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Last Man Standing: Season 4

Other // Unrated // October 6, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 28, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The thing about Tim Allen is that he never really managed to break free from the two roles of Tim Taylor ("Home Improvement") and Buzz Lightyear. Allen certainly has done well over the years, but never really broke out of his displayed range. "Last Man Standing" sees the actor back on the small screen to good effect, although that's not entirely surprising given that the role is effectively a few roles removed from his "Home Improvement" persona.

The series (which was originally titled "Man Up" - that's not much better than "Last Man Standing", but at least gets more of a chuckle) stars Allen as Mike Baxter, the head of the creatively titled "Outdoor Man" company. Mike is politically conservative and, given the title, is the one male in a house full of women, including three daughters - his oldest daughter Kristin (a single mother), his middle daughter Mandy (a dim teenager whose main concern is popularity) and his youngest daughter Eve (a tomboy who takes after her father. Nancy Travis (nice to see her on-screen again) plays Jill Taylor, er, I mean Vanessa, Mike's wife who - of course, because this is a sitcom - sees through everything he tries to do. There's also Mike's boss, Ed (Hector Elizondo, always good) and Kyle (Christoph Sanders), a dim, but well-meaning employee who looks up to Mike but the two couldn't be more opposite. Of course, Kyle gets involved with Mike's daughter.

The series doesn't make any qualms about not reinventing the wheel. The daughters are set in their "types" and don't venture too far out of them, Allen doesn't venture out of his comfort zone and Nancy Travis as wife Vanessa is thankfully less of a "What did you do now?" sitcom wife than Patricia Richardson - who always had to be exasperated every week on "Home Improvement" - was. While the series is comfort food in a new wrapper, the risks that cable is taking have spoiled me a little when presented with a sitcom that feels overly familiar.

The fourth season of the series is more of the same, as can be expected with one of ABC's Friday night comedies. Even the promising (and occasionally funny) "Dr. Ken" feels at times as if it's overly concerned with taking risks in an attempt to not be offensive. Wholesome, family comedy is something that is really needed in any era, but the shows that I grew up with - "Family Ties", any number of others - all took risks, examined subjects that were at times difficult and often did so in a thoughtful, memorable manner. However, these shows also offered viewers sharp, witty comedy and overall, they had a dynamic range that shows unfortunately don't seem to have these days.

That's not to say that "Dr. Ken" and "Last Man Standing" aren't occasionally funny (although more the former than the latter), but there's a difference between being funny and memorable. Shows like these get some chuckles, but they're not satisfying; they don't stick with you. I'm not going to be thinking about "Last Man Standing" - or really any of the family comedies that I can think of these days - in the manner that I think about some shows from the 1980's. Perhaps at some point the question becomes what does the future of network television even look like in 10 or 20 years, especially when "...earlier this year (Google) noted that Youtube viewing time had jumped 60%, year over year, and that mobile viewing time had doubled. Television, meanwhile, has been holding steady only with viewers age 50 and up, while the 25-to-34 cohort spent 8.6% less time watching it last quarter than a year earlier, according to Nielsen. Over four years, that group's viewing time is down nearly 24%." ( It's not even that audiences will go elsewhere "at some point", it's already happening.

"Last Man Standing" did have some shifts throughout the earlier seasons including multiple showrunners, but the series continues to remain consistent in the fourth round of episodes. The series does offer a rather fun little nod to "Home Improvement" in the episode, "Helen Potts", where Allen's former co-star Patricia Richardson guest stars as a neighbor whose husband was not exactly skilled when it came to home improvement projects. The episode also has a guest star spot from former "Home Improvement" co-star Jonathan Taylor Thomas, as well as a nod to Allen's "Improvement" neighbor, Wilson.

Some highlights this season include: "Changing Light Bulbs" (After Mike's last 75-watt incandescent light bulb burns out, he and Chuck go on a mission to unexpected places to try and find a replacement), "Helen Potts" (a "Home Improvement" reunion of sorts), "Mandy's Party" (when Mike and Vanessa unexpectedly head home early, they find that Mandy was planning to throw a party with underage drinking) and "Big Brother", where Kyle heads off to Vegas for a bachelor party.

"Last Man Standing" generates some laughs at times and wants badly to be liked and be likable, but in an attempt to be wholly inoffensive, it manages to remain somewhat bland and forgettable.

65. 03 Oct 14 Here's the Kicker
66. 03 Oct 14 War Games
67. 10 Oct 14 Rediscover America
68. 17 Oct 14 Sinkhole
69. 24 Oct 14 School Merger
70. 31 Oct 14 Mike Advises Mandy
71. 07 Nov 14 Big Shots
72. 14 Nov 14 Risky Behavior
73. 21 Nov 14 Changing Light Bulbs
74. 05 Dec 14 Outdoor Man Grill
75. 12 Dec 14 Wedding Planning
76. 09 Jan 15 Helen Potts
77. 16 Jan 15 Mike Hires Chuck
78. 30 Jan 15 Eve's Breakup
79. 06 Feb 15 Big Brother
80. 20 Feb 15 Three Sundays
81. 27 Feb 15 Kyle's Friend
82. 13 Mar 15 Mandy's Party
83. 20 Mar 15 Summer Internship
84. 03 Apr 15 Restaurant Opening
85. 10 Apr 15 Vanessa Fixes Up Eve
86. 17 Apr 15 Daddy Dearest
The DVD:

Video: "Last Man Standing" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is basically very comparable to what's seen very week on digital cable. The image is never razor sharp, but appears pleasantly crisp and clean, with little in the way of flaws. Colors look bright and lively, with no smearing or other faults.

Audio: Basic, dialogue-driven 2.0 audio.

Extras: Zip, zero. Commentary or anything else would have been nice, but this remains another barebones release for the series.

Final Thoughts: "Last Man Standing" gets some laughs, but it feels like a product to fill a time slot (and eventual syndication) rather than something richer or more memorable than that. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, but once again, zip extras. Rent it.
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