Tim Allen returns in the same form and format he left behind
by Ed Bark on August 9th 2011 at 1:57 am
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Tim Allen knows what works for him. And on this particular day, he understands the circumstances, too.
These are the last hours of a two-week Television Critics Association "press tour," which presents the former Home Improvement star with both an opportunity for ad lib comedy and an audience that's pretty much out of it.
"Oh, they're low," he said for starters Monday morning. "They're already tired. Already pissed off and tired."
For which he got a laugh.
Allen, 58, is returning to prime-time and ABC after an 11-year absence. He'll basically be playing the same kind of character he made famous on Home Improvement. In Last Man Standing, tabbed to lead off ABC's Tuesday night lineup, Allen struts through the role of sporting goods store marketing director Mike Baxter, a self-styled man among wimps who wonders what's happened to his gender. This time he's the father of three daughters instead of three sons.
"I thought it would be kind of fun, literally, to flip flop the two shows," Allen said. "But it isn't rocket science what I'm doing. Instead of tools, it's sporting goods and guns and ATVs and boats."
Allen recently irked host Joy Behar on her cable talk show by laying down his basic riff on being a manly man.
"I like women who know how to cook," he told TV writers. "I don't know how to cook very well. I like the process of letting a woman take care of you. And it's either old school or misogynistic. And she said, 'Why don't you marry Betty Crocker?' She got real mad at me."
But Allen is insistent. "The men in my life like futzing around the house and being able to take care of a home," he said. "And 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."
Pause, one-two: "I don't know what that meant, but boy, did that sound good."
Veteran Hector Elizondo co-stars in Last Man Standing as Allen's boss. A questioner said that "you once told me you were a bullfighter, which would be the epitome of a manly man."
"A bullshitter," Elizondo corrected, prompting Allen to crack up at length. In reality, Elizondo said, he went to Mexico as a 22-year-old to "study the bulls. I didn't become a bullfighter . . . I came back with dysentery and no suitcase. Nothing romantic about it."
Allen said that TV budgets have gotten leaner since his eight seasons on Home Improvement. He noted the slimmer 8.5 ounce Cokes available for TV writers' consumption ("Hmm, remember the 12-ounce bottle?") and joked (presumably) that "we drink water out of a hose" on the set of Last Man Standing.
He also found time to riff on the white gloves that ABC pages -- and ABC pages alone -- wear while handing microphones to the assembled inquisitors.
"Touch him," he instructed one of them. "Go ahead, take the glove off and touch his forehead. See what happens. See if you pick up tuberculosis. I'm sure you will."
Which all goes to show that Allen hasn't lost his touch yet. But seriously folks, he got a bit more introspective after the formal interview session.
"Maybe this is comfort food," he said of the broad, heavy-on-the punch-line comedy he's bringing back to ABC. "It is yet to be seen if this is what American wants to see again. I'm grateful and humbled that there's any interest in me whatsoever."