Revived on Fox, ‘Last Man Standing’ tries to cast a wide net at TCA
“Everyone loves a comeback,” were the first words spoken by a representative from Fox to introduce the Tim Allen sitcom “Last Man Standing” at the TCA summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Thursday.
Canceled by ABC in 2017, the series became another battlefront in the ongoing culture wars as a narrative began — in part fanned by Fox News — that the conservative ideology of Allen’s character, a businessman and married father of three, played a role in the ouster.
And while politics seems never far behind in just about any pop culture topic, the team behind “Last Man Standing” was keen to downplay the earlier controversy in presenting the series’ resurgence.
During the panel, executive producers Kevin Abbott and Matt Berry repeated many times that “Last Man Standing” was about a family, and one its fans would recognize from ABC.
“This show doesn’t need to be fancy, it’s correct at its core,” Berry said. “We just want people to give it a fair shake. Come back and watch it. If you haven’t watched it before, watch it. It’s really a good family sitcom.”
Still, politics kept nudging into the frame. Earlier that day, Fox TV President Gary Newman expressed his belief that Allen’s character was a centrist, and the issue of whether or not he was a Trump supporter would not be addressed on the show. Allen, who has spoken of being a conservative, walked a similar line when asked about his character.
“This guy’s a practical guy, he owns a big business. If it’s helping his business he’s probably pro-Trump. ... I think he’s probably more of a centrist,” he said.
“I don’t think we’re going to comment specifically on Trump,” Abbott confirmed. Allen teased back, “Oh, yes we will.”
When the subject about Allen’s personal beliefs came up from one of the assembled journalists, he plugged an upcoming stand-up appearance in Vegas to see the difference between Allen’s character and the comedian. “You’ll be a little startled,” he said.
“I like, personally, [making people angry],” Allen went on, and then he tried to throw water on the idea that ideology was a factor in the show being dropped by ABC.
“I’ve worked for ABC for years, I know these people, and if it was a political motivation to move that show ... they certainly would never show that side of themselves. But I don’t really believe that. I think it was a financial decision.”
The series creators went on to describe a few of the new elements of the show, including needing to recast middle daughter Mandy (Molly Ephraim) and a planned introduction of a foreign exchange student from China to clash with Allen’s beliefs.
But there was no new footage to share as the show was about to go back into production. Still, Allen regretted some of the story lines the show didn’t get to explore in its first go-around.
“I’ll tell you, we really planned — like so many other people — that Mrs. Clinton would’ve been president, so we had a bank of stuff going on there,” Allen said with a grin.
“Mostly I just told him we did,” Abbott interjected.
“The night that Trump pulled it off, forget the politics, those of us in comedy went, ‘Shoot!’ because now we don’t have all that pantsuit stuff,” Allen went on. “Just the jokes, that she would find funny as well. That’s the comedy side of it. We want both sides to think it’s funny.”
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