THE SERIES "Last Man Standing"
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on Fox/5
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) is marketing director for Denver-based sporting goods store Outdoor Man, while his family long ago adapted to (or embraced) his right-wing views. Youngest daughter Eve (Kaitlyn Dever, now in a recurring role) is enrolled at the Air Force Academy. She is like-minded. Middle daughter Mandy (now played by Molly McCook, replacing Molly Ephraim), isn't quite sure where she stands but almost certainly not on dad's side; she's married to Kyle (Christoph Sanders), who also works at Outdoor Man. Wife Vanessa (Nancy Travis) mostly tends to humor Mike. In the season opener, oldest daughter Kristin (Amanda Fuller) and husband Ryan (Jordan Masterson) consider moving to Canada. Then their son Boyd (now played by Jet Jurgensmeyer) goes missing. He's upset by all the political arguments in his midst.
MY SAY Critic-proof, foolproof and apparently network-proof as well, "Last Man Standing" finally returns for that long-awaited seventh season on Fox, with conservative cred intact along with an unmistakable whiff of triumphalism.
The opening minutes will tell you that much. Here's the setup: Mike walks in on Kyle, who is trying to find his favorite show on TV, but failing that, he decides that it must have been canceled.
Kyle: "Why would they cancel a show that everybody loves?"
Mike: "Maybe they're a bunch of idiots."
Kyle keeps searching, then finds it on another channel. "Am I wrong but it seems way better on this network!" he says.
Mike: "It's pretty rare [a show jumps networks] but this one must have a lot of loyal, kick-ass fans."
Touché, or told ya so, but Mike's not wrong. "LMS" did have them, prompting an unusual — OK, huge — fan backlash after ABC canceled it following the sixth season. A petition drive was launched, then the "Roseanne" revival established a demand for antiquated, beloved and conservatively flavored sitcoms. Fox, which owned the production anyway, picked up the seventh season tab.
And so, welcome back, "Last Man." Maybe — most likely not — the ABC execs who canceled this modest hit were a bunch of idiots, but always remember that TV is about the money, not the politics. Because Fox found a more profitable way to continue, the show is back.
Nevertheless, "Last Man Standing" is that unusual red fish in a sea crowded with blue ones, and it never lets you forget that. As always and as expected, Mike gets the best lines, the easiest put-downs and literally the last word, specifically his show-ending vlog that he produces for Outdoor Man.
On the Friday opener's vlog wrap, for example, he has an uncharacteristic kumbaya moment, insisting that everyone just needs to set aside their political differences and listen to each other. "If nobody's talking, if nobody's learning, then good shows get canceled. We unfriend, unlike and unfollow instead of trying to understand each other ..."
Mike then, naturally, reverts back to Mike: "It doesn't matter what side you're on, except one side literally has the word 'right' in it." (Ba-dum!)
"Standing" and its star obviously haven't changed an iota during their enforced hiatus, and if anything, have doubled down. Like the "Roseanne" 2.0 launch — also a sitcom microcosm of the divide between Trump supporters and antagonists — the president is never mentioned in the season opener but doesn't have to be. He's here in spirit.
Meanwhile, Tim Allen looks especially pleased during these opening minutes and episodes. Well he should be. He's got his bullhorn back.
BOTTOM LINE Amusing, with tongue planted just firmly enough in its cheek to take the edge off, "Last Man Standing" nevertheless proudly and loudly remains TV's rare (if not only) Red State sitcom.