'Last Man Standing'
It's too bad Andy Rooney didn't announce his retirement early enough so he could do voice-over work on ABC's Last Man Standing. He'd be perfect, what with his whiney diatribes against modernity and how the world has worsened since the good old days.
That is exactly the stance -- albeit far more man-centric -- of Last Man Standing, starring Tim Allen in a return to television after 12 years. He plays Mike Baxter, manly-man adventurer for a supply company called the Outdoor Man. Mike's wife, Vanessa (Nancy Travis), gets him. He's old-school. A complainer. He even starts one sentence, "You know what's wrong with the world …" Mike also has three daughters living at home, so he's especially worked up about how men aren't men anymore.
In the middle of the pilot, Allen delivers this treatise (into a computer -- he's helping bring the store into the modern era, and it allows the writers to have Allen spew annoyed dialogues): "What happened to men? We used to build cities just so we could burn them down."
On and on it goes. Arriving at the store, Mike says to his male co-workers: "Hey guys, great to be back in the sanctuary. No hair dryers. No tears. No citrus body wash. It smells like balls in here."
Yep, that's what you're going to get on Last Man. Allen spends his time ranting about people who can't change their tires (including one of his spoiled daughters), guys who go to tanning salons ("That actually hurts to hear," he says) and other such offenses to masculinity. When he drops off his oldest daughter's son at day care, he's met by, well, stereotypes. One worker invites him in: "Ruby's two dads are here, and they're making muffins -- flax and pumpkin." Allen: "Please tell me that's not their names."
You have to wonder when this line of jokes will run out, much less get funny. But Allen is a perfect fit for a multicamera sitcom, and despite the predictability of the jokes, he sells them well. As bad as Last Man is, it would be a trillion times worse without him.
Of course, the series is likely to be a hit. Allen is a likable, proven draw. ABC is a family-inclined network, and the show is on at 8 p.m., when all kinds of gruel can be shoveled down the throats of Americans. Maybe this is the easy familiarity people are looking for in the big tent of network television.
Airdate: 8 p.m. Tuesdays (ABC)
Cast: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Hector Elizondo
Director: John Pasquin