There’s actually a social media campaign going around right now to stop ABC’s “Last Man Standing” from being canceled. I completely understand the sentiment and the principle of wanting it to remain on the air, but I think the topic brings up a complex issue.
“Last Man Standing” is a multi-camera (think laugh track) sitcom starring Tim Allen about an outdoorsy guy in late middle age with three teenage (eventually grown) daughters. So, it’s kind of very similar to his “Home Improvement” show from the 90s where he had three boys. Except not quite as good…
Why I Love the Show
I love this show in principle. I love what it stands for, the type of content it contains, and the audience it serves. What audience is that? Families. Christians. Conservatives. I imagine it appeals somewhat to people outside these divisions, but certainly there is reason for members of these groups to love the show.
Tim Allen’s character on the show is an outspoken conservative. He loves hunting and guns, makes fun of Hillary Clinton, has arguments with his very liberal son-in-law…
His character is also very family- and Christian-oriented. He continually espouses family values and even discussing things like church-going on occasion.
As far as actual content, the show is rated PG and has a pretty small amount of objectionable content – talk of his oldest daughters’ teen pregnancy, occasional innuendo, occasional mild language. Pretty mild stuff, by and large.
All these things are great, and honestly if you are looking for some light, pretty morally safe entertainment, it’s a decent option.
So why on earth have I not jumped on the “save my show!” bandwagon for it?
It’s not great.
I remember on one episode where they had one of the co-stars from Tim Allen’s old show “Home Improvement” on in a guest appearance. They’ve done this a few times, usually with inside jokes about his “Home Improvement” character. And once, there was a very blatant joke about how his “Home Improvement” character was so much funnier, and they even sneak in a comment that he must have had better writers! This was one of the few times I laughed really hard at this show, when it was poking fun at its own shortcomings.
I always enjoy, even in a sitcom, if there are deep moments here and there that have some kind of thought-provoking value. This show really didn’t have those and instead very much skimmed across the surface.
Okay, well it is a sitcom. Being deep or thought-provoking is really not a requirement, just nice to have sometimes if you can manage it, like in my new favorite show this season, “Speechless.” So then, what is a sitcom’s primary job? Make me laugh, and make me laugh a lot.
Did “Last Man Standing” at least accomplish this well? I do really wish I could say that it did, because, again, I love the show so much in principle. But it just didn’t. The longer this show has gone on, the more consistently lame it has been in the joke department. I think in all six seasons, there have been times where I’ve legitimately laughed hard (more than a chuckle) maybe around four or five times. That’s really not very often for a sitcom.
It’s better than a lot of shows…
This is probably true. But it’s worse than a lot of shows too.
Should we watch it? Sure. That’s about as rousing a recommendation as I can give it. Because it’s pretty harmless, but also fairly mindless. Promotes good things, but kind of doesn’t promote them all that well. Which is a shame.
What This Means for Us
If you’re on the “Save Last Man Standing” bandwagon, I don’t blame you one bit. I agree that it would be quite nice for a show featuring these values to be on the air. But I wish it were a better show with these values, one that did a service to its art form. One that we could actually call “excellent.”
We shouldn’t have to settle. Christians should actually be making the best art, not just morally speaking, but aesthetically as well, since we should be using our talents to praise their Origin.
The art of our day and age might not be awe-inspiring sculpture or breathtaking frescoes (at least not very often), but that doesn’t mean that the art forms that we do frequent are allowed to be mediocre (this is why you probably won’t see me recommending many of those movies made specifically for Christian audiences…).
I have seen beauty, truth, and goodness in movies and even TV. Sometimes these hints of God are not as obvious as the good values portrayed in “Last Man Standing,” but they’re there, they glorify God, and I firmly believe they can help lead people to Him by reflecting His Beauty.
So save “Last Man Standing” if you must, but don’t fail to acknowledge the presence of God when we catch glimpses of Him in less obvious vehicles (NBC’s “This Is Us,” for instance…). If you can, go a step further and give a shout out to the writers/producer/networks who are putting good stuff out there, when you come across it. In our day of Twitter, this should be easier than ever.
The point is, don’t be discouraged by the “Last Man Standing” cancellation; don’t think it’s the only thing out there for us people of faith and family values. I have to hope there are better things right around the corner.