Me during the broadcast of "Much On Demand" outside in front of the Muchmusic building in Toronto, ON on September 25, 2003.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Home Town Improvement: Last Man Standing's Winnipeg Connection

Winnipeg has had more than its' share of mentions as part of the dialogue by characters on various U.S. prime-time TV comedies and dramas over the last several years. Possibly because of the David Steinberg influence: Big-time/long-time director/comedian/actor Steinberg hails from Winnipeg, so I think "Winnipeg" is put into the dialogue and plots of these shows as a spoof/inside rib directed to/about him.

But there's been a new one in the past year or so, and it's my favorite. It's also part of a background to a permanent character, so it's not just an isolated Winnipeg reference mentioned in only one episode, it's continuous.

And it has yet to be mentioned in any Winnipeg newspapers, believe it or not.

It's Tim Allen's new sitcom, Last Man Standing, that airs Friday nights on ABC.

I started watching it by accident last year, as it came on at a good time for me each week. I think it had been on for a year or so already before I found it.

Now, being the horndog I am, I, of course, started watching it for all the sex humor involving Mandy, Mike's (Allen's character) free-spirited middle daughter.

But, as it turns out, Mike's eldest daughter, Kristin, has a child with her ex, who she has been slowly getting back together with, and his name is Ryan, and he's from.....WINNIPEG!!!

Last season, for example, one episode dealt with Ryan's parents wanting the couple and their child, Boyd, to come live with them in Winnipeg. Kristen doesn't want to. She says, "First of all, because it's Winnipeg," with a yucky look on her face. They end up not moving. Hey, where were the nasty-but-good-natured comments in the papers about that?

This season, on the Halloween episode, a few family members were discussing the day before Halloween. Now, I zoned out for a sec and didn't hear what someone said they called it, but I did hear Ryan follow up with, "In Winnipeg, growing up, we called it Cabbage Night." (Cabbage Night? I never heard of that. We - in the mid '70s, when I was around 15 - always called it Gate Night. I tweeted that to the show.)

So it's a running gag that Ryan is from Winnipeg. But it also adds another dimension to the show. You see, Mike is an old-school Republican (i.e., he hasn't gone out of his mind, kind of like Will McAvoy hasn't, either) and he and Ryan frequently debate U.S. politics, with Ryan taking the Democrats' side, as Ryan is a staunch left winger, reminiscent of Mike Stivic (the "meathead") on All In The Family. Meaning these whole exchanges are reminiscent of the Archie Bunker/Stivic All In The Family arguments. Except on this show, the dynamic includes the fact Ryan is from Winnipeg, as that takes into account Canadians overall being more left-leaning than Americans. (With our Conservative Party not leaning as far to the right as the U.S. Republican Party.)

Therefore, this show, as a result, has it all: This whole Winnipeg thing with Ryan, the aforementioned Mandy sexpot stuff (and Kristin's pretty hot, too), and even the occasional Home Improvement inside joke thrown in for good measure whenever a cast member from that show makes a guest appearance. Like when Johnathan Taylor Thomas appears as Kristin's boss at the restaurant, and Mike takes another shot at Ryan by telling JTT's character, "You're like a son to me."

Only thing that's unexplained is this: How does someone from Winnipeg drive a beer truck in the United States (Ryan's job)? How did U.S. Immigration let him cross the border to live in the U.S. if he just drives a beer truck? Maybe we'll find that out some day. Maybe he has dual citizenship if his mother gave birth to him when they were visiting the U.S., kind of like Chris Jericho. He could have a green card if he was married to Kristin, but I believe that does not entitle him to work. And I don't believe they were married, just boyfriend and girlfriend, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.

So there's the tip: For the best in "Winnipeg" humor, watch Last Man Standing Fridays at 7:00 p.m. CST on ABC!

(Or could this "Ryan From Winnipeg" thing have anything to do with the fact that Wendy Crewson, Tim Allen's co-star in the three "Santa Clause" movies, is from Winnipeg?)

(And Mandy: You're a legal adult at 18. Please come up to Winnipeg where becoming a legal adult means you CAN drink booze and go to nightclubs. Maybe you could visit Ryan's family while you're at it. You know how grating it is to constantly see other characters take glasses of booze out of your 18-year old hands when here, ever since 1970, YOU ARE LEGAL TO DRINK ALCOHOL? Maybe I'll have to visit that family and buy Mandy some booze. I would have no problem whatsoever supplying alcohol to anyone in the U.S. between 18 and 21. My conscience is clear. I have been influenced by my Winnipeg surroundings. I can't be "reformed.")