Because Giving Away Air Fresheners is Easier than Making Good Television – Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing

In 2004, Harper’s Magazine published a short essay by the jauntily named Dinty Moore called “The Son of Mr. Green Jeans: A meditation on missing fathers.” It is about fatherhood, what it means to be a man, and is organized rather oddly–it reads alphabetically, like a glossary. Here’s the beginning:

ALLEN, TIM

Best known as the father on ABC’s Home Improvement, the popular comedian was born Timothy Allen Dick on June 13, 1953. When Allen was eleven years old, his father, Gerald Dick, was killed by a drunk driver while driving home from a University of Colorado football game.

BEES

“A man, after impregnating the woman, could drop dead,” Camille Paglia suggested to Tim Allen in a 1995 Esquire interview. “That is how peripheral he is to the whole thing.”
“I’m a drone,” Allen responded. “Like those bees.”
“You are a drone,” Paglia agreed. “That’s exactly right.”

I bring this essay up not only because “The Son of Mr. Green Jeans” is a great read. I bring this essay up because Tim Allen is back on the air and his attitudes are exactly the same as they were in 1995. Let’s test that proposition with a breakdown of Last Man Standing, shall we?

If you keep reading, I promise to finish this post with the best part of his wikipedia page (now that’s a teaser!).

To begin, the announcer ominously intones, “Guess who’s returning home to ABC.” This may matter to ABC executives, or it may be the way Tim Allen pitched this show, but literally nobody in the world is excited about the partnership of Tim Allen and ABC being rekindled. I’m sure ABC is run by entirely different people than it was 15 years ago, and even if it weren’t, nobody cares. It’s a TV channel. Maybe people care about Tim Allen. Maybe. But nobody cares about the alleged Tim Allen + ABC = TV MAGIC equation.

Allen, looking directly into the camera, asks, “What happened to men?” Nothing! They’re still the same. I promise you. But don’t worry, Tim’s being run through a gauntlet of emasculation, which includes, in order:

  • Driving a minivan while his wife drives a  truck
  • Holding a baby… in public!
  • A male of some relation to him going to a tanning salon
  • His daughter crying because someone said Glee is dumb
  • His daughter being a single mom, but saying she doesn’t need a man
  • A daughter crying and running towards him
  • Having to listen to women

And that’s pretty much the entire premise of this show. Tim Allen’s life is ruined by women who for the most part do normal human things. I mean, I’m sure he’ll learn lessons from them about Listening and Caring, Having Feelings, and all that–but clearly this is just setting up for Tim Allen to be mad that boys nowadays play soccer, which, as we all know, is for pussies and Europeans. Real men get DUIs, dammit!

A few other bad signs before we take off for the weekend:

  • Tim Allen calling it “courageous” to reboot a TV concept and star the way ABC is doing with Last Man. Because there’s nothing more courageous than a deeply unoriginal show with a has-been as its lead. Awesome!
  • A Hollywood Reporter article noting that, “To capitalize on the Tim Allen comedy’s “manly man” theme, the network is handing out barbecue chicken-scented Allen air fresheners at hardware stores, gyms and auto-parts stores. Football games will host show-themed food trucks and “man caves.”Methinks the Tim Allen sitcom doth protest too much. If everywhere you go, you have to talk about how manly you are, maybe, just maybe, you were never that manly to begin with. I’m also pretty compelled by the meeting held among the ad execs, the selfsame sleek metrosexuals obsessed with style over substance that are ostensibly the exact enemies of Tim Allen’s brand of humor. It probably went something like this:Guy in fancy suit #1: “OK, so what is it that those brain-dead morons like?”Guy in fancy suit #2: “Murdering each others with large, brown clubs? Pterodactyl meat?”

    Guy in fancy suit #1: “Eh, a little too primal. What else we got?”

    Guy in fancy suit #2: “Football! Man caves! Hardware stores!”

    Guy in fancy suit #1: “And pumping iron! And barbecuing!”

    Guy in fancy suit #2: “Let’s do some coke and call it a day!”

  • Tim does not do a good job assuaging concerns that Last Man Standing will be unoriginal and clichéd with this: “When I started standup, it seems like a forever ago, my act hasn’t changed much.”
  • According to a press release, “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.” AND “you can’t get manlier” than Tim Allen’s character. Again, if you have to say how manly you are, you really aren’t that manly, are you? It’s just one of those things. But the part about man’s rightful place in society?I mean, being strong and physically imposing isn’t as valuable as it once was, nor is the ability to kill a bear using only your thumbs. But a man is still welcome to enjoy hunting, football, and whatever other stereotypically manly things he wants. Just because other men prefer tanning salons or watching Titanicor whatever, doesn’t preclude you from doing as you please.Men don’t get automatic domain over their households anymore either–but really, if you’re a man who takes care of his family, treats people at home and at work with respect, and still finds nobody appreciates it, the manly thing to do is to suck it up.
  • This show inspired a writer to opine that Last Man Standing‘s problem is that it’s not mean enough to women. It also excerpts this rant from the show, which in light of his own father’s role in his life is particularly haunting:

What happened to men? Men used to build cities just so they could burn them down. They used to get a haircut from a guy named Hank. Modern men, what do you do? You run from things, from responsibility, from fatherhood. You can’t even change a tire!

Chilling. I think it’s probably inappropriate for me to speculate how Tim Allen’s own father’s tragic death influenced him, but I mean, there’s mention of inadequate car care right in there. I’m really kinda shaken by this.

Alright, I promised. Here’s the best two sentences from Tim Allen’s Wikipedia. Happy weekend!

On October 2, 1978, Allen was arrested in the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for possession of over 650 grams (1.4 lb) of cocaine. He subsequently pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges, and provided the names of other dealers in exchange for a sentence of three to seven years rather than a possible life imprisonment.

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