Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” will return to network television Friday evening after a season-long absence, followed on Fox by the premiere of “The Cool Kids,” a comedy about a group of friends living in a retirement community.
“Last Man Standing,” which stars Allen as a happily married father of three daughters who works as the marketing director for a sporting goods emporium, was canceled by ABC in May 2017 following a six-season run.
“When `Last Man Standing’ was canceled at ABC, we really had a desire to bring that show back,” Fox Television Group Chairman/CEO Gary Newman said last month at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour.
“Our studio (20th Century Fox Television) produces it, and we really thought it was canceled too soon and was more about ABC wanting an opportunity to try to program Friday night with its own studio as opposed to using `Last Man Standing.’
“Once we got `Thursday Night Football’ and would have that as a promotional platform, and when we did see the success of `Roseanne,’ it reminded us that a family comedy with a strong point of view and a strong central character that will play well in the middle of the country can be a pretty powerful show to have.”
“Last Man Standing,” will be the same show on Fox as it was on ABC, executive producer Kevin Abbott said.
“We’re not changing the show to be on Fox,” Abbott said. “We’re not going to sex it up or outrage it up or whatever in order to fit the profile of any given network.”
There have been two cast changes.
Molly McCook replaces Molly Ephraim, who “got involved in some different things,” as middle daughter Mandy Baxter-Anderson, executive producer Matt Berry said.
Producers decided to “age up” the grandson of Allen’s character, replacing Flynn Morrison with Jet Jurgenson.
“We’re bringing him back at the age of 12 so that we can just get some fun storylines about a young man on the cusp of becoming a man, and that gives just more stories to tell,” Abbott said.
Friday night’s episode picks up in real time from the last episode on ABC, with a year-and-a-half having passed.
“The Cool Kids” is the result of co-creator Charlie Day’s longtime desire to do a multi-cam comedy after producing the FXX single-camera comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” since 2005.
“I grew up on them, and I sort of missed a slightly more traditional structure, which is just more of just a basic story where the characters really get to shine,” Day said.
Making a series about older people stemmed from his enjoyment in writing for the parents of the main characters on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Day said.
But the casting of the series prompted some changes, Day said.
David Alan Grier came in to meet with producers about playing the role that eventually went to Martin Mull, but he expressed a desire to play the leader of the group.
“It changed everything for me,” Day said. “Suddenly, with David at the helm, I thought, `Oh, this is a different man with a different energy and attitude.”’
After meeting with Vicki Lawrence “we just couldn’t imagine the part any other way, then we started writing more towards Vicki’s strengths,” Day said.
When Mull was cast “we just went a whole different direction with Martin’s character,” Day said.
Sid, played by Leslie Jordan, changed from ” a nervous hypochondriac from Brooklyn,” Day said, to a fun-loving hedonist with a flair for the melodramatic.
One factor in Fox deciding to put “The Cool Kids” on the air was the pitch from Day, Newman said.
“It was a very personal pitch,” Newman told City News Service. “He had worked in a nursing home. We loved the fact we had a young guy — and kind of an outrageous guy — talking about what felt a little conventional.”
After completing negotiations to revive “Last Man Standing,” “we looked to our roster of pilots, we thought `The Cool Kids,’ was a great show to combine with it,” Newman said.
Showrunner Patrick Walsh said “The Cool Kids” “blends two different great styles of comedy — the `Always Sunny’ style, an R-rated aggressive in-your-face sensibility with the classic multi-cam older actors.”
“It seems like it wouldn’t work, but it works really, really beautifully,” said Walsh, who had been a staff writer on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and a producer of the 2011-17 CBS comedy “2 Broke Girls.”
“It’s two great tastes that taste great together,” Walsh said, recalling a line from a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial.