Tim Allen repeated his role as Tim « The Tool Man » Taylor of Home Improvement during Thursday’s Last Man Standing. As a result, Vanessa hired the former Tool Time presenter (who wore a vintage Binford Tools t-shirt) to do a series of home repairs. The half hour ended with a very meta-conversation between Allen’s alter ego, which also alluded to the rapidly approaching series finale of the Fox sitcom.
Below, showrunner Kevin Abbott talks about the unlikely crossover event (that of a deceased actor of Home Improvement) and shows how Mike and Tim’s discussion will get the Outdoor Man boss thinking about his third act.
TVLINE | Let’s start at the beginning. When did the idea of having Allen repeat his role as a handyman came up?
We had already broken the first seven episodes when Fox, as always, asked, « Hey, is there a big event or something grabby that you can premiere? » And I just hate these [episodes]. I tend to think of our show as a little show you know We tell little stories – so, by definition, something big and numb doesn’t actually happen on our show. It was [our writer] Jon Haller who said, « We had a lot of home improvement, and the only main character we didn’t have is Tim Taylor, » and I said, « That’s great. They’re going to start getting paid, Sir. « [Laughs]
TVLINE | After the idea came up, was it as easy as writing the episode? Or did you have to get permission to use the Tim Taylor character?
There were some legal issues to be solved, believe it or not. I thought, well, this is going to be easy because I know Tim [will be interested] but we had to jump through some hoops. But [DIY enthusiast] Matt Williams, David McFadzean, and Carmen Finestra were very kind and very generous, and they allowed us to use the character and some of the parts, and we had a great time.
Home Improvement Reunion Photos
TVLINE | How protective was Allen of the home improvement legacy?
I would say very protective. I made him a promise that we would respect it. I really loved Home Improvement so I didn’t want to do anything that would degrade this character or this franchise in any way, I didn’t mean to mock it in any way, shape, or shape. I wanted to be careful. Maybe in the future they’ll do something with [the ABC sitcom], do a reboot or something, I don’t know, so I didn’t mean to trap them in anything either. And Tim and I had several long discussions about where Tim Taylor would have ended up at that point. We changed the plot a couple of times to try and get to a place where we were all very comfortable.
TVLINE | The episode featured a scene celebrating Tim Taylor’s longtime neighbor Wilson and his cast member, the late Earl Hindman. Did everyone offer his contribution?
He wanted to make sure his affection for Wilson and Earl was in there and that it was honest. It was interesting because the whole episode moved Tim. He was affected by it. He said to me, “You recorded some of the things we all go through. We’ll watch our run here, go ahead and see how good things were… « I think it brought a lot of personal emotion [entangled] with it, and it was really very powerful.
TVLINE | Much of what Allen said to you about the episode is reflected in this final exchange between Mike and Tim. Does this conversation make Mike think about his retirement?
Yes, that’s exactly what drives him. He’s at this stage, wondering, what should he do next? Where will his life go next? Is his life the way he wants it to be? And the fear, if you’ve done well in life, to try something new or steer it in a different direction and maybe not be successful. We found it to be a rich area that we will continue to explore this season.
TVLINE | You’ll soon be writing the Last Man series finale. Now that Tim Taylor exists in the Last Man Universe, does that rule out one final scene mirroring Newhart in which Tim wakes up again next to Patricia Richardson’s Jill Taylor after a long sleep?
[Laughs] We talked about some scenarios, but I don’t know. I can’t decide if I want to go crazy or run out from the heart, but we’ll find out.
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