The Bottom Line
- Stars Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Molly Ephraim, Alexandra Krosney, Kaitlyn Dever, Hector Elizondo, Christoph Sanders
- Created by Jack Burditt
- Premieres October 11, 2011, at 8 p.m. EST on ABC
Twenty-year-old Kristin (Alexandra Krosney) is a single mom living at home with her toddler son; teenage Mandy (Molly Ephraim) is a spoiled shopaholic with a pretty-boy boyfriend; and even relative tomboy Eve (Kaitlyn Dever) has boy troubles. Mike just doesn’t understand these baffling womenfolk, and on top of that he can’t fathom what’s happened to manliness. He longs for a time when guys changed their own tires and worked to support their families and didn’t use so much hair gel. Or something like that -- it’s all kind of ill-defined, somehow roping in some mild homophobia and conservative political views (there’s a jab at Obamacare in the first episode) along the way.
But Mike isn’t some sort of symbol of changing times like Archie Bunker. He’s just a boring, neutered sitcom character with retrograde views on gender and sexuality, which makes him both unfunny and mildly insulting. The female characters aren’t a whole lot better, generally bearing out Mike’s worst instincts about how women behave. Vanessa at least gets to be an independent woman with her own career and the ability to stand up to her husband (her promotion in the first episode prompts Mike to offer to spend less time on business trips), and Travis and Allen have passable spousal chemistry. But there’s still never that real connection that goes beyond verbal sparring, and the sparring is so anemic that it doesn’t nearly suffice.
Last Man Standing’s boneheaded sense of gender politics would be less annoying if the jokes were funnier, but even creator Jack Burditt’s experience working on 30 Rock hasn’t helped him to write any original jokes. The first two episodes are full of well-worn sitcom devices delivered without any new twists, including obvious misunderstandings and predictable reversals. Mike’s workplace, an outdoor-sports retailer, is a rehash of the manly occupation of Allen’s Home Improvement character, and Hector Elizondo seems lost as Mike’s gruff, equally manly boss. For a network that has really revitalized its sitcom offerings in the past few years with shows like Modern Family, Cougar Town and Suburgatory (and even the brilliant, short-lived Better Off Ted), Last Man Standing feels like a timid step back, its style and execution just as outdated and cringe-inducing as Mike’s own lame worldview.