When Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globe Awards earlier this year, one of the many celebrities he roasted was Tim Allen, comparing his career negatively to that of his co-presenter Tom Hanks. While the room reacted unfavorably to Gervais's skewering, the truth is not that far off. Outside of the kiddie franchises of Toy Story and The Santa Clause (which probably owe their success more to Pixar and Kris Kringle), Allen's film success has never really matched the popularity of his Home Improvement days. Now, twelve years after his former show left the air, Allen has returned to TV with show that has all of Tim Taylor's stubbornness, but none of his heart.
Allen stars as Mike Baxter, the marketing director for outdoor sporting goods store, in charge of traveling the globe to create the company's signature catalog. Mike fancies himself a true man's man, but he constantly distressed by the lack of masculinity he sees in society. Perhaps this frustration is born out of the fact that he live in a house full of women, constantly giving his three daughters advice on the status of the men, or lack thereof, in their lives. When Mike's boss (Hector Elizondo) gives him the news that they're grounding him and diverting his talents from the old-school catalog to beefing up their website, Mike is tasked with staying closer to home and being a greater part of his daughters lives, whether they like it or not.
The character of Mike Baxter might have seemed more realistic if they had squeezed in a line or two about being in a coma for the last 15 years. When told he will have to work on the website, the concept of the Internet seems about as foreign to him as the suggestion to his daughter that she learn to change her own tire. What's more, his constant stream of anger at all things less manly than he seems himself to be comes off as not only hypocritical, but also incredibly insulting. If the show is attempting to pass any judgement on Mike and laugh at him, rather than with him, it fails by surrounding him with family and co-workers that may not be as offensive as he is, but aren't any smarter than him either. I never thought I'd long for the day's of Tim Taylor's primordial grunting, but after two episodes of Mike Baxter's pro-masculinity tirades, I found myself missing that doofus of a Tool Man.
Last Man Standing premieres Tuesday 7pm on ABC.