by Jordan Green
(For anyone not getting the reference in the title, here's this.)
I was watching Monday Night Football early this week (Monday, to be exact), when a promo came on for Tim Allen's new sitcom, Last Man Standing, which is pretty much Home Improvement, except with girls instead of boys. Anyway, in this promo, Tim Allen says something to the effect of "What's with fantasy football? Why not go outside and play real football? NERDS!!!"
You know why I was watching Monday Night Football? Because I play fantasy football and I had two players in the game. I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in this, because it's estimated around 20 million people play fantasy football, a number that climbs every year. You know how many people watched Monday Night Football last week? 16.4 million, which was up considerably from the week before. Fantasy sports now accounts for 18% of sports industry revenue, and it's one of the rare corners of our economy that's actually growing, and anyone who thinks fantasy football players are all fat slugs probably also thinks every single blogger in the world lives in his mom's basement. Except fantasy football predates blogging by, like, a decade. Here's what I'm saying: ABC might've had better luck running a promo during The View in which Tim Allen talks about how gross periods are.
Now, maybe Last Man Standing's advertising approach is intended to insult its prospective viewers, because that's a thing now. For instance, I wouldn't have paid attention to the show at all, but I sat through the pilot simply because I wanted a valid reason to dislike it. I'm open-minded like that. During the opening bit, Tim Allen's daughters are making a "welcome home" sign for their father, who has been fishing in Alaska. Then he barges in lugging a giant salmon. Then he tosses the salmon onto the sign and smiles smugly. The long-dead TV audience may have have exploded in laughter, but my first thought was "Man. What a prick." I'm assuming the show will be about a manly-man's journey into appreciating and relating with his daughters. If it's not, I look forward to the riveting fourth season, when Tim Allen's character struggles to maintain his masculinity in a changing world where his daughters have become strippers.
I like Tim Allen. I grew up watching Home Improvement, and the Santa Clause movies aren't entirely awful. He voices Buzz Lightyear! Even in Last Man Standing, he sells some mediocre jokes quite well. But it's just an endless parade of anachronism — jokes about the internet and hippy day cares and how real men don't drive minivans. (NPR covers a few more of the "jokes" here.) It may as well be called Last Man Overcompensating.
If American males are truly facing some sort of identity crisis, I'm fairly certain it has to do with fathers being emotionally and physically absent. It has to do with men failing to be honest with their children because they were too busy faking their way toward these moronic preconceptions about what it means to be a man. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe Last Man Standing will thoughtfully explore some of those issues. Until then, I could do with less easy lines about how people with penises shouldn't dance.