it and he turned to J.J. in the middle of the movie to make a snide remark.  But something gave him pause.  His brother was sitting there, staring up at the screen, an unselfconscious grin spread across his face's lower quadrant.

That's what happened to me last night.  Every time I turned to look at John to roll my eyes during Last Man Standing, he had a J.J.-during-The-Parent-Trap smile on his mug.  It only grew when Tim Allen made a Buzz Lightyear reference.

So, John had to excuse himself from this review.  He has too big a soft spot for the Tool Man (emphasis on the "tool" in the case of Last Man Standing).

But I don't.  So.

The Good: I'm not going to say there's nothing good about Last Man Standing.  There are some very good things, in fact.  Tim Allen does kind of have a Ted-Danson-Made-For-TV presence.  He's like the TV version of tomato soup and grilled cheese.  If that tomato soup had been blended with a large power drill and the grilled cheese had been melted on a carburetor.  Hector Elizondo is always a welcome presence outside of a Garry Marshall movie, as is Nancy Travis when she's not sleeping her way through three men who share a baby.  I like the fact that the kids in the show are older, and that Tim Allen's wife is age-appropriate.  The house the family lives in is gorgeous and I wonder where it's located that they can keep the screenless doors open all day long.  (Michigan?  Not in my experience.)

The Bad: The stuff at home is much better than the stuff at work.  (Tim Allen's character is a manly man's man who does something business-y for an outdoor sporting goods store.  No women, apparently, work in the store.  At least no women have important jobs within the store.  Because the wimmins just can't understand fishing and hunting and camping.  I get that the show is trying to establish a difference between Allen's home life and work life (home = boyfriend problems and periods and whining; work = men being men who shoot crossbows in each other's general direction), but it's all just too unbelievable that there would be NO women working at the store.

The show also needs to work on fleshing the daughters out a little bit.  They're all basically caricatures at this point: the teen mom frak up, the basket case, and the tomboy.  And, while I love that Nancy Travis is a successful working woman in her own right (a la Clair Huxtable, esq.), all we've really seen of her character at this point is that she loves wine.  A lot.  I can't disagree with that, but it would be nice to see her chugging a beer once in a while or sipping a G&T.

The Ugly American: Tim Allen's character is an Obama-hating, gun-loving, gay-fearing, war-supporting, mysogynistic relic and everyone who doesn't agree with him is wrong.  And while I know people like this exist (I probably even know some of them) and while I know some people who watch the show will champion his every belief, I personally have trouble rooting for a character whose beliefs are so different from my own and so stuck in another, more unenlightened era.  I suppose the moral here is, "Hey, maybe you don't believe the same things, but he's still a good dad and he still has some good ideas!" or "Hey, just keep watching the show and see how he changes and grows!"  But right now, for me, it's a little too much dick waving, and the dick in question only waves to the right.

The Verdict: At this point, I am interested to see how this show plays out.  It's not a hard half-hour to watch, and I feel like it's going to be with us for quite some time.  (Prepare yourselves for an Emmy-nominated Tim Allen come July).  I just hope the show wields its power for good, like helping the characters in the show bridge the gaps between their respective world views, and not to ram home a caveman agenda.

Leave a comment