Credit: FOX

The words “Donald Trump” are not uttered once during Friday’s season premiere of Last Man Standing, but the 45th president looms over almost every scene in Tim Allen’s reincarnated (and relocated) family comedy. More unexpected, though, is the tone Last Man strikes throughout its 22-minute return. One might almost call it… unifying.

Other than moving from ABC to Fox, the new Last Man is pretty much the same as the old Last Man. Allen plays Mike Baxter, loud and proud everyman and sporting goods store exec whose traditional worldview sometimes puts him at odds with his family: Wife Vanessa (Nancy Travis), and daughters Kristin (Amanda Fuller), Eve (Kaitlyn Dever), and Mandy (Molly McCook, taking over the role from Molly Ephraim). Nowadays, Mike is feeling pretty good about the “new and improved America,” but his family — like the nation — is divided: Eve and Mandy aren’t speaking after an argument about patriotism, while Mike’s liberal son-in-law Ryan (Jordan Masterson) has worked himself up into such a frenzy of political despair that he plans to move Kristin and their son Boyd (Jet Jurgensmeyer) to Canada.

It would have been easy for Allen — an outspoken Republican who once likened being a conservative in Hollywood to being in “’30’s Germany” — to play to the cheap seats, pandering with potshots about snowflakes and such. Instead, the premiere of Last Man balances its Dad-jabs at the left with a general message of can’t we all just get along? “Listen, politics always change. Sometimes it’s my guys, sometimes it’s your morons,” he tells Ryan, as the laugh track responds enthusiastically. Later, Mike addresses the camera for his Outdoor Man vlog: “Not communicating seems to be the weapon of choice right now,” he says. “To the families of America and the American family, keep talking.”

Did Tim Allen just send a message of healing into the TV universe?

Those who found Last Man Standing funny when Obama was president will no doubt find it funny again today. But even those who didn’t can’t argue with Mike’s command to his family: “We treat each other with dignity and respect, because that’s who we are.” Grade: B-

Last Man Standing airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Last Man Standing
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