ABC made big changes to the second season of "Last Man Standing." Now on its third showrunner, the comedy replaced three cast members and will move from Tuesdays to Fridays. Some changes add much-needed refinements, but others threaten the show's balance and appeal.
Boyd's growth spurt
The pilot episode of "Home Improvement" memorably featured the "Tool Man" (Tim Allen) showing his youngest son how to repair the family's dishwasher. It was a combination of humor and heart as the boy learned about the importance of "more power" before watching the dishwasher explode.
As Mike on "Last Man Standing," Tim Allen could have revived that dynamic, but the twin actors who played the toddler were too young to spend much time on screen. Replacing them with 5-year-old Flynn Morrison adds unpredictability to Mike's female-dominated household. Fans can relish Allen's antics as he once again attempts to teach a boy about the sanctity of manhood.
Questionable cast changes
Eldest daughter Kristin began as a smart single parent with a bit of 1970s hippie flair. She gave Mike ample opportunity to share his macho, gearhead humor before revealing his enlightened side. She occasionally clashed with him about childproofing, gender roles, and spooky Halloween celebrations, but her character drifted during the first season.
Season 2 features Amanda Fuller as the new Kristin. The original actress, Alexandra Krosney, had great comedic timing and helped balance some of the wackier characters, particularly fashionista Mandy. Casting an older actress threatens to reduce Kristin to a sad stereotype instead of a hopeful person determined to overcome life's challenges.
Nick Jonas played Boyd's dad, Ryan, in a single episode during the first season. Jordan Masterson takes over the role, and the absentee dad will have a greater presence in the upcoming season. Reportedly, protective Mike will clash with him, but this also has the potential to go awry.
As parents of a 5-year-old son, Kristin and Ryan should have some degree of stability. The shows needs to treat them as reasonable people finding their way as first-time parents instead of totally incompetent foils for Mike. Otherwise, this funny show will inch into "Maury Povich Show" territory.
Friday night death slot?
Many Friday night shows, including "The Finder," struggle to find an audience and get canceled. "Last Man Standing" has a strong chance for success because ABC is cultivating a TGIF revival. Reba McEntire joins the Friday lineup with "Malibu Country," a starting-over comedy with TV veterans Lily Tomlin, Sara Rue, and Jai Rodriguez. Known hits "What Would You Do?" and "Shark Tank" round out the potential power block. With this thoughtful schedule and better-defined characters, the revamped "Last Man Standing" can draw a loyal audience.
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