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."
Last Man Standing 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. Also somewhat of Dueling Shows with Good Luck Charlie as they both take place in the same city and cover similar situations.
Last Man Standing provides examples of the following tropes:
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.
Analogy Backfire: Kyle tells Boyd that mutton busting is just like riding a bike. Boyd points out that the entire reason he's doing this is because he doesn't know how to ride a bike.
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 (or as Ryan calls it "speed"). Mike went 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 was 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 seeming absent minded personality.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Belief Makes You Stupid: Ryan is a firm believer in this and is shocked that Vanessa, a scientist, believes in heaven.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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, "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.
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.
Disappeared Dad: Ryan to Boyd, who got Kristin pregnant and left town. Though he reappeared in the first season Christmas Episode and now becomes a Recurring Character in the second season, to take responsibility and rekindle his relationship with 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
High School Sweethearts: Ryan and Kristin were this back in high school before she got pregnant. They broke up right after Boyd was born.
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.
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.
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.
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: Richard Karn as Bill MacKensie in "Attractive Architect," to the point he almost steps out from the universe of Home Improvement as he thought Mike had three sons. Jonathan Taylor Thomas also shows up as recurring character John Baker, who Mike really likes and even notes that affectionately calling him "son" feels right.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ryan. Although he can be shallow and self-centered, he actually still cares 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).
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.
Motive Misidentification: After Kristin tells Mike and Vanessa Eve's boyfriend 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 her boyfriend there because she's afraid his lackluster skills will cost her squad victory.
My Beloved Smother: Kristin tends to be very overprotective of Boyd (she makes him wear water wings in the bathtub).
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.
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 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.
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.
Overprotective Dad: Subverted. 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. 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 "I'm letting you date my daughter. Where I come from that is the highest form of respect."
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 stills 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.
Parental Substitute: Kyle looks at Mike as a father figure, as he hadn't seen his own dad in years. However much he likes to prank or tease Kyle, Mike likes the kid and takes the father figure role seriously.
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.
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 was a Disappeared Dad for the first few years of Boyd's life.
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.
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 Vanessa advised Mandy to dump Kyle so she could have a "full college experience". She didn't but after Kyle finds out about it, he begins treating Vanessa coldly. .
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.
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 Barak 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.
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.
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 ContrarianGranola Girl who undermines him at every opportunity and, on one occasion, calls him a "toxic" influence on Boyd.
Butch: Eve, who plays sports, does ROTC and has beaten up two different boys.
Femme: Mandy, a stereotypical shopaholic, boy-crazy fashonista air head.
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.
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.