'There’s not a thing we found that he can’t do and make funny and real,' she says
Matt LeBlanc returns to sitcoms in Man With a Plan (debuts Oct. 24), playing Adam Burns, a contractor who becomes more involved with his kids when his wife heads back to work — and it’s no easy task. Jackie Filgo and her husband, Jeff, are co-creators and showrunners on the series, and they pulled from personal experience for inspiration, looking to when they took an extended sabbatical and were, for the first time, at home without a nanny or anyone.
“We realized that we had been getting the greatest hits of our own kids,” Jackie Filgo explains. “We’d come home at night and they’d have already taken their baths and they’d be so happy to see us. They’re great, wonderful kids, but when you see your kids up close, one-on-one for extended periods of time, you realize they’re not quite as angelic as you may have thought.” She recalls an instance when their daughter picked up a handful of mashed potatoes and started eating it, causing the duo to pursue a venue for these sort of parent-kid moments.
A lot of the comedy in the show comes from Adam’s traditional approach clashing with a more contemporary one. “[Adam’s] a very old-school, meat-and-potatoes dad, and in modern times there’s a lot more nuances and differences in how you raise children,” Filgo details. “He’s also dealing with all these little nuts and bolts that he never had to deal with because he would come home for dinner and his wife had pretty much organized and arranged everything, and now he’s really in the trenches with them and that’s what’s funny.”
It helps when you have an experienced sitcom actor filling the lead. “[Matt] has skills, levels, and layers,” Filgo says of how the Friends alum — who is joined by Liza Snyder as Adam’s wife Andi — put his comedic chops to use. “He can be hilarious when he’s angry, sad, frustrated, happy. There’s not a thing we found that he can’t do and make funny and real. His incredible gift is that he always feels like a human being no matter what sort of attitude or story he’s playing.”
Up ahead is the introduction of Adam’s brother Don (Kevin Nealon), which is something to look forward to because that “really opened up a whole other avenue of the show,” Filgo says. “If Adam generally makes the right choice in a situation, his brother Don would generally make the wrong choice, so he’s an opportunity for Adam to get some bad advice that sometimes he follows; occasionally there’s a gem in there, so you keep listening to him because you think he might be able to help. He provides a really funny counterpoint to Adam’s perspective.”
On what else the show has in store, Filgo says, “We wanted to provide a perspective on the entirety of life as a parent, which is also being in a couple and trying to maintain that relationship and keeping it up at work. That whole balancing act that people do, it’s fun to watch a man, a husband do that for a change. We’re sort of used to seeing the woman try to do it.” Expect to see Adam putting on a Thanksgiving feast at his kids’ school, coping with the realization that his son, Teddy (Matthew McCann), doesn’t have friends at school, tackling a situation in which his kids put a hole in the wall and lie about it, and more.
“It’s so much fun to work on a show that’s incredibly relatable to my day-to-day life and I think a lot of people’s lives,” Filgo concludes. “In every episode, there’s been something that has resonated with me personally just about my relationships or my children and I think that together with how incredibly skilled our cast is, this show [is] really special and fun to watch.”
The season premiere of Man With a Plan airs Monday, Oct. 24 at 8:30 p.m. E.T. on CBS.