October 11, 2011


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , ,


Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
LAST MAN STANDING – Tuesday 8PM on ABC:  Change the channel.
Cards on the table:  I was never a fan of Home Improvement, not for any of its many hit years on ABC.  Tim Allen’s new show LAST MAN STANDING is clearly intended as sweet narcotic for the jonesing Improvement addicts among us, so if you’re one of them, feel free to ignore this. 
For the rest of us, Last Man Standing is pretty dreadful, a reminder of why the word “sitcom” is sometimes hurled at shows as an insult.  Shot in classic 1980s multi-camera style (the pilot was directed by John Pasquin, an Improvement veteran), it casts Allen as Mike Baxter, a man among women.  He may work at a sporting goods store inhabited solely by men, but at home he’s surrounded by his wife (Nancy Travis) and 3 daughters, the oldest of whom is a single mom.  Mike is hopelessly ignorant about any subject that a woman or girl might find familiar–he’s the last sentient human in the US who doesn’t know what Glee or who Harry Potter is–and he finds it unforgivable that his daughters can’t change a tire.  He’s mildly misogynistic (when the single mom says she doesn’t need a man:  “You’ve got a baby, that means you needed a man once”) and homophobic (referring to the possibility of someone taking part in a gay pride parade:  “The only time men should be dancing is when other men are shooting at their feet”).   Nevertheless, in his bumbling, sputtering but really loving way, his dumb mistakes end up working out just fine for his family.
I’m sorry, but bleeah.  This is, literally, the show’s level of humor:  when someone compliments the store’s website to Mike’s inevitably eccentric boss (Hector Elizondo), the boss replies triumphantly “It looks like this company has finally entered the 20th Century!” so that the other guy can point out that actually this is the 21st century, and Elizondo can respond “One step at a time”–a joke that might barely have been humorous a decade ago. 
Nancy Travis looks weary as Allen’s wife, who has to maintain that glassy sitcom look that says her husband’s sure a handful, but boy does she adore him.  The only bright spot in the supporting cast is Kaitlyn Dever as the youngest daughter, and really that’s just because she was so terrific in this season’s Justified.  Other than that, this is a depressing, arthritic piece of network TV.  Mike Baxter may not be watching Glee at 8PM on Tuesdays, but I know one viewer who will be.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."