Thursday, February 9, 2012

Last Man Standing: Double Dose of Family Togetherness

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Two episodes of a show airing in a single night is a love/hate thing for me. On one hand, it makes me laugh to see two different stories of a pretty funny show. On the other hand, however, it angers me that we're going to run through the season quicker this way. Luckily, ABC ordered a couple of extra episodes of Last Man Standing, but, either way, we're looking at just eight more episodes this season. And, being the family show that it is, I imagine that one will be Mother's Day, and one might even be Easter, and who knows what they'll pull for the finale, so probably only five regular episodes left. Well, regular being a subjective word, of course. it's clearly a family show - one episode has the family coming together when they fear their house may be haunted and the other has the family (minus Mandy) coming together to save a tree. The first preys on the fact that the paranormal frightens people, and after enough examples, even the steadfast begin to doubt. A good premise and a decent execution, but the re-watch factor is probably less than three. The second is more typical for the program, showing Mike taking out his frustrations through his marketing videos, Mandy doing something selfish in comparison with the rest of the family, and Mike "saving the day" in the end (though he tries to do that in both episodes).

Last Man Standing  "House of Spirits" (S01E15): It's Mike's birthday, but that's not a major point in the episode. Aside from getting a breakfast frittata, a couple of gifts (notably Mandy's coupon book - complete with "a week of no talking back" and blackout dates - and Kristin's 17th annual subscription to the Bacon of the Month club), and a romp in bed with Vanessa, the birthday goes largely uncelebrated. Vanessa apparently doesn't always get Mike the best gifts, and Ed is used to receiving them as pass-offs, like last year's "improv classes." [really? who gets that for someone if they're not actually into improv?] This year, however, she gets him a book on the history of their neighborhood. [I agree with Vanessa - it's not a gift for just anyone, but could be a great fit for some. Similarly, my grandmother wrote a book about the history of the road where she grew up... I think it's cool that she did that, but I know it's for a very niche market.]

Mike begins reading the book and finds out that two women allegedly died in their house. Kristin and Mandy instantly freak out, which quickly escalates when a glass slides across the counter because of the condensation beneath it. [nice explanation by Vanessa. oh, and this show has the same goofy transition music as Home
Improvement, too.] That night, Kristin and Boyd wake up frightened (more Kristin than Boyd), so they get into bed with Mike and Vanessa. Mandy and the dog soon follow, then Eve. The next day, the girls decide to hire a medium to deal with the ghosts, but all they learn is that the women died alone - a fact that makes calm & cool Vanessa consider moving. [hahaha.] Well, this leaves Mike having to step in and relax his family, so he puts together a video history of the house. He actually took the time to track down grandchildren and photos, as well as incorporate shots of the Baxter family in front of the house. [wow that's some work! no wonder he got nothing else done that day!] He lets it slip that he also learned about a kidnapping, but doesn't explain. 

The other storyline going on is between Ed and Kyle. In a nutshell, Ed repeatedly doesn't have anything less than hundred-dollar bills or plastic, so Kyle spots him a few times. Kyle is already pretty broke, and doesn't want to confront Ed about the situation. [loved the line about how he can't afford to lose the job, but can't afford to keep it, either!] Well, once he has to walk four miles in the snow because he ran out of gas, he complains that Ed owes him $516, which he repays in the form of a fancy saddle. [you're kidding me, right? how awful! Mike couldn't have warned him a bit more?]

And, let's take a quick moment to be in awe of two other things we learned this episode: Vanessa had all three girls BREACH without drugs. And, B
oyd ate a ribbon. [eeesh. on both.]

Last Man Standing  "Tree of Strife" (S01E16): There's a bad storm brewing, and as the lights begin to flicker, a tree limb bursts through a living room window.
[the jokes about the generators being gassed up and Mike being gassy were once again reminiscent of Tim's character on Home Improvement.] In order to rush out someone from the city (it was a city tree), Mike says that he thought there was an endangered species nest in the tree. Hoping for a speedy remedy regarding the property damage at hand, Mike is pretty upset when he's told that the city has voted to not be fiscally responsible for their own trees. Then, Mike is told that one of his own trees must be removed. Of course, this sends Mike through the roof, complaining to Ed that he doesn't like "the man" telling him to cut down his own tree, then doing a marketing video on an ATV, complaining that the government wants to call them STVs (for "sub-terrain" rather than "all-terrain") to keep you from driving them on the road. [although I mostly enjoy Mike's videos that provide an allusion to other things that are bothering him in his life, I can't help but draw the connection to the ways Tim used to do similar things on Tool Time within the Home Improvement realm.]

Ed's advice to Mike is to fight city hall, so the Baxter family begins by Vanessa pulling out her geologist knowledge and claiming that the city can't remove a tree without some HSR219 form. Then, they get an online petition going, try for emotional support from the community, draw soil samples, and even "Tebow" for the crowd at the hearing. [man if THAT won't be a dated move soon, I don't know what will!] Nothing really helps, though, especially not Kristin's attempt to read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. [that seemed very out of character... Kristin is supposed to be the smart daughter, so why would she read a book about a tree that gets cut down at the end of the story?] Well, the tree (where Mandy and Kristin both first kissed the same boy, in a random fun fact) gets cut down anyway, but Mike brings home a black walnut sapling for the family to plant just the same. [awww. supercute "Daddy Saves the Day" moment.]

While all of this is going on, Mandy has her own problems... Kim Kardashian is coming to the local mall, and Mandy is bound and determined to become her new BFF, even writing a haiku and limerick about her. When the moment comes, however, she gets nervous and says, "my name is Fandy and I'm your biggest man." [hahaha!] Then, in an attempt to hug Kim, Mandy has a clumsy moment and winds up just getting carried out by security. The whole scene makes the news, and Mandy feels just awful. However, she recovers quickly when Kim Kardashian shows up at the house (with a film crew), consoling Mandy by telling her that her family will always be there for her. [cute, but not really. also, since Mandy is under 18, wouldn't they need one of her parents to sign a consent form or something before filming?]
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