The writers of ABC's new Last Man Standing know what's wrong with the show. In the first minute, the youngest of the three daughters makes a wisecrack about her mom and sisters.
"It's not cute when your dad says it," responds mom, "and it's just confusing when you do it."
Except for the females' faces, there's absolutely nothing cute about Tim Allen's return to sitcomery, which premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. It's flatter than a poor squirrel that got caught during rush hour on the Schuylkill Expressway.
Women are the successful sitcom stars this season: Fox's New Girl and CBS's 2 Broke Girls have already been picked up for the year. ABC's Suburgatory, centered on the trials of a teenage girl who's hauled off to the suburbs, scored swell ratings its first two showings.
Men are the goats. CBS's cringe-worthy How to Be a Gentleman is poised to be the network's first cancellation. And at ABC, things are simply grim.
Last Man Standing, which has zero laughs, is the best of the network's three new man-coms. Dad Allen at least brings along a little friendly familiarity from his days on Home Improvement, even if his 1990s character was more up-to-date than the current curmudgeon who laments the wimpy condition of 2011 American manhood, while snarkily dismissing his wife and two oldest daughters. The youngest, a 13-year-old daddy's girl tomboy, gets the OK.
You simply shrug and sigh as Man unfolds - it's a whole hour this week - before starting a search for the remote. Next week, Last Man Standing will be followed by Man Up!, in which perfectly nice men suffer inferiority complexes because they like to use body wash and play video games. That one's bad enough to inspire a frantic remote-search, punctuated, perhaps, by a few choice words of wonder that such stupidity has made it to the screen.
Both shows should be distant memories by the time the sheer bafflement of Work It makes it to the January schedule.
The show, about two guys forced to dress up as women because they can't get hired as men, will make its limp predecessors seem like Modern Family. Man, that's an unenviable feat.