Even TV comfort food has an expiration date. So it is with Tim Allen's comeback vehicle on the network that made him a star.
Last Man Standing (tonight, 8/7c, ABC) is basically a weary, gender-reversed version of Allen's hit Home Improvement. Only real difference is that this time, Allen's the only guy in a household of females: a long-suffering wife (Nancy Travis, who tends to sit back with a glass of wine and smile at her husband's boorish jokes) and three shrill daughters, including a single mom, a spoiled princess and a tomboy (the latter played by Kaitlyn Dever, who was so terrific on Justified as scrappy little Loretta and is one of many talents being wasted here).
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As I noted in the Fall Preview issue, "This According to Tim vehicle will feel like Old Home (Improvement) Week to his legion of fans, but the buzz of nostalgia may be drowned out by the yawn of familiarity over such a hammy retread." Allen is now playing a variation on Tim Taylor as Grumpy Old Man: this time called Mike Baxter, who works for an outdoor sporting goods company that reeks of testosterone. Or, as Mike announces with pride when he walks into the office: "It smells like balls in here."
Mothballs, maybe. (Although compared to ABC's other "woe is man" show it's being paired with next week, the unbearable Man Up!, this feels like a modern classic.)
Instead of having a TV show on which to spout his gems of chauvinist wisdom, Mike is put in charge of the company's website, where he rails in very extreme webcam close-up against all manner of metrosexual "What happened to men?" offenses: citrus body wash, hair gel, tanning beds, even soccer as "Europe's covert war for the hearts and minds of America's kids." Cutting edge it's not, but that's not what this brand of middlebrow mugging is all about.
As one of his daughters says in the second of tonight's back-to-back episodes, "He's just angry because ... we really don't know why." And it's pretty much impossible to care, since we've heard it all before, and it was funnier and fresher the first time around.
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