On Last Man Standing, Tim Allen is manly. He doesn't know what Glee is. Fake tans make him cringe. He works at a store called Outdoor Man, and worries that his grandson's new age daycare will turn into him into one of those men who dance on a float ("The only time men should be dancing is when other men are shooting at their feet"). For better or worse, it's a role that not so different from Tim the Tool Man Taylor, the sitcom dad Allen portrayed for eight years on ABC's '90s staple Home Improvement. But this time, Allen's character is out of his element, raising three daughters instead of sons. Home Improvement was an Emmy-nominated hit, but critics are considerably more dubious about the prospects of Last Man Standing, going so far as to call it "deadly," "boorish," and "beyond repair." Is there anything redeemable about Allen's new show?
Nope. It's pretty bad: At one point on the show, Allen declares proudly, "It smells like balls in here," says Brian Lowry at Variety. Unfortunately, that line is "truer than intended." The show's jokes are cliched and rarely land. Sure, Allen is "one of those rare standup comics to actually thrive in a sitcom format," but here he's just "going through the motions." It's as if he's trying to "replicate Home Improvement's vibe and hope no one notices the difference." Everyone notices, Tim.
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It's lazy, but shows the tiniest bit of hope: It's baffling that a series with this much sitcom talent — Allen stars, while Home Improvement and 30 Rock vets produce, direct, and write it — comes off this poorly, says Robert Lloyd at the Los Angeles Times. The comedy is detrimentally old-fashioned, with its gender-relation jokes coming off as "toothless and mildly offensive." Smartly though, the writers work in some rants that the audience can agree with — kids are too coddled these days, for example — and even slip a hint of pathos into Allen's character. That provides just the faintest glimmer of promise that this series may at least have some heart.
Actually, Allen saves it... kind of: Yes, the jokes get old… fast, says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. But Allen "sells them as well as he can." In fact, he's the show's saving grace. Imagine how dreadful it would be without his "veteran presence and ability to sell comedy." Considering Allen's proven popularity and the show's 8 p.m. timeslot — "when all kinds of soft gruel can be shoveled down the throat of Americans" — Last Man Standing may even become a hit. It's just too bad "someone didn't give Allen better material."
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