Monday, October 10, 2011

ABC Fall Pilot Review: Last Man Standing - Premieres October 11; Rules of Engagement Back On Thursdays, Gentleman Canceled And Sent to Saturdays

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing - Tuesdays 8:00PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 8:00 & 8:30PM ET/PT

You can't get manlier than Mike Baxter. He loves to have adventures while he's traveling for work and, of course, he drives a pick-up truck. But Mike is about to find out that it's not a man's world anymore. While he might be king of the hill at work at an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, he's the odd man out in a home dominated by his wife and three daughters (ages 13, 17 and 20). Today it's a woman's world, and this man's man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society.


Cast Details:

* Tim Allen as Mike Baxter
* Nancy Travis as Vanessa Baxter
* Alexandra Krosney as Kristin Baxter
* Molly Ephraim as Mandy Baxter
* Kaitlyn Dever as Eve Baxter
* Christoph Sanders as Kyle
* Hector Elizondo as Ed

Tim Allen (Mike Baxter) was last heard on the big screen reprising his role as Buzz Lightyear in Disney/Pixar's 2010 smash hit, Toy Story 3. That year he also made his feature film directorial debut with the independent comedy Crazy on the Outside, in which he also stars alongside Jeanne Tripplehorn, Sigourney Weaver, J.K. Simmons and Ray Liotta. Allen honed his talents as a stand-up comic throughout the '80s, providing the lead-in to his highly successful ABC series Home Improvement, in which he garnered a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy nomination, and was honored with the People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a Television Series an unprecedented eight years in a row. In 1999, in the final season of Home Improvement, Allen was honored with the TV Guide Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Series. He made his film debut in 1994 in the blockbuster hit The Santa Clause, earning another People's Choice Award. The film turned into a franchise with two more installments made in recent years. He gave voice to Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, and starred in Jungle 2 Jungle with Martin Short and For Richer or Poorer with Kirstie Alley. Allen then reprised his role as Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 2, and in addition starred in Galaxy Quest, opposite Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman. Some of Allen's other film credits include 20th Century Fox's Joe Somebody, opposite Jim Belushi, Christmas with the Kranks, opposite Jamie Lee Curtis, Zoom, opposite Courntey Cox, and in 2007 Allen starred opposite John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy in Wild Hogs. In a brief return to television in April 2003, Allen's Tool Time pals, Debbe Dunning and Richard Karn, joined him on stage for the live event ABC special, Tim Allen Presents: A User's Guide to Home Improvement.

Nancy Travis (Vanessa) starred on TBS' hit comedy The Bill Engvall Show for three seasons and was recently seen in several television movies, including Hallmark Channel's Safe Harbor, NBC's A Walk in My Shoes and Lifetime's original movies Pregnancy Pact and The Party Never Stops: Diary of a Binge Drinker. She has also guest-starred on an episode of Numb3rs. Travis made her feature film debut in the blockbuster comedy Three Men and a Baby, and has added to her film credits with roles in The Jane Austen Book Club, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Internal Affairs, Air America, Three Men and a Little Lady, So I Married an Axe Murderer, The Vanishing, Greedy, Fluke, Destiny Turns on the Radio and Bogie. On the small screen, she starred in the long running series Becker with Ted Danson, Almost Perfect for CBS, and in the television movies My Last Love and Fallen Angels.

Alexandra Krosney (Kristin) fell in love with acting at musical theater camp as a child. After doing several independent films, plays and working as a model, she got her first role on the Fox sitcom The Grubbs, starring alongside Randy Quaid, Carol Kane and Michael Cera. Krosney went on to work on such TV shows as ER, Bones, Without a Trace (appearing twice, as two different characters), NCIS, Criminal Minds, CSI, Lost and Nikita. She also recently appeared on the ABC comedy Surviving Suburbia, with Bob Saget and Cynthia Stevenson, and can currently be heard as the voice of Sierra on The Hub's animated hit series, Transformers: Prime.

Molly Ephraim (Mandy), who is best known for playing Ali in Paranormal Activity 2 and Wendy Greenhut in the 2008 film College Road Trip, was born in Philadelphia and raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ephraim performed in shows at the Bucks County Playhouse as a child and as a teenager, and in professional productions at the Prince Music Theater and Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia. In 2008 she graduated from Princeton University, where she was a member of the Triangle Club. She performed in and choreographed various shows for Princeton University Players and Theatre Intime. On television, Ephraim has had roles in episodes of Royal Pains, Law & Order and the ABC TV pilot Hench at Home. She made her Broadway debut in 2002 as Little Red Riding Hood in the Broadway revival of Into the Woods, receiving a Drama League Award nomination. Ephraim was later seen as Bielke in the 2004 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

Kaitlyn Dever (Eve) is one of Hollywood's fastest rising young talents. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona and, at age 14, she already has several high profile films and television credits under her belt. Dever knew she wanted to act when she was just 5 years old and continually asked her parents to go to acting school. Dever recently wrapped a season-long role on the FX drama Justified, for which she received critically acclaim. She appeared in the HBO movie Cinema Verite with Diane Lane, Tim Robbins and James Gandolfini, and played a lead role in the 2009 HBO movie, An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong. On the Starz comedy series Party Down, she played Megan Mullally’s daughter, and she guest starred on the 2011 season premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Film credits include the Cameron Diaz comedy Bad Teacher for Sony Pictures and the Warner Bros. film, J. Edgar, directed by Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood.

Christoph Sanders (Kyle) booked his first professional role at the age of 11, playing Tiny Tim in the Flat Rock Playhouse production of Dicken's A Christmas Carol in Flat Rock, North Carolina. By the age of 16, Sanders made his transition from the stage to the small screen when he booked his first commercial for General Mills. The following year he landed a small role in the Will Ferrell comedy Talladega Nights. Sanders’ most recent work includes a series regular role on Ghost Whisperer and starring opposite Dakota Fanning in the film Hounddog, which was accepted to the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Competition.

Hector Elizondo (Ed) has enjoyed a successful and prolific career in film, television, theatre and radio. Nominated for both a Golden Globe and an American Comedy Award for his depiction of the hotel manager in the classic Pretty Woman, Elizondo was recently featured in Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day and in the highly anticipated follow-up film, New Year's Eve. Other film credits include The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, American Gigolo, Young Doctors in Love, Runaway Bride, and Princess Diaries (I & II). In 1997 Elizondo won an Emmy for an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Dr. Phillip Watters on CBS' Chicago Hope. In six years on the show he earned four Emmy nominations, an ALMA Award and a Screen Actors Guild nomination. He also starred in the two-character drama Mrs. Cage for PBS' American Playhouse, receiving another Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His numerous television appearances began with guest starring roles on Colombo, All in the Family, Hill Street Blues, Kojak and The West Wing. More recent guest appearances include recurring roles on ABC's Grey's Anatomy, as the father of Sara Ramirez's Callie, and Monk.


Pilot Plot:

We reviewed both episodes premiering on October 11.

#1 "Pilot" (Airs October 11, 2011)
Mike's job has been downsized and he can no longer travel for work. At the same time, his stay-at-home wife, Vanessa, is returning to the workplace, so Mike finds himself pulled into more hands-on parenting with their three daughters. There's 13-year-old tomboy, Eve; the outspoken Mandy, 17; and Kristin, a 20-year-old single mom living at home with her toddler son, possibly Mike's only ally. In the premiere, Mike plays Cupid for Mandy (his 17 year-old daughter) by setting her up on a blind-date with Kyle, one of his employees who he thinks would be the perfect guy for her. But Mike's set-up gets off track when Kyle accidentally meets Kristin (his 20-year-old daughter, who is a single mom living at home with her toddler son). Meanwhile at work, Mike's long-time boss and friend, Ed, announces that he's grounding Mike from their catalog's international photo shoots and putting him in charge of the company's webpage. In this new role, Mike discovers that the Internet might actually provide him just the outlet he needs, a platform that gives him a voice to appeal to those who agree that manliness is under assault, and a pulpit for his opinions about feeling like the last real man in a woman's world.

"Pilot" was written by Jack Burditt and directed by John Pasquin.

#2 "Last Baby Proof Standing" (Airs October 11, 2011)
Mike is outnumbered by his wife Vanessa and three daughters when they all agree that baby proofing the house is a good idea. But soon Vanessa has second thoughts when she finds herself home by herself babysitting her grandchild, Boyd, and can't release the toilet seat's complicated childproof latch. Meanwhile, Mike thinks it's time for Mandy to earn her own money and gets her a job delivering pizzas -- without first consulting his wife, Vanessa.

Guest starring are Luke & Evan Kruntchev as Boyd and Paul F. Tompkins as Chester McAllister.
"Pilot" was written by Linda Videtti Figueiredo and directed by John Pasquin.


Analysis:

It's really good to have Tim Allen back on television and on ABC Tuesdays at that! I'm a big fan of Tim Allen's not just for his sitcom Home Improvement, but I like his film work and I get sucked in every holiday season to his The Santa Clause film franchise. Tim is an excellent comedic actor and was always great in the traditional sitcom. This sitcom is a traditional comedy and Tim also is very good in it. Now I saw rough cut of the first two episodes, which had muted some of the studio audience laughing for some reason and also badly edited lines that were cut off at times it seems. That made me not enjoy this series as much as I would have liked, so I'll be watching the ABC premiere tomorrow night to see if anything changed. I like what I saw as a set-up, but the chemistry just isn't there yet. Tim's character Mike Baxter is living in a home with all females, his wife and three daughters. Well, there is one male besides Mike, and that is the oldest daughter's son, Boyd, who is just a toddler. His daughters are Kristin, Mandy and Eve. It took me some time to get used to who is who, but it is a good set-up and I like the setting of this series. The men on this show are Kyle, who is an employee of Mike's, and Ed, who is Mike's boss and friend. Mike works for an outdoor sporting goods store (named Outdoors Man) that seems a bit out of date. Ed realizes that and puts Mike in charge of the store's website and Mike rants away in a vlog (video blog). The rants are hilarious! Real men don't play fantasy football!

Nancy Travis isn't used that much in the pilot but when she is present, she is good. She is used much more in the second episode airing on premiere night. She has a hilarious scene in the second episode where she tries to remove the baby-proof items. It's too bad the rough cut messed it up with the muting of the studio audience and weird cutting. I'm sure it will be presented better when it airs. The second episode seems like they are about to start a groove, so I think by episode three or four we should known where the show is headed. Just give it a chance, even if you don't like the first episode or even the second episode. Tim Allen deserves a chance. He knows how to run and perform in this type of sitcom and is a proven success! Tim works well with all the women in the house and also the men at work. He just needs a sidekick like he had on Home Improvement, maybe the employee Kyle will turn into that?


Conclusion:

Tim Allen returns! I just wish the first two episodes were a bit better. Granted, it might have been because of the rough cut I saw, but I was expecting a bit more. Sitcoms take some time to get going, especially traditional sitcoms, so I think this will eventually become a good show. It may not be Home Improvement yet, but it is familiar and will generate an audience. It is a "backwards" Home Improvement (it was all sons and his wife on that series). This isn't anything groundbreaking or critically acclaimed, but it is a meat and potatoes comedy, and I think America will embrace it because something like this is needed. As for the characters, the daughters are unique. Each one offers something different to the table and I think that will make way for some good comedy in future episodes. I like how that the oldest daughter has a baby, making the household into three generations. I hope in a future episode we learn the back-story on how she got pregnant.

I am expecting a big tune in for Tim Allen's return. That is almost a given. I just hope people will tune in every week because I think the show will get better. Jack Burditt from 30 Rock is the creator, so it will be good. Tim Allen is just perfect for the traditional comedy and I am glad he agreed to return to this format! He was on top of his game for the two episodes I saw and it reminds me of John Ritter's return to TV in 2002 on 8 Simple Rules (though that premiere is way better), also on ABC Tuesday at 8/7 central. That show opened huge in the ratings, so this should, too.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3.5/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

-- Reviewed by Pavan on 10/10/11

Discuss the show after you watch it on Tuesday, October 11 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Last Man Standing Photo Gallery

    Preview:






    It's now premiere date change #4 for veteran CBS comedy Rules of Engagement. The sitcom will return to Thursdays at 8:30 PM, ET/PT beginning Thursday, Oct. 20 with its sixth season premiere, as it never even aired in the planned Saturday timeslot, which was announced back in May at upfront. As a result of the Thursday return, new comedy How To Be A Gentleman will relocate to Saturdays at 8:30 PM, ET/PT effective Saturday, Oct. 15. A rebroadcast of The Big Bang Theory will air in the 8:30 PM time period next Thursday (Oct. 13), as CBS will need over a week to promote Rules of Engagement's new premiere date. Rules of Engagement's previously announced sixth season premiere, on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8:00 PM, ET/PT, will be replaced with a rebroadcast of Two and a Half Men, which will lead into a new episode of How To Be A Gentleman in its new time period.
    So what does this mean for How To Be A Gentleman? Well, only two episodes have aired and CBS has now halted production at nine episodes. So this means seven episodes still left to be aired and will be burned-off on Saturday nights. Yes, this means CBS has canceled How To Be A Gentleman, but will still burn off the remaining episodes, as the other canceled new programs The Playboy Club, Free Agents, and H8R are not doing that yet.


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