May 9, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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LAST MAN STANDING was a terrible show when the season began, and it hasn’t gotten any better.  The series was anticipated to be a blockbuster hit, and ABC gave it the unusual task for a new series of opening up a night, since it marked the return of Tim Allen to series television, but ratings have dwindled to last week’s series low of 1.4–and with good reason. 


Last Man turned out to be more old-fashioned–indeed, fossilized–than any half-hour on CBS.  Allen’s Mike Baxter is both a buffoon and an all-knowing font of wisdom, around whom his wife Vanessa (Nancy Allen) and daughters (Alexandra Krosny, Molly Ephraim and the talented Kaitlyn Dever) flutter like the lovable but ultimately inferior beings they are.  Mike, a man’s man, works for a sporting goods company run by eccentric Ed (Hector Elizondo) and populated mostly by Kyle (Christoph Sanders), an airhead who’s dating one of Mike’s daughters.

As the painfully sweetened live studio roared with laughter, all of these characters stumbled weekly around the most obvious plotlines and jokes.  Tonight’s season finale, written by Executive Producer Andy Gordon and directed by John Pasquin, was a representative example.  Vanessa’s irresponsible sister showed up from what Mike called “the People’s Republic of Boulder” to first repay some of the money Vanessa had loaned her over the years and then to ask for more; Mike ridiculed both women and refused to allow his hard-earned money to go to his sister-in-law, while his own purchase of an actual tank, while the subject of comedy, was treated as a really cool indulgence.  Meanwhile, Kyle and Mike’s daughter decided to break up, which was far less serious in the world of the show than Kyle having to explain the break-up to Mike (prompting Mike to give in to sentimentality for just a brief moment and assure Kyle he was still welcome at family dinner, a huge relief for Kyle).  All of this was delivered with thudding pace and rote comic rhythms.

Despite its lousy ratings, Last Man Standing has a chance of renewal, because it’s an advertiser-friendly property that does marginally well with the older fringe of viewers (although it’s hard to believe ABC would leave the show in its current important timeslot)–and also because networks hate to admit that their biggest programming bets have been complete failures.  If it survives, that news will be far from the proudest news at ABC’s Upfront next week.

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."