On this, likely my final TV preview of the season (at least until mid-season replacements!), I’m tackling four shows, split into two categories: ABC’s hour-long, two-show block of “manly” television and the two hour-long fairy tale shows that debuted last week. All times are central.
Last Man Standing
Network: ABC – Time Slot: 7 p.m. Tuesday – Would Watch Again: Yes
This one’s been on for a few weeks now, but better late than never, right?
“Last Man Standing” is Tim Allen’s return to TV comedy, a response to the nostalgia that viewers – or at least ABC – had for his wildly successful run on “Home Improvement.” This time, however, Tim Allen’s character (his name is Mike, but I had to look that up) is relegated to a home with three daughters instead of three sons, and the crush of femininity causes him to frequently ruminate on rambling webcamera videos about the emasculation of the modern man. Also, he works for an outdoors supply company instead of a tool company. And there’s no Wilson.
My cynical description of the show notwithstanding, there’s a lot to like here. The pilot was much, much cleverer than I had anticipated, and it managed to reawaken my dormant “Home Improvement”-based Tim Allen feelings while glossing over my “virtually everything else he’s ever done”-based Tim Allen feelings. Turns out, he was good on TV where he failed in movies largely because he’s just really good at the multi-camera sitcom format. Metatextual script contributions from former “30 Rock” scribe and show creator Jack Burditt also liven up the proceedings with humor you don’t usually see in this kind of show (a Buzz Lightyear-related crack in the pilot comes to mind).
That being said, there is the underlying question of whether anyone needs a show like this, with Mike lamenting the downfall of the manly man while at the same time lowering himself to every ugly male stereotype in the book. Whether the show can rise above its concept and continue to operate as a typical, but funnier, family sitcom (and whether it can avoid the slide of diminishing returns it’s suffered since its first week) may be what keeps it on the air or shuts it down. That being said, it definitely has a better chance than the next show on the list.
Network: ABC – Time Slot: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday – Would Watch Again: No
Apparently deciding that “Last Man Standing” wasn’t enough, ABC decided to run “Man Up!” immediately following. There are a few differences – “Man Up!” has a collection of bros compared to Allen’s lone wolf status, and “Last Man” has a laugh track where “Man Up!” rather unwisely decided to rely on home viewers’ mirth – but at the root of each show is the idea that men just aren’t what they used to be.
“Man Up!” follows the lives of family man Will (Mather Zickel), sensitive single guy Craig (Christopher Moynihan) and clueless misogynist Kenny (Dan Fogler) as they wander through various misadventures wondering how they can be “real men” in these modern, toned-down times. In the pilot, this consists of Will wondering what to get for his son’s 13th birthday while Kenny deals awkwardly with his shrewish ex-wife and Craig considers crashing his ex-girlfriend’s wedding.
This is all pretty joyless, with only Kenny’s subplot earning even a slight smile (even those small joys must be taken with a grain of salt, as Fogler is clearly doing his level best to mimic Zach Galifianakis’s
character from the “Hangover” films). And, while “Last Man” might eventually settle into a successful, if not traditional, zany family sitcom, the “Man Up!” creators are too tied to their underlying concept, and they’re unlikely to find much sympathy with such unsympathetic and unfunny leads.
Once Upon A Time
Network: ABC – Time Slot: 7 p.m. Sunday – Would Watch Again: No
Next on the list of creators who are too enamored by their show’s high concept are Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, creators of “Once Upon A Time.” Perhaps inspired by their participation in the seemingly heady (but ultimately airheaded) “Lost,” the two have created a show that merges the real world with the world of fairy tales in a way that is so esoteric that it almost defies a sensical description.
In one way, “Once Upon A Time’s” pilot uses a storytelling device similar to “Lost’s” sixth season, flashing between the realities of the fairy tale world (where all fairy tales reside in a collective kingdom, similar to the “Shrek” films) and our world. Many of the characters in the fairy tale world also exist in the real world, but most of them appear to be unaware of their fairy tale lives. The story hinges on the decisions of Emma (Jennifer Morrison), the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), as she is made aware of these other characters’ connections with the fairy tale world.
You see, it seems that the evil queen from Snow White’s tale cursed the rest of the kingdom to be without happiness, but the good guys managed to save Emma by putting her in a magic wardrobe, and for some reason Emma is 28 in the real world while none of the other characters seemed to have aged, and, and, and… Frankly, it’s exhausting, and it’s muddled, and none of the performances made me care enough to keep watching.
Network: NBC – Time Slot: 8 p.m. Friday – Would Watch Again: Maybe
I’m in the minority on this one. From my perusal of critical consensus, it looks like “Once Upon A Time” is getting better reviews than “Grimm.” While your mileage may vary when it comes to execution, “Grimm” does have the one-up on “Once” by virtue of having an easily-explainable premise.
The show follows Nick (David Giuntoli), a homicide detective who starts seeing people temporarily transformed into monsters. After a particularly harrowing run-in with one of them, he learns that he is one of the last surviving descendants of the Brothers Grimm, able to see – and fight – all of the storybook monsters the macabre siblings wrote about.
Maybe it’s just because I’m a sucker for genre mashups, but the idea of a cop procedural/modernized fairytale show intrigues me, and the acting and writing was all right, for a pilot. My main question is how seriously the show is taking itself. The opening murder scene actually made me laugh out loud harder than I’ve laughed at most of this year’s new comedies, and then there’s the intentionally comedic bit later on when a Big Bad Wolf (yep) says that he keeps his bloodlust in check with the help of Pilates. At this stage in the game, it’s hard to know whether the show is playing its premise straight or with its tongue firmly planted in cheek. Expect its hand to be tipped within a week or two.