Tim Allen started his career in 1975 and his popularity and success grew rapidly over the decades. Many have grown to love him, watching him playing the role of a funny family man in Home Improvement and The Santa Clause. But Allen has also given viewers a reason to question his future in entertainment. Sharing his political beliefs has proven to ruffle a few feathers, and some people think he should avoid commenting on hot-button issues. Other viewers are wondering why his choice in roles has seemed to decrease in quality. It makes more sense as we take a closer look at Tim Allen’s life today and see why he’s disappointed too.
He’d Rather Forget 1978
We all make mistakes, and Hollywood’s finest is no exception. In 1978, Allen was living in Michigan, where his family moved while he was starting high school. It was there that he fell into some trouble. The voice of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear was caught in possession of over 20 ounces of cocaine at Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport.
He pled guilty, and provided the police with the names of the people above him in the drug trade in order to get a plea deal.
Jail Was A Huge Wake-Up Call
Luckily, Allen didn’t receive a life sentence or as much time as he possibly could have. He did, however, go to jail. The experience rattled him, and although the threat of jail time didn’t deter him from doing the crime, it was a whole different story once he got a taste of jail life.
The actor told Esquire, “When I went to jail, reality hit so hard that it took my breath away, took my stance away, took my strength away. The law was passed to teach people a lesson. Selling more than 650 grams of cocaine got you life in prison. I just told myself, ‘I can’t do this for seven and a half years. I want to kill myself.'”
Comedy Saved His Life
Sometimes when you’re caught in a bad situation you need comic relief. While in jail and recovering from the experience afterward, Allen turned to comedy. In the same interview with Esquire, he said, “The comic in me showed up, the purest form, and saved my life.”
He realized that he had ruined a lot of future opportunities for himself after breaking the law. Finding employment was hard, so Allen further embraced the idea of becoming a comedian. His natural talent landed him a few small roles before finding his big break in 1991, in the starring role on Home Improvement.
Home Improvement Makes Allen A Household Name
Most actors don’t receive their big break as quickly as Allen did but his talent was undeniable. By the mid ’90s, everyone knew the actor’s name and his popularity shot through the roof.
In 1995 he voiced Buzz Lightyear in the animated film Toy Story, and he became a beloved figure in mainstream entertainment. Adults loved the actor for his witty charm, and children loved him as the voice of one of their favorite Disney characters.
Allen was released from jail on June 12, 1981, after serving two years and four months for trafficking cocaine. But sixteen years later, the actor would be arrested again. In 1997, Allen was charged with a DUI in his childhood hometown of Birmingham, Michigan.
While the offense wasn’t as serious as his previous charge, Allen took it seriously and checked himself into rehab in April 1998. He said in a statement, “My inexcusable lapse in judgment is a mistake that is embarrassing to myself, my family, and my associates.” Allen’s own father was killed by a drunk driver in Colorado when he was just 11 years old, and that probably had a psychological impact on coping with his own actions.
Allen Bounces Back
Everyone loves a Hollywood comeback story, and luckily, Allen didn’t let his slip-up end his career in entertainment. The actor bounced back and continued filming Home Improvement.
In 1999, Allen’s salary as the starring role on the show awarded him $1.25 million per episode. Momentum kept building for him and he went back into the studio to voice Buzz Lightyear again in Toy Story 2. His work earned him an Annie Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performed in an Animated Feature Production.”
Everyone Came Knocking
After airing from 1991-1999, Home Improvement had its final show taping and Allen began searching for some more work. His popularity was at an all-time high at the end of the ’90s and people with all sorts of scripts came knocking at his door.
While it seemed that the hardest part was over, catching his big break and becoming a television comedy icon, Allen faced another challenge: Picking the right script. In 2001, he played Joe Scheffer in the film Joe Somebody, and Eliot Arnold in Big Trouble the following year. Neither film was successful.
Things were about to get even worse.
Not The Award He Was Hoping For
After his success with the original and sequel of The Santa Clause, Allen signed on for Christmas with the Kranks and The Santa Clause 3. Although they didn’t tank at the box office, critics ripped on his roles pretty hard.
It got so bad that Allen was even nominated for a Razzie award in 2007 for “Worst Actor” and “Worst Screen Couple” for his performance in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.
Waiting And Baiting
Maybe Allen used his comic relief skills to get him over this hump, too. Although he didn’t find another starring role like he had in Home Improvement to relaunch his career, Toy Story rolled out its third film of the franchise in 2010.
This time, he was also careful not to jump into a role if the script didn’t read like it would be a success. He played his cards right and signed on to the television series, Last Man Standing, where he would star as the father of the household, a Republican trying to survive in a woman’s world.
Last Man Standing Polarized Its Audience
An outspoken Republican himself, Allen fell right into the role of Mike Baxter on Last Man Standing. At the time, the 2016 presidential election was all anyone could talk about, and Allen’s TV character resonated with its Republican audience. The show became so popular that it was rated the 10th Best Show On Television in a viewer’s survey.
The show was also polarizing for Allen’s fans who didn’t agree with his political views, and saw his performance as trying to fan the flames of the controversy that was already happening at the time. People wanted to be entertained, not angry.
He should have, but Allen didn’t stop there.
It’s Hard For Him To Remain Neutral
Giving a man a microphone and telling him not to speak his own views is tough, as Allen quickly realized. Critics came down hard on Allen after he began voicing his political views during the 2016 presidential election, and letting viewers know that he had in fact, attended Donald Trump’s inauguration in support of the 45th POTUS.
He went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and ended up making things even worse for himself. “You get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes,” he told Kimmel. “This is like ’30s Germany. I don’t know what happened.”
He Used The Wrong Comparison
While it could have been an opportunity to smooth things over with angry viewers of Last Man Standing, Allen had made things even worse for his reputation after appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Comparing the current political climate in the US to the period of time when the Nazis took over Germany did not sit right with people, and Allen’s team should have jumped into crisis control. But they didn’t.
Instead, the Anne Frank Center released a statement, saying, “No one in Hollywood today is subjecting [Allen] or anyone else to what the Nazis imposed on Jews in the 1930s.”
He wasn’t expecting what happened next.
ABC Network Punished Him
Allen didn’t apologize, instead hoping that life would move on from his political remarks and he could continue doing his show. But things didn’t pan out that way. ABC came down hard on the actor and went as far as canceling Last Man Standing after its sixth season finished filming, even though the ratings were still there.
Although the network cited budget concerns for their reason for canceling in May 2017, viewers thought that the timing was all too coincidental.
Allen took to Twitter to respond.
Republican Viewers Back Tim Allen
The ABC network decided not to renew Last Man Standing for a seventh episode, but that didn’t sit right with its Republican viewer base. A petition appeared on the website Change.org demanded that the program be renewed, and threatened to boycott ABC until they changed their tune. “Last Man Standing is one of the only shows on broadcast television, and the only sitcom, that is not constantly shoving liberal ideals down the throats of the viewers,” it stated.
Allen felt the need to address the cancellation personally. On May 16, 2017, he tweeted, “Stunned and blindsided by the network I called home for the last six years.”
Allen Becomes A Political Meme
It seemed that Allen couldn’t stay away from politics in 2016 and 2017. After the show’s cancellation, conservatives turned him into a meme that was widely shared on the internet, including by Republican Sarah Palin. The meme showed a picture of Allen, along with the words, “Liberal tolerance.”
The description read, “Last Man Standing was the 2nd highest rated comedy on ABC. It was the only show on ABC for a conservative audience. Canceled by ABC after Tim Allen admitted he went to Trump’s inauguration.”
But was that the truth?
ABC’s President Speaks Up
At this point the internet was fired up about ABC canceling Last Man Standing, accusing the network of being politically-motivated in making the decision. The network chose not to ignore the claims by viewers, and instead spoke up to defend the decision.
In statement, ABC President Channing Dungey said, “I canceled Last Man Standing for the same business and scheduling reasons I canceled The Real O’Neals, Dr. Ken, The Catch, American Crime.“
She had more to say.
No Comedies On Friday?
The reason behind the show’s cancellation, Dungey argued, was the fact that ABC had decided not to air TV comedies, including Last Man Standing, on Fridays. “It was a challenging [call to make] because it was a steady performer,” she said.
“But when we made the decision not to continue with comedies on Friday, that’s where it landed.” Other theories include that the show’s cast should have been paid more money, but the studio didn’t want to ask the network for more funding.
What did Allen have to say about it?
Allen Keeps Quiet
At this point in mid-2017, everyone had something to say about the cancellation of Last Man Standing and Allen himself had become a lightning rod for controversy. Whether someone told him to stand down or not, his Twitter account and other statements that could have come from the actor stayed quiet.
While the rumors continued about the motives of ABC executives, Allen stood down and let the commentary play itself out. At this point, it was probably the best decision for him to make.
Viewers Weren’t Buying It
While Allen’s Twitter account (smartly) remained quiet, the buzz kept making its rounds. News source Quartz released their own opinion of the show’s cancellation. They said, “Last Man Standing’s] axing shouldn’t be viewed as a deliberate affront to political conservatives any more than Firefly’s cancellation was an affront to space cowboys.”
But as we learned earlier, comparisons don’t always play out the way you may have thought they would. There were still a lot of people angry with not only the show’s cancellation but the political motives they believed to be behind the decision.
A Season Goes By
After the show’s cancellation in May 2017, the year passed by without any more episodes being filmed. While ABC network was done with the show, the cast, crew, producers, and viewers were not.
Nancy Travis, who plays wife Vanessa Baxter on Last Man Standing, said, “We were canceled with over 8 million viewers. They really came out. They never gave up even when we gave up. Petition after petition, letter after letter.”
See what the producers had to say about it.
The Producers Were Shocked, Too
Just like the cast, producers don’t want to see the shows they’ve worked so hard on to get axed. The cast, crew, and producers had put six seasons of work into Last Man Standing, and no one saw the abrupt cancellation coming.
The show’s Executive Producer Kevin Abbott described the news as “jarring” in an interview with USA Today. Abbott was just one of eleven producers on the show, with Tim Allen at the helm as the Lead Executive Producer.
Fans still weren’t ready to let it go.
What About Fox?
A year after the show’s cancellation, Allen sat down for an interview with Entertainment Tonight in May 2018. He said, “Fans were like, they wouldn’t forget out it. They go, ‘When is it coming back? Are you getting it back?’ I said, ‘Look, I don’t know. I don’t really know how this works where you write or call Fox. I don’t know who you call.'”
It sounded like Allen was ready to give up, but his fans weren’t. He continued,”But they did. They actually called and they got a hold of emailing groups of people and it showed just enough interest.”
How’d Allen Spend The Year Off?
Angry about his show’s cancellation, Tim Allen had an unexpected year off of acting, with no plans in the works. It could have caused the actor to find himself in trouble again, without anything to aim towards, but he chose a better path.
He told Entertainment Tonight of his year off, “It’s been great, a little bit sad, because I miss my TV family, but I’ve been spending time with my family. And I did a 44-city comedy tour, which I haven’t been able to do, because Last Man was on for the six years.”
Soon, he received some good news.
Fox Announces That They Will Pick Up The Show
With a more conservative viewer base, fans of the show felt that Fox was the perfect network to revive Last Man Standing. And as Allen said, the fans reached out to the network and insisted that they adopt it. Fox surprised everyone by agreeing.
Allen was elated with the new agreement. “All of you… man, I’m telling you…. we would not be standing here [without the fans]” he told ET. “It’s gonna be a better show because of all you people that did this and I just hope we… I want to deliver. We will deliver for you.”
Last Man Didn’t Hesitate to Poke Fun at ABC
When the cast of Last Man Standing reunited in 2018, they didn’t wait to make a joke out of the situation they had just experienced. In one episode in season seven, Christoph Sanders’ character, Kyle (the son-in-law) is trying to watch TV but can’t find his favorite show.
“Why would they cancel a popular show that everybody loves?” Kyle asks, to which Tim Allen’s character, Mike, replies, “Maybe they’re a bunch of idiots. Just try another channel.”
See what Allen said about ABC, after the fact.
Allen Calls ABC His Family
Despite everything that’s happened between ABC and Allen, including the actor saying he was “stunned and blindsided by the network I called home for the last six years,” Allen says that he doesn’t hold a grudge against ABC.
It was the same network which aired nine seasons of Home Improvement, as well several Disney films — Disney being the parent company of ABC. When asked how he feels about the network now, Allen told USA Today, “It’s my family over there.”
It’s Important for Mike Baxter To Be On Air
Thanks to fans, the show was revived, and it’s clear that Allen takes a lot of pride in the lead character he portrays on the show, as do the writers and producers.
Executive Producer Kevin Abbott told USA Today, “We tend to think of our show as being about a family first, but what makes it unique is Mike Baxter. Because you really don’t see a conservative character who isn’t an idiot or a villain who is the center of the show.”
The Show’s Revival Was a Success
Last Man Standing debuted on Fox on a Friday night in September 2018 and made a comeback in a big way. Variety reported that the show was the most-watched comedy (on any night) for Fox in seven years’ time.
When the show aired on ABC, it was the network’s second most-watched comedy, following Modern Family. The show’s strong fan base and revived storyline quickly proved that the show wasn’t over yet, and viewers were happy to have new Last Man Standing episodes to watch, as it returned to Friday nights.
Up next, Allen says his comedy has never changed.
Viewers Are Always Divided
While most of the focus has been on liberals vs. conservatives when it comes to content and popularity of Last Man Standing, Allen insists that the comedy on the show is authentic to what his comedy has been like for his entire career.
“My comedy has been the same since I’ve been doing it for 33 years and it’s about the ultimate political divide- men and women,” he told Fox News. “I’ve been doing that-and that’s all it’s about. And underneath all of that is that you just don’t get the other side, but you love the other side.”
Navigating The Networks
Now that the show is back on the air, Allen has commented on switching networks and it’s clear that it’s been a sticky situation for all involved. “I want ABC to do well. I love everybody at ABC. I was shocked when we got canned when we did because we weren’t finished- that’s where my frustration came from.”
He continued. “I want this to be a success because Fox took a shot on us, and the Fox network is a smaller and more aggressive group than ABC and Disney. Of course, Fox is now owned by Disney and ABC. It’s kind of a crazy world, what happened there…”
Is Mike Baxter Pro-Trump?
Although he avoided talking politics for the year-long hiatus, Allen is back in front of the mic, comfortable speaking his mind. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Allen was asked if his character supports President Donald Trump. “He’s probably pro-Trump,” Allen answered.
Kevin Abbott was also on-hand for the interview, and interjected, “I don’t think we will comment specifically on Trump…” Allen couldn’t help himself, saying, “Oh yes we will!” Only time will tell.
Mike Baxter Isn’t Tim Allen
While Allen has come out to say that he’s conservative and enjoys working on a show that depicts a conservative family in America, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything his character Mike Baxter says and does on the show is something that Allen believes himself.
“I’m not the character I play,” the actor told Vanity Fair. “If you want to know what I think, come see me at the Mirage in Las Vegas,” noting his stand-up comedy tour.
Allen took a stronger stance in a different interview when asked the same thing.
“It’s Nobody’s Business”
While doing press tours for the revival of Last Man Standing, Allen was undoubtedly asked about his political views dozens of times. Knowing that he’s gotten himself into hot water over the topic before, he starts the interviews calmly and even-keeled, but you can sense his annoyance by the end.
“When you get into this world- these two guys are not the same guy. You know, Mike Baxter is much more tolerant of other ideas than me on stage. Me, personally- Tim Allen is nobody’s business, and really, who cares what I think?”
The Roseanne Connection
In May 2017 it was announced that Last Man Standing would not be renewed for a seventh season. Nearly a year to the day later, Roseanne was canceled for actress Roseanne Barr’s comments on her personal Twitter account. However, the two shows were treated differently when it came to deciding who and what would be revived.
When asked about the cancelling of Roseanne, Allen said that ABC “had to do what they had to do.” The initial revival of Roseanne in March 2018 brought in 18 million viewers who were quickly disappointed with the show’s cancellation two months later in May 2018.
Allen Says He’s Getting Older and Worn Out On It
When you’ve been working in Hollywood in the limelight for as long as Allen has, it’s understandable that you could get burnt out on everything that comes with it. While he wants to focus on his craft of comedy and acting, other people want to dig into things that he doesn’t believe matter.
“I understand addiction and to me, that’s what this feels like. People have got that anger and that angst going and you’ve gotta stand back a little bit… We’re just about being funny! This whole thing’s about being funny.”