Tim Allen makes his return to network television more than a decade after Home Improvement ended. Can he recreate that magic again? Dave Steed takes a look at Last Man Standing to find out.


Last Man Standing (Tuesdays, 8 pm, ABC)

I couldn’t help but be at least intrigued by a new show starting Tim Allen. I mean, sure the guy is kind of irrelevant in the world of comedy these days, unless of course we’re talking about Buzz Lightyear (he actually said “and beyond” like Buzz, in this episode) and I had to even look up on IMDB to see what the last non-Toy Story thing he was in of any significance (that would be 2007’s Wild Hogs). But here he is with a brand new sitcom, his first real TV work since Home Improvement left the airwaves in 1999. And speaking of Home Improvement, Last Man Standing is the same show, but exactly the opposite.

Allen actually has been in the media for the last few months saying pretty much exactly that. Home Improvement had a formula that worked and he’s looking to recreate it. Except this time he’s not raising three boys, instead he’s got three girls. And he’s not a tool guy, he’s a gun and rod type guy. Loving husband Mike Baxter works for a hunting and fishing company that sends him on man trips out to use the products they sell but when his wife Vanessa (played quite well by Nancy Travis) get a promotion he’s forced to stay grounded and help out around the house with the typical trio of daughters – the oldest being a single mother with a little baby, the middle girl being a drama queen 17-year-old and the youngest being the sarcastic tomboy.

Don’t get me wrong here, Home Improvement was a pretty great show for its time, but we’re talking trying to recreate that magic more than a decade later and without Richard Karn (come on now, what could he be doing?). Funny thing, it kind of works. I can’t say I was expecting much but it’s actually pretty funny even if it’s a little retread. Mike’s in charge of increasing web traffic for his company so he records videos to put up on the site and just like in Home Improvement’s side show “Tool Time”, Allen’s character takes the time to teach a man lesson with each one, though with a little more anger this time around. There’s no next door neighbor behind a fence, but there is the visible boss, played by Hector Elizando. Besides telling the girls to gut a fish from head to anus and commenting that the office smelled like balls, there wasn’t a moment where I laughed out loud but there wasn’t a dull moment either.

So will it survive? Of course it will. This is the network that got According to Jim into syndication. This is a million times better than Jim, and besides Suburgatory the crop of new comedies this year is pretty weak. The supporting cast is excellent, Tim Allen is surprisingly still funny and the show simply works. It needs to be moved to a better time slot but otherwise I’m as shocked as you probably are to see me say this one’s a keeper. So let’s celebrate the return of Tim Allen with a few man grunts

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