Sitcom Scorecard: ‘Last Man Standing’ & ‘Man Up’

Two more network sitcoms have premiered, both of them on ABC. Can Tim Allen resurrect his TV career? Are we ready for yet another sitcom where a bunch of grown men act like giant man-babies? Let’s see how ‘Last Man Standing’ and ‘Man Up’ fare on the Sitcom Scorecard.

‘Last Man Standing’

Tuesdays at 8:00PM EST/PST
Network: ABC
Stars: Tim Allen and Nancy Travis

Pilot Episode Thoughts: Let’s see, Tim Allen stars in a show with three children, a neurotic wife and a job where he works with manly tools. Nope, ‘Home Improvement’ didn’t get resurrected, but ‘Last Man Standing’ is ABC’s attempt to bring Allen back to TV. It’s almost as if Allen wouldn’t agree to come back unless the network could find a familiar project for him.

‘Last Man Standing’ is just ‘Home Improvement’ with three daughters instead of three sons. Rather than own his own tool business, Allen works at a recreational store that caters to dudes who like to do manly things in the great outdoors. To make matters worse, it’s a traditional sitcom with multiple cameras, a stagnant set that we peer into from the same angles and a laugh track. I’m really surprised that there isn’t a faceless next door neighbor who peers over the fence and gives Tim sage wisdom for his life.

Am I wrong to think that child actor twins Evan and Luke Kruntchev, who play the grandson in the show, will be even more messed up from being on this show than in Showtime’s ‘Dexter’, where they play Harrison?

What a waste of precious time ‘Last Man Standing’ is. It’s ‘Home Improvement’ reheated with daughters instead of sons. That’s it. End of story.

Prediction: It’s hard to say, but I think ‘Last Man Standing’ gets canceled before the end of its season. The variable at work here is Tim Allen’s all-American presence that people seem to flock to. If viewers take a shine to the show like they did ‘Home Improvement’, then watch out.

Grade: D-

‘Man Up’

Tuesdays at 8:30PM EST/PST
Network: ABC
Stars: Christopher Moynihan, Mather Zickel, Henry Simmons, and Dan Fogler

Pilot Episode Thoughts: ‘Man Up’ held a bit of promise from its commercials. It looked like maybe a tamer, network-friendly version of FX’s ‘The League’, where a group of guys casually make jokes at each other’s expense all the while trying to deal with mid-life crises. I had hopes for ‘Man Up’, but the pilot episode crashed and burned.

The gist of the story is that it’s about a group of male buddies. Will (Zickel), Craig (Moynihan) and Kenny (Fogler) are all dealing with life’s problems and have each other to fall back on. They stay up late playing videogames and chatting about life through their console headsets. (Quick Side Note: It’s become a pet peeve of mine to watch people mimic playing videogames in movies or TV shows. No one shakes the controller like they’re having a seizure. Why is this the accepted way of acting on TV when you have a videogame controller in your hand?) Will is a family man, hoping that his son grows up to be a real man. Craig just lost his girlfriend as is heartsick that she’s marrying someone else. Meanwhile, Kenny just got divorced and now has to see his ex-wife nearly every day because she is best friends with Will’s wife.

Dan Fogler is not funny. I know that he thinks he’s the next Chris Farley, that much was evidenced with his spastic fat funny guy role in ‘Take Me Home Tonight’. He only ever has one volume: screechy. He’s always yelling and screaming, and it gets real old real fast. Soon, Grant (Simmons) is introduced as the man dating Kenny’s ex-wife. This was perhaps the absolute worst part of the show. It’s like the creators said, “Okay, you know The Rock and the Old Spice Guy from those commercials? Well, take those two and combine them into the most annoying over-the-top wannabe suave character you can think of.” Wow! I kept waiting for him to drop the act like his character was just messing with everyone. Nope. By the end of the episode, he was still acting like he was selling body wash.

I don’t have much hope for ‘Man Up’. It doesn’t seem to have a strong thread or story to follow. The characters aren’t interesting enough to become invested in, and Fogler is close to unwatchable.

Prediction: There are far too many better single-camera sitcoms out there. ABC has a few of them in ‘Modern Family’, ‘Happy Endings’ and the new surprise ‘Suburgatory’. There’s no room for error, and the pilot episode was less than impressive. If the show doesn’t get its act together, it’ll be canceled soon. People are going to see right through the phony Old Spice Dude imitation.

Grade: D


    • Drew

      I am so fucking pissed about that! ‘New Girl’ my favorite new comedy of the fall season. It was just finding it’s groove with the last episode that aired, and then Fox pulls a fucking Fox and stops airing it!

      Why doesn’t Fox just turn into niche network that doesn’t air any episodic television series? All quality shows could then be divided between the networks that actually do everything possible to ensure their success.

        • Drew

          It sure is, Aaron. This isn’t the first television series that Fox has tried to kill off with the fucking World Series!

          It’s not like Fox didn’t know that they were broadcasting The World Series in October! They could have easily waited until after it was over to start showing ‘New Girl’ and other shows.

          At the very least, they could have been totally upfront about it. They could have ran spots telling the audience, “Only 2 more new episodes left until The World Series.” They could have started showing repeats of the first 3 epidsodes during off days for the WS. There are many other ideas that I’m sure you and I can both think of right now, off the top of our heads.

          Fox doesn’t give a shit. This is what they always do. They put on a quality new show, it becomes popular, and then it completely fucking disappears without Fox ever uttering a single word about it.

          They never make any attempt to keep their shows in the consciousness of the public. They’ll bring back ‘New Girl’ after the WS, and act like it was just airing all along. By then, 25% — at least — of the audience will have forgotten all about it.

          • Fox has already committed to a full season of New Girl. The show hasn’t aired recently due to baseball. Glee and Raising Hope have also not had new episodes in a few weeks.

            As for why Fox didn’t just hold off the premieres until after the World Series… well, they wanted those premiere ratings in September when all of the other networks were also premiering new shows.

            I agree that this does tend to undermine the long-term viewer attachment to the series. On the other hand, if they hadn’t premiered these shows at the start of the September season, what would they air then instead? Repeats? That’s going to lose them a lot of income in September. And the other risk is that viewers would get attached to new shows on other networks and not bother to check out Fox after baseball ended. I don’t know what the “right” solution here is. They certainly aren’t about to give up baseball and just hope for the best with new untested shows instead.

          • Drew

            I’m aware that they have already committed to a full season of New Girl.

            I’m aware of why they start airing new shows during September.

            Those things don’t change a damn thing about what I said initially. Fox is a show killing network! It always have been.

            There are multiple things that they could do to keep new shows like ‘New Girl’ in the consciousness of the public, so that it retains as much of it’s audience as possible, once the WS is over.

            Fox never does anything. It never has!

          • I didn’t intend to contradict what you wrote, Drew. Just trying to fill in the blanks about why networks make decisions that seem counter-intuitive to viewers. I fully agree with you that Fox coudl be doing a lot more to keep these shows in the viewers’ consciousness.

          • Drew

            Okay. We definitely see eye to eye.

            Just seems like Fox makes many more decisions that are counter-intuitive to viewers than any other network.

            Fox knows that they are going to be showing the WS every year in October. They pay many people a very great amount of money to come up with ideas to market their shows, and put them in a position to succeeed. And yet, they consistently fuck up, year after year, after year.

  1. Vinnie

    I’ll admit to sitting through the entire episode of Man Up. If you can pain through every line Dan Fogler ends with a screech (just about every one) there is actually one funny moment in the show when the Old Spice dude/The Rock yells “barracuda!” and spears some dudes. Hell if they change up the show and make it a 22 min show of just that guy yelling random words and tackling random people in random situations it may actually be funny. The other 21 mins of the show were a complete drag.

  2. Between these two and How to Be a Gentleman, I find it mildly interesting that there are suddenly a bunch of shows premiering all at once about men needing to assert (or reclaim) their virility in the face of an emasculating world. Does that say something about our culture in 2011? Or does it say more about insecure sitcom writers?

    • Jane Morgan

      Neo-Manliness originated with ‘Fight Club.’

      It just takes a few years for ideas to trickle down to the sitcom level.

      • King of the Hill predates Fight Club by two years. You can trace a line from Hank Hill to Archie Bunker as well. Male discontent at an evolving world is nothing new to the sitcom world.

        Of course, King of the Hill and All in the Family did it much better than these newer shows.

          • I totally forgot about Palahniuk. And you’re right. Everything does trickle down from literature, but there’s nothing new about the manliness in Fight Club. As with everything American, we copy the British who had the Angry Young Men in the 1950s.