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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
LAST MAN STANDING (ABC)
(written by Jack Burditt; directed by John Pasquin; TRT: 21:39)
The network's description: "Today it's a woman's world, and this man's man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society. Tim Allen returns to ABC in this new comedy from Jack Burditt ("30 Rock"). Men may have built civilizations, invented the locomotive and created ESPN, but they're about to find out that it's not a man's world anymore. You can't get manlier than Mike Baxter. He's the marketing director for an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, he loves to have adventures while he's traveling for work and, of course, he drives a pick-up truck. While Mike is king of the hill at work, he's the odd man out in a home that is dominated by women -- namely his wife, Vanessa, and their three daughters, 22- year-old Kristin, 17-year-old Mandy and 14-year-old Eve. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Vanessa recently returned to the workplace and was quickly promoted (much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers). As a result of Vanessa's increased work load, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before."
What did they leave out? In the original script, Tim Allen's Mike character worked for a demolition company while Shirley Rumierk - cast as Ed's granddaughter Nikki who is brought in to take over said company - has been cut in the presentation.
The plot in a nutshell: "I'm back!" outdoorsman Mike Baxter (Tim Allen, carrying a giant dead fish no less) proclaims, much to the chagrin of his family - working wife Vanessa (Nancy Travis), tomboy Eve (Kaitlyn Dever), girly-girl Mandy (Molly Ephraim) and teen mom Kristin (Alexandra Krosney). Perennially on the road due to his work supervising the shooting of Outdoor Man's illustrious sports catalogue, Mike always finds he's the last person the women in his life turn to for advice and/or support, whether it's babysitting Kristin's son (Kristin: "Not Dad, Boyd only knows like six words and half of them are 'I blame Obamacare!'") or soothing teenage wounds (a distraught Mandy: "Travis said that 'Glee' is dumb." Mike: "What's 'Glee?'").
Even worse, Mike's boss Ed (the always great Hector Elizondo) informs him they're phasing out the catalogue completely ("I need this company to be viable 100 years from now so I'll have a place to come back to when they unfreeze my head," he quips). Mike's new task: revamping the company's lackluster website. Grounded for the time being, Mike however sees it as an opportunity to get closer to his daughters, all of whom he deems needing his manly advice. This of course leads to the expected mishaps as Mike pulls Boyd out of his "Hippie Hippie Rainbow" daycare; tries to set up Mandy with one of his employees; and tells soccer star Eve to show no mercy against the boys, even if she has a crush on one of them. Ultimately, just when he thinks he's managed alienate them completely - not to mention blow up any opportunity to save his old job - some unexpected seeds bear fruit.
What works: It might as well be episode 205 of "Home Improvement" and that's not necessarily a bad thing as Allen slips into Mike's crotchety, misogyny-adjacent, the-world-is-falling-apart-because-men-are-no-longer-men persona like a glove. He bemoans soccer ("That's just Europe's covert war for the hearts and minds of America's kids."), tries to tell time using the sun and grounds his daughter for not knowing how to change a tire. Hell, he even gets his own quasi-"Tool Time" outlet by the end of the episode. All that's missing is Allen's trademark grunting. It's all relatively harmless, boy-remember-they-used-to-make-sitcoms-like-this comfort food.
What doesn't: A joke in which Mike suggests Boyd's choice of daycare could lead him to "dancing on a float" definitely feels off-color although thankfully Kristin calls him out on it.
The bottom line: For better or worse, it's exactly what you're expecting.