Archive | 4:30 pm

Fall 2011 Review: Last Man Standing

19 Oct

Let’s compare bad new sitcoms.  If Whitney and 2 Broke Girls are trying to be something vaguely new, with women occupying the tradition space of men on sitcoms, Last Man Standing is trying to be almost as retro as possible.  I almost though I heard Tim Allen bellow “More Power” once or twice as the resemblance to his Home Improvement character is striking.  This character is more crotchety though and the show is supposed to be everything a “classic” sitcom from before this decade is, whether that’s good, or bad.  Of course, in most cases, like this one, it’s bad.

Tim Allen portrays Mike Baxter, who is a manly man in the most stereotypical ways.  He loves cars, shooting things, and the outdoors.  He hates anything that reeks of hippies, or gays, or anything crying.  He must tangle with his beliefs as he has to deal with a family full of women, and he tries to relate to them as best he can.  In the first episode, it’s revealed he had previously spent a lot of time travelling away from his family, but due to change of responsibilities at his job and his wife getting a promotion, he’s sticking around which means more time spent dealing with all the women in his life.  In his job, he’s assigned to work on the new web site for his outdoor company.  He’s got to learn what young and female people are into.

While watching, I quickly invented what I’m calling the Last Man Standing drinking game.  First, take a drink every time Tim Allen doesn’t recognize something from the last 10 years or so.  What’s Glee, he wonders at one point.  Who’s Lord Voldemort, he is confused.  What’s a vlog, he asks his wife.  Second, take a drink every time Tim Allen knocks something for being unmanly.  A man in a tanning salon?  Drink!  Soccer practice – a European sport!  Drink!  Calling kids all champs!  Drink!  Once or twice he gets very dangerously close to straight out knocking gays; I was uncomfortable watching him skirt the line but not quite saying it openly.  Third, take a drink every time Tim Allen resents the fact that the world doesn’t work a certain way any more.  People can’t change their own tires anymore.  Men play fantasy football instead of regular football.  Men used to build cities just to burn them down (yeah, that’s a real one).  These are novel observations, folks.  The only problem with this game is that you’d be hard pressed not to be hammered by halfway through the episode.

It’s painful to watch sometimes and Tim Allen skates close to not just saying obvious cliché lines (his wife wants him to drive the minivan instead of the truck – did he hear that right?)  but lines that border on making reasonable people uncomfortable with his extreme positions.  Last Man Standing tries to play Mike’s crotchety-ness as an in-joke within the show to make it seem a little more modern.  Even though he’s ridiculously old-fashioned, the other characters in the show try to point out that even to them, his family, he’s a little bit nuts, as they do a “here he goes again” type of comment when he starts on a rant.  It doesn’t really help though.  I don’t know if this type of humor was ever funny; whether when this stereotype was first created it seemed novel or hilarious but it certainly isn’t now.

Oh, and a quick shout out to the inclusion of young star in the making Kaitlyn Dever as Tim’s youngest kid.  Dever previously played Megan Mullaly’s daugther Escapade in a Party Down episode and Loretta in a recurring role on Justified.

Will I watch it again?  No.  I was done with this one from about five minutes.  It’s schtick is apparent from the start and the only appeal could be if you’re extremely nostalgic about stock sitcoms from eras of yore.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Kristin Lehman

19 Oct

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Like Kari Matchett, who we profiled earlier, Kristin Lehman is a Canadian actress who grew up on some of the same Canadian TV shows before breaking into the American scene.  Her TV career began with an episode of Michael Chiklis series The Commish in 1995.  She appeared in four episodes of Canadian vampire drama Forever Knight next, and in single episodes of Canadian crime drama Due South and Canadian series F/X: The Series, based on the ‘80s movie of the same name.  She then showed up in six episodes of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, a sequel to ‘70s show Kung Fu, both starring David Carradine.

She acted in two separate episodes of The Outer Limits, and would go on to do two more later, and then in one episode of Canadian science fiction series PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (we’re leaning a lot about Canadian TV today – isn’t it cute that they have their own shows?).  After one Earth: Final Conflict and one Once A Thief, she moved onto American TV with a guest spot in fifth season X-Files episode “Kill Switch.”  In the episode, Lehman portrayed Esther Nain, a hacker with the alias of Invisigoth.  She works with Mulder and Scully to help stop an evil Artificial Intelligence which uses electronic devices everywhere to destroy its targets.  Lehman’s character is killed at the end, possibly helping to take out the evil AI in the process.

Lehman next co-starred in Canadian horror series Poltergeist: The Legaacy.  She appeared in two seasons.  She then co-starred in short-lived series Strange World, airing on ABC and created by Heroes creator Tim Kring and X-Files producer Howard Gordon about a military investigation into science and technology gone wrong.  She appeared in four Felicitys and co-starred in the extremely short-lived NBC series Go Fish starring Kieran Culkin as a high school student; Lehman played an English teacher.  She was in one UC: Undercover before getting a major recurring role on Judging Amy.  She was in 20 episodes as Dr. Lily Reddicker, a no-nonsense hospital chief of staff who takes a chance hiring Amy’s cousin.  She appeared in TV movie Verdict in Blood and an episode of the new Twilight Zone before getting another chance to star in TVTDOTN favorite Century City.  She played Lee May Bristol, a lawyer who was also part of a special project to allow certain genetically engineered humans, of which she was one, out into society.  She was in two episodes of Andromeda and one episode each of UPN Taye Diggs show Kevin Hill and Canadian comedy Puppets Who Kill.

She next co-starred in the nine episodes of one season ESPN original series Tilt, about the world of high-stakes poker playing.  She plays a woman known as “Miami” whose real name is Ellen and who is one of many in the show trying to take down big-time poker player and criminal Don “The Matador” Everest played by Michael Madsen.  The same year she played Francesca in G-Spot, a Canadian comedy series which aired on E! in the states.  She next co-starred in one season Fox drama Killer Instinct as Detective Danielle Carter, partner to Johnny Messner’s Detective Jack Hale who worked together to solve unusual crimes in San Francisco.  She was also in four TV movies around this time, Playing House, Burnt Toast, Damages and Rapid Fire, and then appeared in two Prison Break episodes in 2006.

She co-starred again in the short-lived Nathan Fillion Fox series Drive as Corina Wiles, partner to Fillion’s Alex Tully.  She appeared in Lifetime miniseries The Gathering with Peter Fonda, Peter Gallagher and Jamie Lynn Sigler.  She then took a couple of years off before showing up in one episode of Human Target and in her current role, co-starring in The Killing as Gwen Eaton, who is a close campaign advisor for Seattle mayoral candidate Darren Richmond and is sleeping with him at the same time leading to tension over the course of the campaign and the season.  She’ll be back in the role next season, though who knows if anyone will be watching after the last few episodes of The Killing’s first season.