Series: Last Man Standing
Last Man Standing
Kristin: "I know this is hard for you to believe because you are so old school, but I do not need a man."
Mike: "You have a baby; that says you needed a man once."
is a 2011 sitcom starring Tim Allen
and Nancy Travis. Often referred to as an Distaff Counterpart
of Home Improvement
Allen plays Mike Baxter, director of marketing at Outdoor Man, an outdoor sporting goods store in Denver, Colorado. He is proudly a man and is frustrated about how the world is trying to make his gender more sensitive. At home his world is dominated by women — his wife Vanessa and three daughters: adult single mom Kristin, high school aged girly girl Mandy and middle school aged tomboy Eve. The only other male in his house is Kristin's young son Boyd.
He originally was often away from home taking up sponsors for the store catalog, but as things become more Internet-based he turns to promoting products on the website in videos while ranting about various topics surrounding masculinity, making him a mild celebrity and keeping him at home. He is good friends with his boss and owner of the store, Ed, while also striking a friendship with a younger employee, Kyle, who becomes friendly with the family.
One hook from the show is that it approaches a lot of political, social and interpersonal topics with an upfront, frank attitude that is uncommon in most shows. Mike uses the Outdoor Man web videos as his own personal soapbox on a topic related to the overall episode, which typically skew towards his own conservative views and are balanced out by quite a few liberal family members, neighbors and others, ensuring that the more controversial subjects get a fair depiction. Even though it is a family friendly show, they do not shy away from topics like sexuality, sexual orientation, drinking, drug use, bullying and even racial tension, many even at the teenage level.
Considered a Spiritual Successor
to Home Improvement
due to being an Allen vehicle where he plays similar characters as a father obsessed with preserving and passing down manhood and has a public forum as part of their jobs to share their views on the episode's subject matter.
Last Man Standing provides examples of the following tropes:
- Aborted Arc: Kristin attending college at UC Denver. It was an ongoing plot line in Season 1, reduced to a few token mentions in Season 2, and was then completely dropped in Season 3.
- Adult Fear: Vanessa does not approve of Eve's military ambitions as she's afraid of the latter getting injured or killed if she were on duty.
- Advice Backfire: In "School Merger", Kristin tells Mandy that it is important for the latter to enforce the rules while she's working at the election polls. This bites her in the ass when Mandy refuses to allow her to vote since she no longer lives in the district.
- Played straight, then subverted in the first episode. Mike advises Eve to play aggressively during her soccer game against the boys' team to impress her crush. This results in Eve accidentally giving her crush a sprained ankle during the game and she stops speaking to Mike. However, by the end of the episode, the boy asks her out on a date because he liked the way she played, proving Mike was right all along.
- Analogy Backfire: Kyle tells Boyd that mutton busting is just like riding a bike. Boyd points out that the entire reason he's doing it is because he doesn't know how to ride a bike.
- Advertised Extra: Richard Karn's guest spot was heavily hyped in the promos. He barely has a few minutes of screen time. In fact the promo has about almost half of his total screen-time. Jonathan Taylor Thomas suffered this same fate (at least until the third season when he became a recurring role).
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Even though he's actually her nephew, Boyd is this to Eve.
- Appeal to Obscurity: Mike uses this on Vanessa to show what will happen to Eve if they don't push her to succeed at soccer.
- Artistic License – Military: Eve's JROTC uniform is just... all sorts of wrong. When she's in ACUs, she wears the collar up and velcroed shut (it should be worn down like a regular shirt/jacket collar), has her sleeves rolled up, is missing her American Flag shoulder patch, and for some reason wears what appears to be a completely random belt (it's not the canvas belt that's part of the ACU, and doesn't look like a pistol belt) around the outside of her jacket, instead of, you know, through the belt loops on the pants.
- Ascended Extra: Chuck Larabee first appeared in a season two episode as a new neighbor, where a lot of the joke is that Vanessa is trying to be friends with a black family so that they don't seem racist. By the end, Mike and Chuck bond over the racial humor behind that and Mike mentions offhand that Chuck is the only neighbor he could see himself hanging out with. Chuck slowly started appearing in more episodes, to the point he is in every other season four episode.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The topic of one episode. The school psychiatrist diagnoses Boyd with ADHD after he becomes too disruptive in class and prescribes medicine. Mike goes on a tirade about the situation, feeling that the school just uses ADHD as an excuse to drug kids for being too energetic and Boyd doesn't really have the disorder. He's proven right when Boyd calms down in school after he begins playing ice hockey to burn off energy. However, it's later revealed that Mandy took some of Boyd's medication while studying for her exams and did better than usual, suggesting she actually has ADHD and explaining a lot of her seemingly absent-minded personality.
- Author Tract: In-Universe, whenever Mike does an Internet ad for the store he usually rants about whatever's been annoying him in the given episode.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Eve and Mandy in a few episodes.
- Bait and Switch: In "Mike's Pole", when Mike wants Chuck to settle his and Ryan's debate regarding pledging the American flag. Chuck tells Mike and Ryan that as a Marine he fought for all the rights Americans have, including the right not to respect the flag. Ryan is pleased by this, but then Chuck tells him that while he has the right to not respect the flag, doing it is insulting to all the men who risked their lives in battle for those rights.
Chuck: Until you sit in the back of a Bradley and brace for an incoming RPG, you respect that flag.
- In "Here's the Kicker", Eve comes home walking with crutches and says she injured her knee at practice. Vanessa freaks out and tells Mike she will not play football anymore. Then Eve's friend Cammy comes in and reveals she accidentally injured Eve at soccer practice.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: Ryan is a firm believer in this and is shocked that Vanessa, a scientist, believes in heaven.
- Benevolent Boss: Ed
- Berserk Button: Ryan presses Vanessa's when he reveals he plans to use the wedding money Mike and Vanessa gave him and Kristin to pay off his student loans. You know, the ones he used when he went off to college while Kristin had to give up college, her career dreams, and basically her entire future to raise Boyd alone.
- Better as Friends: Kyle and Kristin.
- Big Breast Pride:
- Birds of a Feather: Mandy and Kyle have the exact same sense of humor, which makes them just about perfect for each other despite very different interests.
- Black Best Friend: Chuck to Mike, even though neither will admit it. A lot of their banter comes down to racial humor, as Mike likes to tease Chuck as coming from the hood but he is actually always been in the same middle class as Mike.
Chuck: (to Mike) "Wait a minute. You got one daughter with a baby daddy, another shacking up with her boyfriend and a third on the football team. Your family is blacker than mine!"
- Black Sheep: Mandy is the only member of the family that does not do well academically. A season 3 episode reveals she might have ADHD, explaining why.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Vanessa, the only blonde, Kristin and Mandy are the brunettes, and Eve is the redhead (though it looks more of an auburn color).
- Boomerang Bigot: Mild example. Chuck doesn't want inner city students to be sent to the local high school even though he himself comes from the area.
Chuck: We moved out of the hood. I'm not sure I like the idea of the hood following me here.
- Brainy Brunette: Kristin
- Brand X: Outdoor Man for Bass Pro Shops. The stores both sell outdoor, hunting and camping gear and the exterior shots of Outdoor Man are clearly Photoshopped Bass Pro Shops.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Subverted with Mandy. She's not bratty, but clearly has her moments of being this way.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Mandy's ditzy personality and obsession with popularity and social media causes her to blow off school work and get poor grades. But she reinvents herself when she starts going to college in the third season, proving she has a real talent for fashion design and is more willing to put in hard work for something she is passionate about.
- Brutal Honesty: Mike favors this approach, unlike the more tactful Vanessa.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Kristin regards being spanked by Vanessa as a child as one of the most traumatic experiences of her life and the cause of her spanking Boyd. Vanessa doesn't think it was a big deal since she only did it twice.
- Bumbling Dad: Generally averted with Mike. He's a very caring and loving father, but there is no question that he is more rational and mature than his kids. In one episode Mike and Vanessa discuss how exhausting it is to go to all of the kids' activities, and Eve is offended when she learns they were pleased to have a free weekend after she lost a soccer game. He later missed Mandy's play (where she bombed) because of trying to do two things at once, and realistically apologized to her as a one-time mistake.
- Butt Monkey: Ryan is a frequent target for Mike's ire, especially when Mike brings up Ryan's leaving Kristin, something Ryan's tried to make amends for repeatedly.
- Kyle is often treated as this as well, especially in the earlier episodes.
- Calling the Old Woman Out: Kristin wants her, Mandy, and Eve to do this to Vanessa in regards to spanking them as children. Unfortunately for her, Mandy and Eve reveal that they were never spanked.
Kristin: What about all those times that she would drag you into your room with a hairbrush?
Mandy: She was brushing my hair.
Kristin: You were screaming and crying.
Mandy: Yeah, 'cause there were tangles.
- Camp Straight: Kyle likes feminine stuff like baking and watching Chick Flick Romantic Comedy movies. However, he's clearly not gay since he dates Kristin in the first season and Mandy in the second and third.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Played with. The three daughters often do things that frustrate Mike but not bad enough to ground them over. But in one episode Eve dents Mandy's car after Mandy made her drive it, and in the process of pulling out the dent the paint gets ripped off. They cover it up with a "Say no to Drugs" sticker and Mike sees through the entire story immediately. He doesn't care much, figuring Mandy driving the car with that sticker on it would be enough punishment.
- In a later episode Mandy was planning on moving into a new apartment, but deliberately didn't tell Mike that Kyle was going to move in with her. While other people were just learning about it, Mike had already deduced that was her plan without anyone telling him just because it made logical sense (she was moving just far enough away where Mike and Vanessa wouldn't be seeing her everyday and Kyle was going to be over there all the time anyway). Funny enough, the situation deteriorated long before that information got back around to him.
- Children Are Innocent: Boyd
- Celebrity Star:
- Christmas Episode: Just like Home Improvement, there's been one every season:
- Season 1 "Last Christmas Standing". Ryan returns to town and wants to reconnect with Boyd, while Mandy demands better working conditions for her fellow elves at Outdoor Man.
- Season 2 "Putting a Hit on Christmas". Mike and Vanessa decide they want to spend Christmas by themselves and attempt to have the girls go on different trips for the holidays.
- Season 3 "Elfie". Mike and Vanessa want Boyd to celebrate Christmas the traditional way (with Jesus and Santa Claus), while Ryan wants him to celebrate with other cultures' customs and without the fantasy aspects. Meanwhile, Mandy, after asking only for cash for Christmas, has a change of heart when she meets Blanca's niece, whose father is stationed in Afghanistan.
- Season 4 "Wedding Planning". Mike and Vanessa offer Kristin and Ryan a large sum of money for their wedding as a Christmas gift, only to refuse to give it to them when the two reveal how they're actually going to spend it. Meanwhile, Ed tries to teach Kyle how to play poker.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Kyle definitely has his moments.
- Comically Missing the Point: Mandy, Kyle, and Ed do this on a regular basis.
- Commander Contrarian: Kristin. Ryan, of all people, eventually calls her out on it.
Ryan: You're just disagreeing with your dad just to disagree with him. He says, "up," and you say, "down." You go against him just to drive him crazy even when he's right.
- Conflict Ball: Eve's boyfriend Justin demanding that she wear a dress instead of her formal JROTC uniform to the prom seems pretty out of character based on his other appearances (especially in the season four opener where he's perfectly fine with her joining the football team).
- Cool Old Guy: Ed
- Cringe Comedy: Every time Vanessa talks to the Larabees and tries to avoid being Mistaken for Racist. Chuck will often Troll her just to make it more uncomfortable for her.
- Creator Breakdown: In-Universe this is what made the Outdoor Man internet ads so popular, as Mike skewed into a long rant that he probably didn't intend to be shown. But his attitude was so fired up and his comments so funny that it became an Instant Web Hit.
- Daddy's Girl: Eve.
- Dating Do-Si-Do: Kyle originally dated Kristin during the first season, and because of working with Mike and being friends with the family in general, eventually started dating Mandy. Unusual for the trope, it's acknowledged that a guy dating sisters at different times can be tricky, and Mandy ends up getting Kristin's blessing before pursuing him and making it official. Ed is suitably impressed.
Ed: Kyle pulled off sisters?! He's going to be bragging about that in bars for years!
- Dating What Daddy Hates: Played with. Mike actually likes Kyle and introduced him to Kristin, considering him a good kid and with a surrogate parent/son relationship between them that keeps Kyle around even after he and Kristin broke up. Mike does think Kyle has some way to go before becoming a husband or father, which is what annoyed him when Kyle and Mandy started dating. Played straight with Ryan in multiple ways, the core of it that Ryan ran out on Kristin for several years and exacerbated by Ryan being every liberal stereotype you can imagine. However, by season four, Mike has come to accept that he does sincerely regret what he did and truly cares about Kristin and Boyd, earning him his respect.
- Eve's boyfriend Justin is an interesting example because he's seemingly everything Mike would want in one of his daughter's boyfriends (a football player, JROTC member, very religious), but he still doesn't like him.
- After Ryan calls Kristin out on being a Commander Contrarian, he leaves the room, only to come back and ask her whether she is only dating him to invoke this trope.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mike, Kristin, and (particularly) Eve all fit this trope to a T.
- Deliberately Cute Child: Boyd.
- Demoted to Extra /Out of Focus: Boyd has only appeared in four episodes in Season Four.
- Disappeared Dad: Ryan was this to Boyd until he reappeared in the first season Christmas Episode and became a Recurring Character in the second season to take responsibility and rekindle his relationship with Kristin.
- The Ditz:
- Doting Parent: Kristin
- Do Wrong, Right: When Mandy gets caught sneaking in past her curfew, Vanessa goes to talk to her and tells her to get better at sneaking back into the house without Mike noticing.
- Double Standard: According to Kristin, Eve should only be described as "female placekicker" in newspaper articles about her football team when they win.
- Dumb Is Good: Kyle doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and is so innocent Puppy-Dog Eyes is basically his default expression. When Vanessa hinted to Mandy that she should move on to college guys instead of blue-collar Kyle, Kyle finds out and is actually angry with her. Mike was astonished, saying it was like getting a goldfish to hate you.
- Easily Forgiven: Zigzagged with each Baxter family member in regards to Ryan. While Kristin allowed him back into Boyd's life, it's implied it took a while for her to do so. Vanessa immediately welcomes him when he does come back into town and does whatever she can to help him. Mandy and Eve were neutral about it, but they don't like Ryan on a personal basis. Mike, however, was not happy about it at all and refuses to forgive him or let him forget what he did.
- Eccentric Mentor: Ed to Mike. Though Mike's well past being mentored, he considers Ed to be a second father and learned a lot from him as they brought up Outdoor Man together. These days Ed focuses more on the "eccentric" part.
- Establishing Character Moment: Mike setting up Kristin with Kyle. He may be hard on her and sometimes rude, but he does what he can to help.
- Expy: With Home Improvement, the three Baxter girls match up in personality with the three Taylor boys: Kristin is the snarky intellectual that Randy was, Mandy is innocent and gullible like Mark and Eve is the sports fanatic who bonds most with dad like Brad. Vanessa is also similar to Jill in being a career-focused woman with a strong personality. Mike subverts this however. Compared to Tim Taylor, he is more intelligent, politically astute, mature, and rational, completely avoiding the Bumbling Dad role.
- Extreme Door Mat: Vanessa
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Not only does Ryan try to raise Boyd without religion, he also tries to keep him from believing in anything fantasy related. When Eve tricked Boyd into believing that a Christmas elf doll was really magical, Ryan immediately told Boyd the truth, resulting in Boyd becoming depressed and earning Ryan a What the Hell, Hero? from Mike.
- The Fashionista: Mandy
- Flanderization: Kristin started off as an Overprotective Mom who felt Boyd was too young to be exposed to the Halloween "pagan death imagery," and was mostly about her I Coulda Been a Contender regrets about being a young mom and putting her career dreams on hold. Starting with the recasting and the second season, she became a lot more of a liberal Granola Girl who was trying to keep Boyd away from anything negative whatsoever, dodgeball being just the start of that, and her attempts at going back to college were dropped. Could be justified in that Ryan exacerbates that side of her.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Kristin and Mandy are the foolish, Eve is the responsible.
- Four Lines, All Waiting: "Thanksgiving" has the following plot lines:
- Mike and his father disagree over the latter's decision to open a marijuana dealership.
- Boyd tries to do a video report about what each family member is thankful for.
- Eve tries to avoid having to sit at the kid's table with Boyd.
- Mandy is upset that Kyle can't come to dinner and tries to convince Vanessa to let her drink wine.
- Ryan places a bet on the Detroit Lions game despite knowing nothing about football or how sports gambling works.
- "Friends" Rent Control: Averted by virtue of being set in Denver (lower cost of living), with both Mike and Vanessa working fairly lucrative jobs (Outdoor Man is the main hub of a national chain of stores). Their neighborhood is shown to also be rather nice, making this one of the few sitcoms to really focus on upper-middle class people.
- Also averted with Kristin and Ryan's apartment. Because they do not earn that much, they live in an inner city neighborhood with a school system so bad that they use Mike and Vanessa's address so Boyd can go to their neighborhood's school instead.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Ed: Mike, come here, you're gonna love this!
(Shows Mike an anatomically correct female deer)
Mike: I don't wanna love that.
- From "Sinkhole", after Eve says there's enough food in the bomb shelter to keep Boyd alive until he reaches middle school:
- Quite a few episodes (eg. "Mike Advises Mandy", "Changing Light Bulbs") have made references to Prison Rape.
- Glamorous Single Mother: Subverted with Kristin. It's established that the only reason she was able to do it was because her parents and sisters helped her.
- Glorified Sperm Donor: How Mike views Ryan, despite Kristin and Vanessa's efforts to get him to see otherwise.
- Good Parents: Mike and Vanessa.
- Granola Girl: Or Granola Guy in this case: Ryan.
- Halloween Episode: "Last Halloween Standing." Against Kristin's wishes, Mike takes Boyd out trick-or-treating and winds up mixing him up with another kid in a similar costume.
- "Haunted House" in Season 3. Vanessa takes over the PTA haunted house responsibility from Kristin for Boyd's school Halloween party and winds up scaring him with her design.
- Happily Married: Mike and Vanessa.
- Hidden Depths: Mike initially comes off a lot like his predecessor Tim Taylor, maybe even a bit more of a staunch conservative and sometimes even a deliberate jerkass. But he really is a loving father and husband, and his rants about the disintegrating male image doesn't mean he is male chauvinistic. When Outdoor Man was forced to make their softball team co-ed, Mike was one who was supportive of it.
- While Eve mocks the other women for being too feminine and claims she doesn't care about being a tomboy, a few episodes show that she is self-conscious about the fact that boys aren't throwing themselves at her like they did for Kristin and Mandy.
- Kyle can be pretty dense and is certainly not book smart, but he is a thoughtful individual and highly teachable. Most of the mistakes he makes are not (solely) from being stupid, but from just being a Nice Guy who naturally trusts and supports people. When called upon for his opinion, he more often than not provides an intelligent observation that everyone else was too bullheaded to realize.
- Ryan is every liberal stereotype rolled into one, and backs it up with being very socially active and willing to take a hit to prove his point. But he is not unreasonable when presented with good logistics that go against his first instincts. He advocated how good it would be for Boyd to go to a culturally diverse school (that was also overcrowded and understaffed), but when Mike suggests a perfectly legal and free way Boyd could go to a school that would offer a better education overall he had to admit he felt better about that scenario, putting him in conflict with Kristin over the idea.
- Another example is in "Big Shots". While he initially supported Kristin's decision not to get Boyd vaccinated, he then decided to actually do some research on the subject and came to agree with Mike and Vanessa.
- Mandy is airheaded by default and appears very self-centered, but she is actually one of the most altruistic members of the family. Her obsession with celebrities means she is also caught up in celebrity causes, and her passion for fashion comes from enjoying making people look and feel better about themselves.
- High School Sweethearts: Ryan and Kristin were this back in high school before she got pregnant. He ran off on her right before Boyd was born.
- Hollywood Atheist: Ryan.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Mike tends to be more more rational and level-headed with the day-to-day operations of Outdoor Man, keeping Ed from being both staunchly old-fashioned and too ready to try bizarre strategies.
- Hypocrite: The manager of Boyd's daycare promotes being open minded about ideas to the kids, then tells Boyd that Mike's ideas are wrong. Krisitin calls him out on this.
- In "Bullying", Mandy keeps bragging that she's a better daughter than Eve because she never got suspended from school. At the end of the episode, it turns out she has been suspended. Twice.
- Ryan has tendency to be rather hypocritical about his beliefs.
Ryan: (regarding the Pledge of Allegiance) It's indoctrination… I don't like the school forcing him to say something.
Mike: But you're forcing him not to say something. Isn't that indoctrination, man?
- Hypocritical Humor: Mike's response after seeing the slutty farm girl outfit Mandy had to wear for her sorority party:
Mike: It's group-think, and I refuse to support any organization that makes its members wear certain clothes. (walks past Eve wearing her JROTC uniform) Looking sharp, Eve.
Mike: There's 16 seconds left, you're down by 2! Put in the field goal kicker!
Chuck: Give it a rest, Baxter. Let the coach call the plays. Give it to my boy again!
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The first season started off with "Last X Standing" and something appropriate to the episode story. Quickly dropped.
- I Coulda Been a Contender: Kristin, who was voted most likely to succeed by her high school class, often wonders what she could have done with her life if she didn't get pregnant before graduating.
- I Let You Win: Subverted in "Big Shots". After Eve beats Kyle in a shooting gallery game, Mandy guesses that Kyle let Eve win because he's a nice guy which he confirms. When Mandy tells Eve, who then demands a rematch, Kyle reveals that he didn't let her win and just went along with Mandy's guess because he liked that she thought he was such a nice guy.
- Incredibly Lame Fun: The activities Kristin and Ryan plan for Boyd (such as seeing a puppet version of Hamlet).
Boyd: Let's go see the sad play that I won't understand
- Invisible President: "Election" averts this by name-checking both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
- Irony: In "Mike Hires Chuck", Vanessa berates Mike after Ed hires Chuck for Outdoor Man's overnight security, claiming that any work issues would negatively affect their relationship. However, even after Chuck's team fails to prevent a group of vandals, Mike and Chuck are still able to remain on their usual terms. Instead, it is Vanessa and Carol who begin to argue after Carol criticizes Vanessa's teaching performance at the inner city school they are working at.
- It Amused Me: The reason Eve didn't rent a hunting dog when she and Mandy went pheasant hunting was because she enjoyed watching Mandy retrieve the killed game herself.
- It's All About Me: Ryan. His self-centered nature caused his relationship with Kristin and Boyd to be strained.
- Mandy is another example.
Mandy: I should be playing Juliet. I am so much prettier than Chloe Foster.
Kristin: Okay well, maybe Chloe Foster is a better actress.
Mandy: Okay, now you just sound like the director.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Multiple actors from Home Improvement show up, always with a healthy dose of self-awareness. Richard Karn as Bill MacKensie in "Attractive Architect," who thought Mike had three sons. Jonathan Taylor Thomas has a recurring role John Baker, who Mike really likes and even notes that affectionately calling him "son" feels right. Patricia Richardson showed up as a recently divorced neighbor causing problems by working with loud power tools early in the morning.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ryan. Although he can be shallow, self-centered and extremely rude and pushy about his beliefs, he does care for Kristin and tries to have a good relationship with his son.
- Mike. He comes off as too conservative and opinionated, but he clearly loves his family and friends and is willing to do anything to help them (as evidenced by helping Kristin raise Boyd).
- Kind Hearted Simpleton: Kyle
- The Lad-ette: Eve is much more interested in male activities and often complains about the girly stuff her mom and sisters want her to do.
Mike: That's my boy.
Eve: Still a girl Dad.
Mike: Just let me have this.
- Lampshade Hanging: In "Thanksgiving", when Bud Baxter greets Kristin, he tells her she's "like an entirely different person" note
- The Last Title: The title of the series.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "Rediscover America" Mike says that Friday night is the only good night on TV.
- Like a Son to Me: Mike treats Boyd like the son he never had more than his grandson. It's implied that part of the reason for his hostility towards Ryan is due to the fact that Mike was essentially Boyd's father for the first five years of his life and doesn't want Ryan to take the role from him.
- Lineage Comes from the Father: Subverted. Most of Boyd's interests and personality come from Kristin's side of the family (Mike), much to Ryan's frustration.
- Malaproper: Mandy most often. One time she listed her "career" path as a celebrity that includes reaching fame in a reality show and then having to go to rehab for an addition problem. Mike and Vanessa found the mistake to be appropriate regardless.
- Mandatory Line: Many of Kristin's scenes in Season Four feel this way considering she appears in the Baxter's house despite not living there anymore.
- Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: Mike likes doing "manly things" and tries to maintain his manhood while being surrounded by women at home.
- Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Considering the premise, this isn't to be unexpected.
- Middle Child Syndrome: Mandy
- Mis Placed Kindergarten Teacher: Mandy and Eve's high school principal uses hand puppets when dealing with students.
- Motive Misidentification: After Kristin tells Mike and Vanessa Eve's boyfriend Justin will be going with her and their squad on a Junior ROTC camping weekend, they assume she wanted to have a romantic getaway with him and forbid her to go. Eve gets upset and tells Kristin that she wanted to go on the trip because she practiced for an entire year for the competitions that are being held and she didn't even want Justin there because she's afraid his lackluster skills will cost her squad victory.
- In "Here's the Kicker", Eve believes that Justin feels emasculated now that she is on the football team. When she talks to him about it, it turns out that he doesn't care that she's on the team and was just upset because Eve took his place at the Broncos' kicking contest, thus robbing him of the chance to win a Camaro.
- Ms. Fanservice: Mandy wears some fanservice-y outfits on occasion. For example, in "Last Halloween Standing," her parents stuck Mandy with a Garfield costume that covered practically her whole body as her Halloween costume. She tried to sneak upstairs after coming home from a Halloween party, but Vanessa caught her, and she ultimately revealed underneath her overcoat a more revealing version of said cat costume, which shows off her...curves.
- My Beloved Smother: Kristin tends to be very overprotective of Boyd (she makes him wear water wings in the bathtub).
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: A variation in "Here's the Kicker"
Mike: (sitting with Eve and her boyfriend at a Broncos game) Doesn't get any better than this. You, me, the crowd, and the Broncos.
Eve: And Justin.
Mike: I said "the crowd".
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe, Mike will not let Ryan forget that he walked out on Kristin and Boyd for 5 years and the entire family won't hesitate to remind Kristin she got pregnant in high school.
- Never My Fault: After Kristin spanks Boyd, she blames Vanessa because she spanked Kristin two times when she was younger.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: All of Ryan's attempts to calm Boyd down after the latter and Mike almost drove into a sinkhole only cause him to refuse to leave the Baxter's house.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Eve finds herself having to deal with this a lot.
- No Periods, Period: Averted. An early season one episode had Eve struggling with her first period and all the mood swings that entails. Being the youngest daughter, Mike is aware of the issues but it's awkward regardless, especially that Eve was the child he related to the most via sports and she became just as emotional as the others.
- Not Important to This Episode Camp: Even though they're listed as main characters, Boyd, Ryan, and Chuck do not appear in episodes where they are not an important part to the plot.
- Not So Above It All: On occasion, Ryan will partake in Mike's more "manly" and dangerous activities for Boyd (hockey, mutton busting) and has been shown to be a bit misogynistic on occasion.
- Odd Friendship: Kyle and Ed.
- Once an Episode: Each episode features one of Mike's vlogs for Outdoor Man, which usually ties thematically into the story's conflict.
- The One Guy: The premise of the series with Mike the only male Baxter in the cast, Boyd being too young to do the manly stuff Mike is anxious to do.
Doctor: I'm concerned about your blood pressure.
Mike: I live in a house with four women.
Doctor: Then you're doing great.
- Only Sane Man: Mike and/or Vanessa, depending on the episode. Mike plays this role during the episodes where he makes decisions based on rationality and logic instead of emotions like the women and turns out to be right. Vanessa is this during the times when Mike gets carried away with his testosterone-fueled antics or conservative rants and has to reel him back in and convince him to make amends to whomever he has hurt or offended. Both of them are this in the episodes where their kids are the ones who screw up.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Played for Laughs in "Changing Light Bulbs". After Eve tells Mandy that she's happy the latter isn't moving out because she loves her, Mandy believes that Eve is dying.
- Played straight in "Wedding Planning" where Vanessa, Ryan's biggest defender aside from Kristin, becomes furious at him for wanting to use Kristin's wedding fund to pay off his student debt.
- Overprotective Dad: Zigzagged. On the one hand, while Mike is concerned about his daughters just as much as the next guy and if things seem wrong he WILL come to the rescue, but he is also aware he can't fix everything. Additionally, in the first episode he actually invites Kyle to take Kristin out on a date, feeling she needs to have some time away from work and her kid. In a later episode after being given a hard time Kyle comments, "I get the feeling you don't respect me much." and Mike responds with, "I'm letting you date my daughter. Where I come from that is the highest form of respect." On the other hand, whenever Mandy and Eve go on dates with guys he doesn't like, Mike makes sure the boy is aware that he owns a large collection of guns.
- Paintball Episode: Used in a parody of mafia/gangster movies, Ed tracks down all the employees who voted for co-ed softball and shoots them in the leg with a paintball gun.
- Papa Wolf: When Bill McKenzie spills beer on Boyd at a baseball game while being a Jerkass, Ryan punches him in the face.
- When Mike's father Bud meets Ryan for the first time, he tells him that he swore he would kill him [Ryan] for abandoning Kristin and Boyd. He still thinks about doing it during their conversation.
- Parental Favoritism: Downplayed example. While Mike and Vanessa clearly love all three kids, it's no secret that Mike likes Eve (the tomboy who loves sports, hunting, etc. just as much as he does) the best. Vanessa also bonded more with the more girly Kristin and Mandy, giving her some empty nest syndrome when she realizes Eve was the last daughter to hang out with.
- Mike's dad favors his brother Jim over him. He's even misremembered some of Mike's achievements, such as catching a game-winning touchdown, as Jim's.
- Parental Substitute: Kyle looks to Mike as a father figure, as he hadn't seen his own dad in years. But as much as he likes to prank or tease Kyle, Mike likes the kid and takes the father figure role seriously.
- Passionate Sports Girl: Eve, specifically soccer, basketball, and softball.
- Personality Swap: "Wedding Planning" involved Mike offering Kristin and Ryan the money from a fund he and Vanessa set aside for each kids wedding. Mike was hesitant to give them the money when they said they were going to have a remote forest ceremony instead of a church, but relented when Vanessa encouraged him to be more open to the idea. But when Kristin and Ryan confessed they would use the money on a small wedding and use it to pay off Ryan's school debt, Vanessa goes crazy and Mike had to calm her down.
- Phone Aholic Teenager: Mandy
- Playing Gertrude: Robert Forster, who play's Mike's father Bud, is only 12 years older than Tim Allen.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Jonathan Adams (Chuck Larabee) and Jordan Masterson (Ryan) in Season 4. In both cases, they're only credited in the episodes they appear. Masterson actually started as a Fake Guest Star when he joined the show in Season 2, appearing in a majority of the episodes through Season 3.
- Proud Beauty: Mandy, much to Mike and Vanessa's chagrin.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: In-Universe, Mike feels this way about some aspects of modern society along with some of Ryan and Kristin's actions regarding raising Boyd. And that's all we're gonna say about that.
- Pushover Parents: Kristin and Ryan don't believe in punishing Boyd and instead try to teach him to behave by using positive reinforcement (i.e. giving him candy after he does something good). This backfires on them when Boyd begins to refuse to do anything they say unless he gets a treat.
- Pride: Vanessa's screw ups are often because of this trope.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Mike teaches Eve this lesson when she defied the football coach's instructions that ended up winning the game instead of kicking a field goal, tying it and put it into overtime. She didn't respect her coach, and if her teammates treated her the same way she would have failed royally, and she gets punished by running the stairs during practice. Mike adds that things would be much worse when she's in the military, and wants her to learn that lesson now.
- Really Gets Around: Mandy (or so Eve says).
- Reckless Gun Usage: Generally averted in principle (although Mike did threaten Kyle with a crossbow in the pilot), but teased at in one episode. Mike was cleaning a vintage flintlock rifle in the kitchen and Vanessa was concerned that something could go wrong with Boyd right next to him. Mike went on a minute-long bit about the ludicrous idea of Boyd overpowering him, correctly doing all the steps necessary to load and arm the rifle and shooting him in the foot.
Vanessa: Just keep the safety on.
Mike: The whole gun IS the safety!.
- Retool: The second season recasted both Kristin and Ryan, as well as making Ryan a common Recurring Character. Ryan's strong liberal leanings clash with Mike's conservative opinions, having the effect of turning the show into a Spiritual Successor of All in the Family. The main difference is that Mike is opinionated but generally well educated while Ryan's opinion leans towards ignorant, spoiled idealism, not helped by the fact he will immediately abandon his principles if he will benefit from it.
- Ripped from the Headlines: After Colorado passed the bill legalizing marijuana, a few episodes in season 3 focus on Mike's father opening a pot dealership.
- Romantic False Lead: Kyle for Kristin. They've dated in the first season, but it doesn't last.
- Save Our Students: In season four, Vanessa decides to quit her job as a geologist and become a teacher at an inner city high school.
- Self-Deprecation: Kristin jokes (especially in season one) about her getting pregnant in high school. "We all have our own talents... apparently I'm fertile."
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Kyle's the sensitive guy and Mike's the manly man.
- Sequel Episode: "Vanessa Fixes Kyle"'s A-plot is about Vanessa trying to get back into Kyle's good graces after the events of "Pledging"note .
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Eve is usually seen in sportswear, grimed up from a recent game. That makes the few times she dresses up for an event that much more surprising when she's actually wearing a flattering dress and make-up.
- Slut Shaming: Referred to by name, as Mandy being a big flirt and (supposedly) sleeping around is often a target for insults by Eve. Mandy learned the term (and psychological effects) in a college class, which gave her the upper hand to ignore the stigma.
- Soap Box Sadie: Ryan is a male version that takes this to extreme levels. To give an example, he launched a campaign to rename Boyd's school because the person it is named after (William Clark) was a slave owner. Even Carol Larabee, who is head of the PTA and, as an African-American, has more reason to dislike Clark than Ryan, felt the entire thing was trivial.
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Boyd turned 2 in the first season and the second season was suddenly 5. This is embraced as a complete retcon, as Kristin was also aged up appropriately to keep the fact she had Boyd when she was 17.
- Spiritual Successor: The children may be gender flipped but a lot of the same basic themes continue on from Home Improvement. Whereas Jill was the one surrounded by testosterone, here Mike is surrounded by estrogen (the personalities of the characters are also closely matched). Mike's rants for the Outdoor Man website (and minor celebrity status) are pretty close to the filibusters Tim would engage in on Tool Time.
- Straw Character: Mostly played for laughs both ways.
- Mike's overt Republican beliefs set the character up as this for viewers on the left, presenting every stereotype Democrats dislike about Republicans. He's a gun-toting, ethnocentric, angry, borderline bigot who sees Barack Obama as a socialist nightmare here to take his guns and money.
- Ryan is his Democratic counterpart. He embodies the "bleeding heart liberal" to a T. He's also a vegan, pacifist, overly politically correct, borderline hippie Soapbox Sadie who blames the 1% for every problem suffered by the working class and wants socialized medicine, benefits, and wages.
- Straw Feminist: Kristin has shades of this. When a newspaper reporter refers to Eve as "female placekicker Eve Baxter" in an article after a win, she is happy because the article implies girls can be just as good as boys. When the reporter uses the same terminology after the team loses, she complains that the article implies Eve lost the game because she's a girl.
- Take That: Mike compares his father's store's lack of security to the Denver Broncos' defense in Super Bowl XLVIII.
- Teen Pregnancy: Kristin got pregnant during her senior year in high school.
- Teens Are Short: Rather notable in that both Mike and Vanessa tower over all their kids.
- Terrible Artist: Eve's attempt at drawing a bowl of fruit for her art class looks more like a dinosaur. She hopes that her high school's budget cuts will result in the art program being cancelled so she won't get a bad grade and not get into West Point.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eve's the tomboy to Mandy's girly girl. With Kristin in a different stage of her life, the contrast between Mandy and Eve is that much bigger.
- Took A Level In Jerk Ass: Kristin in season 2. She went from being a level headed young woman who was mildly annoyed at Mike's beliefs and restrictions at worst to a Commander Contrarian Granola Girl who undermines him at every opportunity and, on one occasion, calls him a "toxic" influence on Boyd.
- By late season 3, however, she's often as likely to side with her father as with Ryan when the two of them start arguing.
- Town Girls:
- Butch: Eve, who plays sports, does ROTC and has beaten up two different boys.
- Femme: Mandy, a stereotypical shopaholic, boy-crazy fashonista air head.
- Neither: Kristin.
- Unkempt Beauty: Eve once stole all of Mandy's make-up gear, forcing her to go to school without it. She felt like she had a reputation to keep up the "Mandy Baxter experience" at school. By the end she realized it was not as big a deal as she thought it would be.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Mike and Chuck make a big show of not liking each other, but the truth is they hate many of the same things and enjoy insulting each other with no ill will involved. Vanessa cannot understand why they don't consider each other friends, but that's all part of the gender clash.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Mike and Kristin to Ryan after the latter blames Vanessa, with no evidence whatsoever, that the sinkhole Mike and Boyd almost drove into was her fault.
- White Man's Burden: Ryan is always going on crusades to get rid of "white male oppression" and "benefit" American minorities, much to the annoyance of Mike and people that actually belong to the minority groups, like the Larabees.
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Vanessa hates that Eve enjoys dangerous activities like sports and hunting and wishes she were more feminine like her sisters.
- Will They or Won't They?: Through most of the second season there was a lot of Ship Tease between Kristin and Ryan (mending fences after Ryan left when Boyd was born) and Mandy and Kyle (made complicated that Kristin and Kyle used to date). Both couples end up getting together in the same episode after Eve points out that most everyone can see what is going on.
- Wise Beyond Her Years: Played with with Kristin. Since she had to grow up earlier than most high schoolers when she got pregnant, she's very wise and mature compared to other people her age. However, she still needs guidance from her parents regarding being a mother.
- Women Are Wiser: Subverted. There are a number of episodes where Mike is proven to be right, and Vanessa is prone to stupid mistakes because of her pride.
- You Go Girl: Eve becomes the placekicker for her high school's football team in season 4.
- You Look Familiar: Jonathan Taylor Thomas played Kristin's boss Jon in seasons two and three, then cameoed as Helen Pott's son Randy in season four.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Inverted, Mike thought Muffin was a girl and never bothered to check. Amusingly, he only found out because Chuck came by with his pregnant German Shepard and said Muffin was the only dog it could have been.