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Heather’s 2011 TV Goodness All-Stars: Last Man Standing’s Tim Allen 

Photo Credit: Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC

Y’all are going to have to just go with me on this. Home Improvement still stands up as a highly watchable, and frequently very funny, family sitcom and it’s been lore for years that the networks have desperately tried to get Tim Allen back on TV every year since HI folded shop in 1999. I love that ABC finally won him over, and that he essentially put the band back together behind the scenes, bringing with him longtime director and creative partner John Pasquin.

Last Man Standing isn’t rocket science. It plants Allen squarely in his comfort zone. Instead of a public access tool show, this time he’s Mike Baxter, the guy who brought a Gander Mountain-type outdoor store owned by his buddy (played by Hector Elizondo) into the Internet age. Every week, he does a webcast for the store that taps into the crisis du jour going on at home. And that’s where the twist occurs. By day, Mike is in testosterone heaven, and by night, he get a hormonal 180 from his loving wife (who is very successful on her own, as the mom in HI was), two teenage daughters, and his eldest twentysomething daughter who is also the mother of a toddler and still lives at home.

He landed a coup with the casting of both Nancy Travis as Mike’s wife, Vanessa, and Kaitlyn Dever as his tomboy youngest daughter, Eve. Travis is awesome at comedy, going toe to toe with Allen and sometimes having to bite her lip not to break up on camera. And while I’ve seen criticism that Dever is wasted here after her breakout role in Justified, I say, “shut it—she’s building a trust fund.”

Allen’s legacy from HI is notable in that all three kids who played his sons have gone on to have good lives, out of the Hollyweird spotlight, even teen pinup Jonathan Taylor Thomas. It’s an awesome prospect for the three lovely gals playing the Baxter girls.

I like that Allen isn’t breaking the mold here—he’s still crusty and funny, and sensitive when he has to be. I love that he could phone anything in at this point in his career but he’s back doing this every week in front of an audience, and giving a lot of other people, including comedy writers, jobs. That sounds hokey, but it matters, and it’s a pretty legitimate prediction that the show will run as long as Allen wants it to. It was given a full season almost immediately after it aired.

As for us at home, I find the show to be familiar comfort food. There are usually a couple of laugh out loud, double over, run it back, and laugh again moments every week, and fewer and fewer sitcoms can do that all the time. I’m glad there’s still a place for a show like this.

Thanks for coming back, Tim!

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