‘Last Man Standing’ Is Back … And Perhaps a Little Better

I have to admit, I’ve never been a die-hard fan of Last Man Standing. I didn’t sign the petition to keep in on air when ABC cancelled it, and it wasn’t a show where I eagerly awaited a new episode every week. But I did catch up on it every now and then.

Mostly, I think I’d just grown cold on the multicamera, laugh-track heavy format where storylines are wrapped up neatly in 22 minutes. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the occasional cheesiness of the show.

Still, though, Fox picking up the show to air new episodes an entire season after ABC cancelled it … well, it felt like kind of a cool victory for family-oriented TV and the representation of conservative values. So I had to give the new season a shot.

Last Man Standing ran for six seasons on ABC …

Since its start on ABC in 2011, the comedy (official site here) been about a conservative outdoorsy guy named Mike Baxter (played by Tim Allen) who has three daughters and runs marketing for a store called Outdoor Man. The storylines are mostly men vs. women, conservatives vs. liberals, or other light family conflicts.

The show is not so very different from the Tim Allen sitcom of the ’90s, ABC’s Home Improvement, where he played a haphazard handyman dad of three boys. And Last Man Standing has even made the occasional joke comparing the two shows (my favorite being when they insinuated that Home Improvement had better writers, which I think is true, but it’s extra funny when you realize that the Last Man Standing writers were actually digging on themselves when they wrote the joke…).

Unlike most other shows on TV these days, Last Man Standing tends to show things like family values and morality in a positive light.

How the new season started …

The most obvious differences of this new season on Fox are some new actors in old roles. Middle daughter Mandy is played by a new chick who is, uh, not as good at playing a ditz? I’m not a fan of New Mandy … Grandson Boyd had been replaced too, but the new Boyd is pretty comparable to the old one, in my opinion.

Beyond that, it’s mostly the same blend of light family conflicts, occasional cheese, and good values. But so far there’ve been a couple noteworthy high points that make me wonder if they’re upping their game just a bit.

Episode 2 of this season is about Mike grieving (and really, about him not grieving) his deceased father. A comedy show episode about death can be really hard to pull off well, and they did it here. I actually almost cried. Granted, I’m full of pregnancy hormones right now, but still, I’ve never even come close to crying at this show before.

The other noteworthy high point is a subtle shout-out to Natural Family Planning in Episode 3, where middle daughter Mandy and mom Vanessa talk about Mandy’s hesitance to get pregnant. They surprisingly don’t mention contraception at all, and instead Mandy vaguely mentions abstaining from sex during times of fertility! I almost fell off the couch, I was so shocked. Conservative values and all, I never expected to hear NFP mentioned (let alone put in a positive, this-actually-works-to-prevent-pregnancy light!) on this show.

Overall …

The show is still a little cheesy here and there. And I find the new Mandy’s acting pretty cringe-worthy some of the time. But so far, this new season has me feeling happy that the show is back on the air.

Last Man Standing airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox; full episodes online and on Hulu.

Image: Courtesy Fox

Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic mom, blogger and screenwriter.

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