September 20, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Last Man Standing”



If your heart beats faster when you hear the retro sound of a voice saying “Last Man Standing Is Recorded Before A Live Studio Audience,” then to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you just may be the audience for Last Man Standing.  It’s found a smallish but loyal crowd of its own since moving to Fridays last season, with 18-49 ratings in the mid-1s and a larger fondness among older viewers (almost 8 million of them tuned in to the season finale).  Last Man is a sitcom so whole-heartedly old-fashioned that it makes the CBS comedy line-up look like Girls and Louie combined, a TV Land all-star before it even arrives there.

The Season 3 premiere, written by Executive Producer Kevin Hench and directed by John Pasquin, did nothing to disturb loyal viewers.  In fact, it gave them a gift with guest appearances by Willie and Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty, who more than held their own with scripted dialogue in roles that were considerably larger than the usual celebrity “Hey, look who it is!” cameos.  They played friends and customers of Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) at the sporting goods emporium that employs him, and brought along with them much talk of hunting and Jesus.  They even joined in the usual trashing of spacey co-worker Kyle (Christoph Sanders), who as of last season is dating Mike’s daughter Mandy (Molly Ephraim), who for her part as of this season is going to college (sample humor: she thinks Rene Descartes was a woman, and when told Descartes was a monsieur, is impressed that “she” gave massages).  By the end of the episode, Kyle has been taught that Nietzsche and the like are best to be ignored in favor of Christian dogma.

The main storyline of the episode took Last Man‘s usual tack of smooshing together weak political satire with sentiment, as Mike was determined to have his grandson Boyd (Flynn Morrison), son of elder daughter Kristin (Amanda Fuller) and Ryan (Jordan Masterson), moved from the elementary school near their house to the one zoned for Mike’s.  His argument was anti-bilingualism, which he explained at length is anti-assimilative for immigrants and results in valuable school time being wasted on repeating lessons in Spanish, but really–awwww–he and grandma Vanessa (Nancy Travis) just wanted to see more of the little feller.  And in case Mike’s essential goodheartedness wasn’t clear enough, the show carefully inserted a subplot about his delight in maid Bianca’s (Carla Jiminez) passing her citizenship exam, and the episode concluded with a big dinner shared with Bianca–who presumably wasn’t also clearing the dishes–and the Duck Dynasty guys.

Last Man Standing has its formula, and it’s not after a broader audience than the one it’s got.  Allen hits his punch-lines the same way he has for decades, and his sweetie Archie Bunker routine clearly works for the fans.  More power to any show that successfully reaches an audience, although it’s sad that such talents as Travis, Hector Elizondo (as Mike’s boss) and Kaitlyn Dever (the youngest daughter, currently dazzling in Short Term 12) have so little to do.  Paychecks for all; not much originality or even high-quality craft on view.  It’s lowest common denominator TV.


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."