Tim Allen, Michigan native and admitted Lions fan has a new show coming out. It was listed among the successes being picked up by ABC for the upcoming season and will be called Last Man Standing. I bring this up though not because Allen grew up in Metro Detroit, or cause I enjoyed Home Improvement as a kid, but because of the show’s description. This is from EW:
Tim Allen’s return to primetime is a go: ABC ordered a new comedy that will star the Home Improvement star as a traditional manly-man in a progressive world. The laugher also will feature Nancy Travis, who will play Allen’s “smart and loving wife who doesn’t miss much.” Hector Elizondo will serve as Allen’s boss Ed.
“A traditional manly-man in a progressive world” That is what peaked my interest. As I’ve talked about before, there is a shortage of real modern day men left on television. We are for the most part given one of two men. First, a man who is portrayed as a buffoon, shown to be on the same intellectual level of his kids, and cowers before his all-knowing wife. Perfect example would be Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) on Modern Family.
Secondly we get a man who is such an elite bad-ass that he is completely shut off from the world around and therefore becomes unrelatable. Best example here may be Jack Bauer. Now don’t get me wrong, 24 is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I love Modern Family. But can you imagine grabbing a beer with Jack? What would you talk about? Sports? Movies? Terrorist Attacks? Perhaps how inept his daughter is? And what about Phil? Could you look at Phil and not lose respect for him entirely once you saw how easily he is pushed around by his own kids?
Those are the 2 archetypes we are most commonly given now, but they aren’t the only ones. A 3rd type, and one that is appearing more often, is the old-school, fatherly caveman. Sticking with Modern Family you could look at Ed O’Neill‘s ‘Jay Pritchett’, but an even better even better example Zeke Braverman (Craig T. Nelson) on Parenthood. Here are the guys that remind me of my dad. They have an old school ideal, but it is almost always displayed in negative light. Their way is considered ‘archaic’ and the world has changed around them. All the problems of the next generation are heaped on them as they get blamed for any shortcomings since.
There is at least one show though that has a lead who is a somewhat believable beacon of modern masculinity – and that show is Justified. The main character, Raylan Givens is a lawman, but unlike Jack Bauer he is not some unstoppable killing machine, he actually loses fights more that once. Unlike Phil Dunphy however, he commands respect for not only his actions, but his character as well. He has the old school attitude of a Zeke Braverman, but without the constant crutch of being always questioned and looked down upon. Raylan Givens is like a modern-day Will Kane and he is ever the rarity.
It’s funny to think that when I was a kid, watching Roseanne, and seeing John Goodman‘s ‘Dan Conner’ character, that I was watching a dying breed. This was a TV Dad who actually lost his shit and yelled at his kids sometimes. He liked football, played poker, and worked on his motorcycle. He was a good father and a good man, but did it all without paying the cost of giving up what made him a man. He was a relatable everyman and even that is something not often seen anymore.
So that brings us back to Tim Allen. As masculinity is so often looked down upon now in a public eye, where people want you to talk about your feelings and get in touch with your feminine side, it’ll be interesting to see the direction this show takes. And I think in private, most woman would still prefer overly masculine man to an overly sensitive one, that just not how it’s perceived in modern media. So where will ABC will take this new show. It’s a comedy obviously, but will they allow Allen to buck back against progressive society, or will he simply be made the butt of every joke as the television medium once again tries to tell us men need to evolve?