Do we want a ninth season for Tim Allen TV vehicle Last Man Standing? We’ve come up with several reasons why — and why not.
After his successful near-decade run playing Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on the wildly popular Home Improvement series in the ’90s, comedic star Tim Allen returned to prime time television as another likable family man in Last Man Standing in 2011. As sporting good mogul Mike Baxter, he’s devoutly represented conservative men everywhere for 8 seasons, navigating a house with a politically progressive wife and three daughters who challenge him at every turn.
The series had been canceled by ABC after six seasons, but found a home on FOX for Season 7. FOX finally released its eighth season back in January after a hiatus, and there have been rumors that Season 9 may be the last time Mike “The Man” Baxter is still standing. A lot of changes have affected the show, from recasting key characters, to getting the Friday night “death slot,” and even Allen’s political views. Here are 5 reasons we want a ninth season, and 5 we don’t.
WHY WE WANT A SEASON 9: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON NETWORK TV
As a more diverse group of creative people become responsible for fabricating characters, storylines, and scripts that are more diverse across network television, different perspectives begin to emerge. It’s how a woman like Vanessa, known for her environmentalism and love of foreign exchange programs, can be married to someone like Mike Baxter, a fierce advocate for the Second Amendment.
With that in mind, a series that focuses specifically on an integrated family built on tolerance and dialogue is important in this landscape. It allows for the very discussions playing out in the households of Americans to be highlighted in the shows they watch.
WHY WE DON’T: THE CAST CHANGES
Like with any series that gets greenlit for several successful seasons, cast changes can be inevitable as actors decide to take on new projects. However, there’s something to be said for series that manages to maintain the same cast, especially when it comes to a series concerning a tight-knit family like the Baxters.
It would have felt strange if any of Tim Taylor’s children had been swapped out on Home Improvement, so having the middle child of the Baxter clan recast in season 7, as well as Kristin and Ryan’s son Boyd (now played by an older Jet Jurgensmeyer instead of Flynn Morrison) makes it difficult for fans to become invested in old characters that suddenly feel like strangers.
WHY WE WANT A SEASON 9: MIKE AND VANESSA’S MARRIAGE
One of the benefits of seeing a longtime couple like the Baxters in nine seasons of television is witnessing its evolution over time. Vanessa and Mike may not agree on everything, from how to raise their children to politics, but they find a way to make their marriage work because its survival (and their love for one another) is worth it.
They’ve watched as their daughters have had victories in love and in life, celebrating new jobs, new relationships, and new babies in stride. With several of their children now out of the house/grown into young adults, watching them adjust to new inhabitants (like a foreign exchange student) adds even more depth to their connection.
WHY WE DON’T: IT PERPETUATES STEREOTYPES
As positive as it is to see different perspectives on national television, there are also some pretty stilted stereotypes that Last Man Standing continues to convey. The biggest stereotype of all might just be Mike Baxter’s unruly conservative who laughs in the face of “safe spaces” and makes fun of his eldest daughter sending her son to a school that teaches “sensitivity” because it “might make him gay.”
His son-in-law Ryan Vogelson is an equally hollow stereotype, an environmentally conscious liberal vegan created so he could have a character to clash with. Sit-coms have always used stereotypes to appeal to the broadest demographic’s sense of humor because they’re easily identifiable.
WHY WE WANT A SEASON 9: EDWARD ALZATE
Veteran actor Héctor Elizondo has been classing up Last Man Standing from Season 1. Having starred in classic films like Pretty Woman and series like Grey’s Anatomy, Elizondo elevates what could have been an ordinary role and turned it into a great one.
As Mike’s longtime business associate Edward Alzate, he brought Mike into the fold as one of his employees when his business venture was just a fishing supply store. Mike was able to turn it into a popular sporting goods chain, and the two have been friends ever since.
WHY WE DON’T: NO MOLLY EPHRAIM
When Season 7 debuted Molly Ephraim wasn’t available to return as the middle Baxter daughter Molly, leaving the role needing to be filled by another actress. Molly McCook stepped into the role, but soon found out that one “Molly” isn’t as good as another where viewers were concerned.
A soap star from The Bold And the Beautiful, as well as appearing as a reoccurring character on the Ashton Kutcher comedy The Ranch on Netflix, McCook is a tall bubbly blonde, not the short, brash brunette that longtime fans had grown accustomed to with Ephraim. Ephraim never returned for Season 8, meaning Season 9 will be more adjustment to McCook.
WHY WE WANT SEASON 9: CHUCK AND MIKE’S FRIENDSHIP
Mike’s neighbor Chuck Larabee is a gun-toting man’s man and a veteran, whose shrewd barbs at his expense belay mutual respect. The pair’s relationship is based on sarcasm and good-natured castigation, but beneath their seemingly mean-spirited exchanges, they have a solid friendship.
Last Man Standing isn’t afraid to come right out and address racial concerns, beginning with having Mike speak to Chuck in ways other television series might shy away from. Often this ensures he looks ridiculous, but the conversations that come from the critical analysis Chuck makes him do are insightful.
WHY WE DON’T: THE ABSENCE OF EVE AND MIKE’S RELATIONSHIP
There are several unique relationship dynamics in Last Man Standing, but one of the most beloved exists between Mike and his youngest daughter Eve. Of all his daughters, Eve shares his love for sports, his political ideologies, and his regard for the great outdoors.
When Eve left to join the Air Force Academy in Season 7, it meant that her character would only be featured occasionally when she visited like in Season 8, or whenever the Baxters went to visit her. The absence of the special dynamic between Mike and Eve made the show have a void that’s not easily filled with any others.
WHY WE WANT SEASON 9: MIKE BAXTER
Tim Allen once described Mike Baxter as, “Archie Bunker with a college education.” A little rough around the edges, the “Republican-ish” character may seem like he’s a hypertrophied version of masculine superiority and privilege, but he raised three girls to have character and moxie.
It can be argued there’s a place for characters like Mike Baxter on television because there are people like Mike Baxter. By watching him in certain situations, whether it’s how he approaches the issue of gun rights through sales of firearms at his sporting goods store or something else, audiences can learn with him through laughter.
WHY WE DON’T: IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE HOME IMPROVEMENT 2.0
Where once Tim Allen played a macho father to three sons in Home Improvement, he’s managed to turn out a similar performance with three daughters in Last Man Standing, though some of his fans would argue that the former was vastly superior for such a gimmick. Home Improvement finished at 8 seasons and perhaps that’s where Allen’s current series should end too.
In its final season, Home Improvement ran out of steam as the three boys grew up and moved out of the house, taking the chemistry of the family dynamic with them. Last Man Standing should quit while it can still come out on top.