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flax and pumpkin

Last Man Standing Can’t Decide What’s Worse: Women, Gay People, or Parenting

Tim Allen's Last Man Standing premiered last night, wringing every precious molecule of humor from the dry, dry well of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and the profound hatred of change (well, at least until Work It wrings some more). Ugh, men today — they bathe themselves, and use such villainous, gay-making products like "hair gel" and "citrus body wash." At least at Allen's outdoorsy workplace, it "smells like balls," which is a relief.

So what was the most offensive aspect of the first two episodes? Let's take a look at the contenders!

Standing stars Tim Allen as Mike Baxter, a gruff guy with a long-suffering wife, three daughters, and a toddler grandson. He doesn't want to drive the family minivan, and he won't drop the moppet off at day care because it's too "hippie hippie rainbow." "Ruby's two dads are here and they're making muffins," the wimpy guy in charge of the day care tells Mike. "Flax and pumpkin." "I hope those aren't their names!" Mike zings back, because of all the gay men named Pumpkin.

Then there's Mike's parenting: It's confusing to see him take such an interest in his grandson's child-rearing, considering his relationship with his own daughters. Is not knowing your child's age really something to brag about? "You're grounded until you learn how to change a tire," Mike tells his ditzy middle daughter, over and over. He never explains why he won't just teach her how to do it.

Casual homophobia and crummy parenting aren't new elements to the sitcom universe, which speaks to Standing's insistence on being uninventive. The first episode features a watered-down version of a George Carlin bit about boy names becoming less macho, though it gets the last part of the bit wrong: While Carlin lumps Kyle in with trendy names, Standing I.D.'s "Kyle" as a beacon of masculinity, until Kyle, Mike's office acolyte, says that it's his mother's maiden name. Ha, ha-ha, ha. The second episode focuses on the alleged ridiculousness of baby-proofing, which of course leads to a doofy guy getting his head stuck between the slats of a banister. You might recognize that as a plot point from the legendary comedy Full House. When DJ Tanner can solve your characters' problems, you're in trouble.

Lest we forget, there's also toilet humor, both language-wise and literally. The pilot assumes just the mere utterance of the word "anus" counts as a joke, and the second episode finds poor Nancy Travis peeing in a child's potty chair.

Last Man Standing seems to think that its jokes and premise and crappy worldview are, like its hero, endangered somehow. What it doesn't seem to realize is that there's a reason shows like this have gone extinct.