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TV Tonight: Last Man Standing

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On behalf of the men of the world, I want to apologize to women for the existence of Last Man Standing, ABC’s new Tim Allen comedy, if for no other reason than its existence seems predicated on the idea that I need to watch it to rediscover how to be a man. Also, I might as well apologize to the men of the world for it too. And while I’m at it, to any aliens in other solar systems who might receive the transmission of this sitcom, some years hence, whether you reproduce asexually or are divided among five genders who connect using some Avatar-like USB devices on your head-tails: dudes, our bad, really.
I covered the show somewhat in my column this summer about the “manxiety” theme of male-oriented comedies this fall. But to sum up the premise: Mike Baxter (Allen) is tired of living in a crap world that all you crap people have turned to crap with your crap. It doesn’t really need more elaboration, but I’ll give it: “manly man” Mike does international photo shoots for a sportman’s catalog company, but his job is under threat because of the Internet, which means that wussy men don’t want real catalogs they can hold with their callused hands anymore. He’s surrounded by females at home–a wife and three daughters–which can really be a headache, because, women, amirite?

That’s all bad enough! But also, his grandson goes to a daycare where they teach kids not to compete, and the whole goddamn world smells like citrus hair gel, and nothing is real anymore, and also, freaking Obamacare! (That last is an actual point of complaint in the pilot.) Allen, playing essentially his Home Improvement character from 20 years ago, but without all the shading and subtlety, uses the setting to launch various comic rants on the wussification of mankind. So he takes his stand. He is the Last Man Standing.

The lunkheadedness of the show’s bludgeoningly repeated theme aside, I’m just not entirely sure who Last Man is intended to appeal to. Women might enjoy it as a parody, or just for the feeling of superiority, I guess, but probably not. And it’s not really a good time for men, either–at least not if you’re a man under, say, 50 or so, since it amounts to spending half and hour getting yelled at by a cranky old man for your generation’s failings. (And just after we lost Andy Rooney!)

Mike’s obnoxiousness, which Last Man kinda-sorta lovingly acknowledges, is not inherently a problem; a show can successfully embrace almost any kind of outlook, even a retrograde one, if it’s fresh and funny. On that last point, however, you need not know much more about Last Man than that there is an “I’m standing right here” joke 2:45 into the show. (I could mention the lazy gay and metrosexual jokes, but I doubt they surprise you.)

There’s even half an idea in the show that could make a good sitcom: that the world is changing, and here, let’s take a look at one guy who refuses to change with it, and see what he gets into. But in a meta-sense, Last Man has no interest in changing: it’s a stale sitcom right out of the early ’90s, and like Mike, it seems to believe it can just harangue the world into changing back with it.

A real man, I guess, would turn on the TV and yell back at this show, but wussy men like me prefer to simply passive-aggressively change the channel. Enjoy being the last man standing, Tim Allen. Just make sure to turn out the lights when you leave.