One network’s loss is another network’s gain, just ask FOX.
It was a great move for FOX to pick up Last Man Standing after ABC canceled it a year ago following six successful seasons, as well as being popular in syndication. The Tim Allen sitcom premiered its seventh season last week and gave the FOX network a ratings surge on Friday night proving that Last Man Standing has legs.
The best part about the show’s return is seeing the good old-fashioned family dynamic with Tim Allen playing Mike Baxter, a married father of three girls, who tries to maintain his manliness in a world increasingly dominated by the women in his life. That has always been a fertile field of comedy for Allen throughout his career, doing standup, films and starring in ABC’s Home Improvement for eight seasons.
Allen, 65, talked about all of that and more at the Television Critics Association’s summer 2018 press tour when FOX presented an interview panel with Tim and co-stars Nancy Travis, Jonathan Adams, Amanda Fuller, Christoph Sanders, Jordan Masterson, plus executive producers/writers Matt Berry, Becky Clements and Kevin Abbott, show-runner.
It was rumored that the reason ABC canceled the comedy was because of the main character’s political leanings. “I don’t really believe that it was. It was a financial decision on ABC’s part. Now we’re here because of that,” Allen said happily.
When asked if the conservative Republican “Mike Baxter” is a Trump supporter, Allen answered, “It’s a legitimate question. So this guy’s a practical guy. He owns a big business. If it’s helping his business, he’s probably pro-Trump. He probably doesn’t defend him. I think he’s going to be more of a centrist…whatever’s good for his business he’s going to go with.”
Allen made it clear that the role he’s playing is not who he really is. He explained, “I’m not the character I play. If you want to know what I really believe, come to see me at the Mirage in Las Vegas. You’ll be a little startled with the comedian, who I am really, not the character I play. You know, Keanu Reeves did murder 120 people in John Wick, but he’s not actually a killer.”
Allen hopes Last Man Standing reflects families dealing with different points of view. Producer Matt Berry said, “What makes this show relevant is that it’s about a family that stays together no matter what. You’re allowed to disagree, but at the end of the day that won’t divide you as a family. That’s our marching orders as the television show.”
The always wonderful Héctor Elizondo stars as Ed Alzate, Tim’s business partner on the show, and he often serves as the wise man who gives Mike Baxter a very different point of view to consider. Nancy Travis plays Mike’s wife Vanessa Baxter and furthers the discussions dealing with family issues and beyond. Travis said, “You don’t have stock comedy caricatures. You have people that are multidimensional, who are dealing with real issues and having real tragedies and joys. As a couple Mike and Vanessa have been married for a long time, raised three daughters and have mutual respect, but don’t always agree. It’s very relatable.”
The show is hilarious but has poignant moments too. There will be an episode this season that has Mike coming to grips with the death of his father, who has been played by the absolutely brilliant actor Robert Forster in the recurring role. “It’s about grieving and it’s a very funny episode,” Allen told this reporter who will miss seeing Forster.
What else does Allen have in store for this season? On the top of his wish list is to bring Tom Hanks on to do a wink and a nod to Toy Story. Allen revealed, “I’ve leaned on Hanks so many times. I wanna do Woody and Buzz, just the voices, so bad on this show.” Both stars are doing Toy Story 4 which will be out next year. But in the meantime Last Man Standing airs Fridays on Fox. Tune in.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.