Last Man Standing, Tim Allen
In ABC's new comedy Last Man Standing, Tim Allen plays Mike Baxter, an executive of an outdoor sporting goods company who wants to restore men to their rightful manly place in a woman's world.
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But most of the time his caveman-like ranting makes his character -— and several others in this fall's new crop of shows that share his feelings — seem more like buffoons. Or, to quote a reporter at Monday's Television Critics Association fall TV previews, d-----bags.
"Well, that was the working title, actually," Allen joked. "Somebody's already got it. Fox already got it."
The real answer for why men are often played so broadly, Allen said, is a lack of good writing. "When you don't have material, you go to the lowest common denominator," Allen said. "And I think, if you notice, every guy on TV has a flannel shirt and a gray T-shirt underneath, and he likes beer, and he's got a much better looking wife than he deserves. It's buffoonery. [But] I'm going to go out on a limb and say we're not going to do that on this show."
Whether or not that's true, Allen's latest manly character doesn't seem much of a stretch from his best known role of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor on ABC's long-running family sitcom Home Improvement. And he knows it.
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"That's why you go to Michael Bay films. He does action films, and he has this style," Allen said, suggesting fans know what they're going to get from his TV shows. "I looked at some dramedies when I thought of television, and it just wasn't interesting to me. ... I wanted to break that wall so I'd have an outlet for standup, for the comedy skills I have or what skills I think I have... It isn't rocket science what I'm doing."
Although the "man fighting through a woman's world" premise is in this show's DNA, executive producer Jack Burditt said that's only one element of the show. "I don't think you're going to see that as a theme week in and week out because I think that would get old really quick," he said. "I think at the heart of it, this is just a family comedy. It's about a family who doesn't always see eye-to-eye on everything but really like each other."
Allen viewed the family element as a way to differentiate this show from Home Improvement. This time around, his character and his onscreen wife (Nancy Travis) are parents to three girls instead of three boys. "I really wanted to investigate what it would be like to be around four women that are intelligent and strong and fun and loving," he said. "I have two daughters, a strong wife, and a mom and sisters, and I just love to be able to be in that world consistently. And I thought it would be kind of fun literally to flip-flop the two shows."
But there are differences behind the scenes too. The ABC regime Allen previously worked for is long gone. "It's a tighter, leaner ship at ABC," Allen said. "The landscape has changed. Everything is, I don't want to say cheaper, but I just did. There's less revenue. There's less of everything. So you got to do better with less." Allen then joked, "Sometimes leaner is better. In this case it's not. We drink water out of a hose."
And what does Allen think a manly man should be? "I really believe that men need stuff to do," he said. "You have to have hobbies, and you should be able to fix stuff. ... When men lose this capacity to mortise and tenon with wood, we're kind of left with nothing to do, like those big drone bees that get kicked out of the hive."
Last Man Standing premieres Tuesday, Oct.11 at 8/7c on ABC.