The ABC-TV sitcom Last Man Standing returns tonight for its fourth season on the alphabet network, with two half-hour episodes beginning at 8:00 EDT. The series, starring comedy stalwarts Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, and Hector Elizondo with a talented cast of supporting players, takes place in Colorado and posits Allen as Mike Baxter, marketing director for a chain of sporting-goods stores. He and his wife, Vanessa (Travis), have three daughters, ranging in age from post-college to high school. Baxter’s boss, Ed Alzate (Elizondo) is an amusingly self-centered but still likable character, whereas Outdoor Man employee Kyle Anderson (Christoph Sanders) frustrates Mike with his amazing naivete and general cluelessness.
Vanessa is a successful geologist and regularly engages in witty repartee with Mike. Eldest daughter Kristin is attempting to put her life together after having an illegitimate child at the age of 19. She’s now working at an upscale restaurant. Middle child Mandy (Molly Ephraim) has always been uninterested in school but is very attractive and highly skilled in social situations. Starting late in season three she takes up fashion design and finds that she has great unexpected gifts as an entrepreneur. Notably, the show presents her entrepreneurship as a highly laudable thing, especially once she decides to finish college so that she can use the skills to grow her business further. Younger daughter Eve (Kaitlyn Dever) is a tomboy who loves sports and the military—she takes ROTC in school—but also has found out that boys are attracted to her and can be counted on for favors or merely as foils at whose expense she can amuse herself. Her interest in the outdoors and the military earn her a special place in Mike’s heart.
An unusual element of the show is Mike’s political beliefs, which are Tea Party conservative and are presented as reasonable views even though Mike is occasionally overly strident in presenting them and some of the characters oppose him openly on his beliefs. Mike is no Archie Bunker, however, no straw man set up for the show’s “reasonable” progressive-liberal characters (his eldest daughter and her boyfriend) to knock down handily. On the contrary, Mike usually gets the best of these arguments, and he is a very good father and is highly accomplished at his job.
One of the highlights of the show each week is Mike’s online advertisements for Outdoor Man, which typically take the form of musings, from a political perspective, on the issues brought up by the troubles the various characters run into in the course of an episode. Another highlight is the conversations between Mike and his father, Bud Baxter (Robert Forster), who is making big money running a legal marijuana store, this being Colorado.
Allen, of course, has had huge success in theatrical movies after his highly rated ABC comedy Home Improvement, and Last Man Standing reflects Allen’s skill, taste, and professionalism in every aspect. The characters are enjoyable to be around, the jokes are smart and funny, and the situations are amusing, recognizable, and true to life. It’s a solid comedy, well worth watching.
Seasons one and two of Last Man Standing are available to stream on Netflix, and ABC allows streaming of the most recent episode at the show’s website, http://abc.go.com/shows/last-man-standing.