Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
Tim Allen was talking trash and slinging jokes at today’s TCA panel on the new sitcom from Jack Burditt (30 Rock) Last Man Standing. The show marks Allen’s return to ABC after his hit show about a manly man, Home Improvement (1991-99).
A lot has changed since then. “I believe that at HI we were doing a 28 share, sometimes into a 30 share, with 30 million viewers,” Allen recalled. “We could tell the president what to do at that time.” It’s a “tighter leadership” now at ABC, he added. “I don’t want to say cheaper but I just did. Sometimes leaner is better. In this case, it’s not. We drink water out of a hose. There are no water bottles at ABC.”
After Home Improvement, Allen cracked that he had received “thousands, hundreds, no, millions of offers” for new series. “Every day it was an offer. I had an ‘offer office.’ ” He said that he would have liked to do a legal drama: “I like Castle, but that was already done,” he said. He said he had an offer for a legal series but added “I’m not going to tell you, it’s too embarrassing. It’s on the air now, and they cast a woman in the part,” a hint pointing to Harry’s Law ,whose lead was originally conceived as a man. Other Last Man cast members joked that the series was actually ABC’s reboot of Charlie’s Angels. “Yes, I was the middle one. I’m very attractive in a halter,” Allen joked. Asked why all men on TV these days seem to be “douche bags,” Allen replied: “That was the working title for this show actually … but Fox got it … they have a lot of douche bags, actually.”
Jokes aside, Allen actually did focus part of the discussion on his new show, in which he plays a family man with three daughters, but he will be older and more irascible that the father of boys in Home Improvement. “What is Glee?” he barks at one daughter in the pilot. The new fall season on ABC seems to be a veritable theme park for questioning the modern male ethos, as Last Man Standing — the working title was The Last Days of Man — joins Man Up! on the schedule. That show is about three guys in their 30s trying to figure out what it means to be a man in 2011.
Allen said that, although this time around he has daughters instead of sons, he would still be portraying a traditional man’s man who likes to fix stuff and prefers women who know how to cook. “I’m going to get in trouble here because Joy Behar and I already had this conversation on The View. Men need something to do. You should have hobbies and you should be able to fix stuff.” He said that Behar got mad at him for saying he likes women who cook: “She said, ‘Why don’t you marry Betty Crocker?’ ” Allen said he was not going to fall into the today’s stereotype of the TV husband, a man in “a flannel shirt with a gray T-shirt over it and a wife much prettier than he deserves. We are not going to do that show.”
He said the concept of doing a dramedy was “just not interesting to me,” so he was opting for a traditional sitcom — except for breaking the fourth wall for comic asides which would provide an arena for his standup comedy skills. After the panel, he stressed that the show “is just a sitcom. Hamburgers are back. Maybe this is comfort food for America.”