October 12, 2011

THE SKED’S PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “Last Man Standing”

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


A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and production of episodes for the regular season:  a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover in the off-season) give plenty of notes, both helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads.  The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting and even story.  Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular episodes of this year’s new series as well.

Previously… on LAST MAN STANDING:  Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) is surrounded by women:  his wife Vanessa (Nancy Travis), oldest daughter and single mom Kristin (Alexandra Krosney), teen middle daughter Mandy (Molly Ephraim) and his youngest Eve (Kaitlin Dever).  Mike, a committed man’s man who works for a sporting goods company and wholeheartedly sells hunting and fishing equipment and other guy stuff, will never understand what goes on in those darn female heads of theirs, or why all that muddleheaded lady thinking is taking over the world.  He has to comfort himself with boss Ed (Hector Elizondo), dopey co-worker (and Kristin’s boyfriend) Kyle (Christoph Sanders), and his toddler grandson, to whom he imparts his wisdom about manhood.  But gosh, as much as they make him crazy, he loves those womenfolk anyway, and when Mike has the chance to work at the home office, vlogging on the company website about why men have to stay men, and spend more time with his ladies, he jumps at the chance to blunderingly be more a part of their lives.

Episode 2:  Far from its staid pilot, as a series Last Man Standing is savagely funny, a shockingly innovative work of transgressive art like nothing you’ve ever seen on network…  
Oh please.  You’d be more likely to find unconventional comedy in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show than in this fossilized exercise. Last Man Standing the series is exactly the same as Last Man Standing the pilot.  
Plotlines in episode 2, which was written by Consulting Producer Linda Figuereido and directed by pilot director John Pasquin:  Mike objects strenuously to the need to baby-proof the house to protect his grandson, but is overruled by wife and daughters (but then they find out how inconvenient baby-proofing is, so that shows them); and Mike gets Mandy a job delivering pizzas, but then is so worried one of the customers will attack her that he follows her with Kyle until she thinks he’s a stalker and sprays him in the face with mace.  
Not enough?  Sample dialogue:  (to Vanessa about paisley designs) “Flowers that are shaped like sperm are still flowers.”  And (to show up the baby-proofing expert):  “I bet my grandfather gave your grandfather wedgies in high school.”    

Tim Allen is a likable performer with crack timing, and Nancy Allen is a fine match for him, so if you’re determined to watch a sitcom from 1965, you could do worse.  And Last Man Standing isn’t even the most painful show ABC is planning to inflict on us this season:  wait till you see Man Up.  And Work It.  But it’s depressing to witness the network that gave us the iPad of family sitcoms with Modern Family, feel the need to go back in time for a Model T this time around.  Last Man Standing is so arthritic, it can barely stay on its feet.
Original VerdictChange the Channel
Pilot + 1:  Just 3 More Tuesdays Till Glee Is Back

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."