Laughter Suppression: ‘Last Man’ Gets Political

Part of me sort of admires the idea behind the season premiere of ABC’s “Last Man Standing.” Knowing the show was being held until Nov. 2 — days before the presidential election — they’ve churned out an episode about voting, with Tim Allen’s conservative character, Mike, trying to convince his younger daughter to vote for Mitt Romney, while his liberal older kid pushes for President Obama.

LastmanstandingThe execution, alas, just made me desperately pine for the days of “All in the Family.”

Then again, that was a different era, and it was perhaps easier to reduce political talking points to a collection of one-liners. Here, it’s a litany of lame gags, trying too hard to even-handedly dispense barbs at both sides.

Here’s Mike on Obama’s history, referencing the South Side of Chicago: “It runs like a watch down there. You can’t wear one….” Or griping about Democrats taking tax money to fund “gay weddings for illegal aliens.”

On the flip side, the daughter references Romney’s opposition to Obamacare, calls him a robot, and makes a joke about him strapping his dog to the roof. Clearly, someone has been reading Gail Collins‘ New York Times columns.

Finally, there’s Mike’s wife (Nancy Travis), who refuses to discuss her vote in order to maintain harmony in the household. It’s all treated like a big joke, but struck me as perhaps the most tone-deaf element of the half-hour — as if the little woman has to keep her politics secret, lest she unleash a whole new slew of arguments for her, Papa Bear and the Baby Bears. Hilarious!

Such exchanges can work, at least potentially, when they flow out of the characters. Here, they sound about as convincing as two talking heads (excuse me, “political strategists”) exchanging jabs during a typical midday joust on one of the cable-news networks.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with a sitcom trying to be about something. But this just feels like a crass marketing tie-in — cashing in on the happenstance of scheduling and the proximity to the election.

There’s been a lot of talk about voter suppression during this election season, and the episode does include a message to get out and participate, whatever one’s views.

If only “Last Man Standing” promoted some laughter.

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  1. Cyrus says:

    @ Tim Doyle. I watched the first episode it was horrible. The second episode was just not much better. Amanda Fuller is a horrible actress and a terrible replacement. Most people like to watch LMS to decompress, not to be engaged in a political conversation. Tim just admit you made a mistake in your format and casting changes. If you read all the fans reviews you would see no one is happy. Keep on this path and the show is guaranteed to be canceled. Let us know when you “wake up” and I will set me DVR to record LMS. As for now “BYE”.

  2. Tim Doyle says:

    Brian,
    In the famous words of T-Swizzle: “why ya gotta be so mean?”. This was our first at-bat trying to lurch a very old fashioned 90s-style show in a more relevant direction by including some real wold content. We still had to work within the limitations of the form and the format we inherited. Please watch a couple more episodes and tell me that we haven’t improved LMS substantially from last year.
    Best,
    Tim Doyle

  3. Movieluver77 says:

    I also have a feeling that the changes in casting and personalities of the characters had to do with trying to grab more of the 18-49 demographic, especially the lower end. Easier for them to relate to an older Kristen who is pro-Obama and has more attitude, played by an actress whose previous role was on a show focused squarely in that demographic.

  4. Movieluver77 says:

    I disagree on two points. First, I don’t think Vanessa was playing the “little woman” that has to keep her politics a secret. She seemed to get a kick out of keeping her vote a secret as if to tease Mike and Kristen. Second, I don’t think it was really shooting for “even-handedly” dishing out the barbs–just look at all the angry comments in the discussion on the show’s page at ABC.

  5. This Titanic blunder can be directly traced to the Sony exec who canned the original daughter and brought on the sub who totally obliterated the once brilliant comedic chemistry of one of my “can’t miss” shows! Fire the Sony phoney and bring back the original, or there will be “man the lifeboats” big -time.

  6. Brent88 says:

    You also fail to mention that it was a horrible episode to use to intro the replacement cast. Not only did the characters come off very unlikeable, the entire idea of recasting the roles was a horrible flop. The new Kristen character looks old enough that she could be a fun loving aunt. Poor new direction of the show and I agree — a half hearted attempt at an episode on voting. Made Allen’s character look like an idiot.

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