Tim Allen and Nancy Travis explain to USA TODAY’s Bill Keveney how ‘Last Man Standing’ politics focus on family, not President Trump.
Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Tim Allen is ready to throw some jabs, but they’re political, not physical.
The star of “Last Man Standing,” which returns on Fox after last year’s cancellation by ABC, will have another opportunity to play Mike Baxter, a conservative character in a scripted TV environment where liberals are far more commonplace.
In “Man’s” first, six-season incarnation, “We were sticking it to progressives – not Democrats. The really noisy part of the Democratic Party, just like the really noisy part of the Republican Party, is easy pickings. We were doing that constantly.”
Mike, a Denver sporting-goods store executive, husband and father of three, will take his shots again in an even more politically charged environment when “Man” makes its Season 7 premiere Friday (8 EDT/PDT).
Mike is “a traditionalist and a business Republican” who stands out “because you really don’t see a conservative character who isn’t an idiot or a villain (at) the center of the show,” says executive producer Kevin Abbott. (“Roseanne” had such a character, until Roseanne Barr was fired in May.)
Some fans theorized that “Man” was canceled for its politics, but Abbott says it had more to do with money, because ABC didn’t own the show. (Fox does.)
Mike’s fiscal conservatism will be apparent this season when he handles business regulations and environmental studies, especially when dealing with his company’s “People’s Republic of California store,” a Communist allusion Allen makes to the People’s Republic of China.
“Man” addresses other hot-button topics, including the travel ban, guns, drugs and healthcare, but strictly in the context of the Baxter family, not as a larger political statement, as “Roseanne” did.
“It’s more about politics in terms of what happens in people’s lives. How does what is going on in the political realm affect (the family), how does it affect business?” Abbott says.
Mike is on the same wavelength as one daughter but gets some pushback from more liberal family members, including his wife and two other daughters. He jousts in the season premiere with his son-in-law Ryan, who serves as an easy progressive foil. There’s more political fodder coming this season when Ryan takes over Mike’s father’s marijuana dispensary.
At the Television Critics Association summer press tour in August, Allen speculated that Mike would probably be pro-President Trump if it helped his business, but probably wouldn’t defend him.
But in an interview last week, he and Abbott say there are no plans to refer to Trump directly in the show, which featured him as part of a Halloween costume joke in 2016.
Mike “never mentions him,” Allen says, and Abbott isn’t writing the president into any scripts.
Allen says he doesn’t think there’s any fresh joke material about the president, either. “It’s always about his looks, his tweeting. It’s been done. It’s done every night on Colbert, so there’s nothing new.”
Whether it’s a matter of his politics or comedic sensibility, Allen thinks there would have been plenty of material with a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Her loss to Trump in 2016, when “Man” was on ABC, “took the wind out of us,” he says. “I was in heaven, going, ‘This is going to be a great next year because Hillary is going to be president.’ We’d have the pantsuits, … the left, Communists, liberals. It would be so much more fun.”
Allen, who was born in Colorado and grew up in Michigan, is not a fan of what he calls the liberal “bubble of Hollywood” and agrees with some of Mike’s opinions. “I love that he constantly jabs at California. Even my liberal buddies go, ‘Did we just get another tax here?'”
The actor is also a conservative, but he separates himself from Mike.
“Tim Allen is not Mike Baxter. If you want Tim Allen’s opinion, come see me in Vegas,” he says of his stand-up act. “I’m much much more anarchist-thinking because I’m a comedian. I take shots at everybody, but it’s literally to make you laugh.”
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