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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Not "Voting" for Last Man Standing

After suffering through a number of episodes of season one of ABC's Last Man Standing, waiting for something to change, I finally gave up on the hope that it might get good. Still, Tim Allen has significant sitcom chops, and so I was curious enough to check back in on the premiere of season two to see if it had gotten any better.

It has not.

The problem is just a severe lack of funny. There are talented actors performing convincing roles, but that doesn't mean I want to laugh at them. Besides Allen the casts boasts Nancy Travis, Kaitlyn Dever, Hector Elizondo, and others who have proved their worth before. They are wasted here.

I will give credit to the season premiere, "Voting," that it does not just bash a political party. Patriarch Mike (Allen) fills his yard with Romney signs, but is disturbed to learn that his eldest daughter, Kristin (Amanda Fuller, Grey's Anatomy), and the father of her child, Ryan (Jordan Masterson), are Obama fans. He just doesn't see any reason for it, and is even more upset when middle daughter, Mandy (Molly Ephraim), is swayed to their side.

But in the end, Mike is proud to realize he has raised strong, independently-thinking women, and decides not to give them crap for voting for whoever they want to vote for, even driving Mandy to the polls. This is a nice message, and one hopefully a lot of Republican-leaning parents will see and remember when dealing with their Democrat-voting children, as there does seem to be a trend of a generational divide in many families.

I like that "Voting" does not single out either position as terrible. Mike and Kristin lob plenty of criticisms of the candidate they do not favor, but avoids turning it too ugly. They set a good example for their viewers by not letting it dissolve into the seriously depressing hate fest politics current are. The problem is, there aren't any good jokes to go with this plot.

I also am not a fan of the recasting. Replacing Nick Jonas with Masterson feels OK because Jonas only guest starred in a single episode, even though the character badly just forces himself into the group chemistry, pretending he's always been there, when he has not earned that right.. And hiring new children to play Kristin's son is a necessary evil that many television programs do, aging the child quickly and finding more capable performers to handle the demands. But Fuller neither looks nor acts like Alexandra Krosney, who played Kristin for the entire first season, so this is a jarring misstep. And Krosney was better.

The biggest disappointment continues to be with Vanessa. While I adore Nancy Travis, she is totally underused, and when she is present, it's for gags that fall flat. Her cheery "mysteriousness" in "Voting," where she refuses to tell anyone in the family who she supports in the election, is terrible. None of the other characters seem amused by it, and this viewer was not, either.

Could Last Man Standing still be saved? Yes. There are elements here that could be tweaked and make the series worth watching. But after an entire year, and a completely unimproved, even worse, season two premiere, the odds are that these changes will never be made. Banishing the series to Friday means it might not be around much longer, anyway.

Last Man Standing airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

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