Tim Allen (“Last Man Standing”) has returned to the workshop. This time, however, he’s not sporting a long white beard, big red coat or plump Santa Claus belly. Instead, he and Richard Karn (“PEN15”) — the duo from the 1991 sitcom “Home Improvement” — are back as the hosts of History’s new competitive series “Assembly Required.”
In the show, each contestant competes to build a specific household item in an allotted period of time. Once the task is completed, the contestants are judged based on their creation’s appearance, quality and functionality. The pilot features three men who are tasked with creating a fire extinguisher and an all-season leaf blower. Between each round, the contestant with the least impressive creation is eliminated. The winner receives a cash prize of $5,000 and, as Karn calls them, “bragging rights.”
The contestants featured in the episode specialize in different forms of craftsmanship, but all three are male. Manual labor and home improvement are stereotypically believed to be a man’s job, and the show could have diversified the contestants more to combat these preconceived notions. Additionally, Allen informs the contestants that everything they did in their lives up to the show doesn’t matter, because winning the competition is what will make them real men.
These comments are unnecessary. For one, the men are being tasked to create a fire extinguisher, not a time machine.
Allen’s sexist remark is unwarranted and offensive. In today’s world, young men and women are constantly exposed to an extreme number of sexist media. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the male gaze remains extremely prevalent in television. An inconsequential competitive series such as “Assembly Required” is an opportunity for builders to recreate items you can find in your garage. Therefore, winning this competition means winning money, not achieving manhood.
Aside from the sexism, Allen and Karn attempt to keep the show entertaining, but to no avail. The two feed off of each other’s goofiness. What is difficult to grasp, however, is how the duo’s comedy fits this genre. “Assembly Required” is far from a sitcom, and so, the actors’ added “dad” jokes seem over the top. Allen’s boisterous attitude is not only corny but adds further confusion to the comedian’s placement on a competitive build-it show. It’s rather ironic that he felt inclined to tell the competitors they aren’t real men if they can’t build, considering both he and Karn work in the acting industry, not in construction.
The premise of the show is creative, but the way “Assembly Required” tackles it falls flat. Instead, it is cringe-worthy and unnecessary. Allen and Karn are inadequate judges and seem unqualified when it comes to the mechanics of household tools. Even their comedy seems a little rusty.
Regardless of its flaws, which are already hard to ignore, the show goes on. Don’t set your expectations too high, though. Unless Allen and Karn decide to surprise their audience, we can only anticipate the tasks will be nothing more than your average toaster or lawnmower. As for the jokes, we can only hope those, too, will be revamped.
Daily Arts Contributor Molly Hirsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.