Tim Allen may not be headlining a trendy period piece or chasing after a prehistoric creature in the way distant past, but evidently, the 58-year-old actor didn’t need a gimmick to get viewers interested in his primetime return.
According to Zeta Interactive — a company that tracks online and social media chatter — Allen’s comedy Last Man Standing is generating the most buzz out of all of the new fall shows. (Take that, Ashton Kutcher). Words and phrases like “excited” and “can’t wait” have been used to describe Standing, a multi-camera comedy about the manly head of marketing for an outdoor store in Colorado who’s raising three outgoing — and very lippy — kids with wife Vanessa (Nancy Travis). The series, which is from Emmy-winning scribe Jack Burditt (30 Rock), debuts Oct. 11 and marks Allen first TV show since Home Improvement wrapped in 1999.
ABC, in fact, has led the charge this fall in creating shows that seem to generate buzz. Revenge was also a new series that had tongues wagging online, even though the ratings may not reflect what’s happening in social media. (The Emily Van Camp drama only posted a 2.5 rating and 7.7 million viewers last week). In contrast, Charlie’s Angels had pretty bad tonal buzz going into the new season, Zeta reports, with words like “won’t last, and “old” frequently used to describe the show. (It’s no surprise, then, that the she-spies drama dropped to a mere 1.2 rating — down 20 percent from the previous week — on its third outing). Zeta tabulates a show’s popularity by tracking “tonal” and “volume” buzz for shows, along with cluster words used to distinguish them.
So good news for the show, right? ABC is definitely riding the wave of good buzz and putting a hefty amount of promotional muscle behind the show. (The trailers featuring Allen saying “I’m baaaaacck!!” seem to run nonstop). Allen, however, wasn’t sounding that optimistic about his return when he talked to EW in August. He acknowledged having disagreements with the writers over his character; Allen, for instance, thought he should come across as a lot more intelligent, even though he’s funnier when he depicts a clueless sap. (The original logline for the show spoke of a character who is “fighting for his manhood in a world that is being increasingly dominated by women.”)
Allen even told reporters at the annual press tour this summer that he’s primed and ready to play against type. “Every guy on TV has a flannel shirt and a gray T‑shirt underneath, and he likes beer, and he’s got a much better‑looking wife than he deserves,” Allen said. “It’s buffoonery. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’re not going to do that on this show. The tide keeps it that way, but we’re not going to do that.” We’ll see about that: One of the promos for the premiere shows Allen ignoring his wife while she berates him for ignoring his daughters.
A lot is riding on Standing. If Allen succeeds, more multi-camera comedy writers could return to the game and revitalize the genre even more now that Chuck Lorre and his triumvirate of CBS sitcoms have made it all the more viable. But if Allen fails, TV will take it on the chin (once again) for focusing too much on old stars rather than creating new ones.
Will you watch?