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Tim Allen Downsized for ABC's 'Last Man Standing'

Last Man Standing
Randy Holmes/ABC
Last Man Standing

The actor calls ABC a "tighter, leaner ship" than in its "Home Improvement" days, and claims he's told the network to lower its ratings expectations for his new show.

Tim Allen was once the living breathing definition of broad, commercial television. But in an era where 1990's TV icons from Kelsey Grammer to Paul Reiser have stumbled, does the former Home Improvement star have what it takes to cut through today's clutter?

ABC, which his betting big on Allen's return-to-TV vehicle Last Man Standing, is certainly hoping so. The network propped up by female viewers is looking to lure male -- and for that matter, more -- eyeballs with an Allen sitcom about a man grasping for his masculinity in a family of four women. 

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"It's yet to see if this is what America wants to see again," Allen acknowledges, calling it "courageous" to reboot a TV concept and star the way ABC is doing with Last Man. 

Sitting before a roomful of reporters on the last day of the Television Critics Association summer press tour Monday, he's realistic about the unlikelihood --or impossibility-- of luring 30 million viewers the way Improvement once did. "The landscape has changed. I don’t want to say cheaper, but I just did," he deadpans to big laughs in the Beverly Hilton ballroom. "You have to do better with less."

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Allen says that he went back to ABC, which he calls a "tighter leaner ship" than the the same network of the 1990s, and told its executives that it had to adjust its expectations.

Still, he's eager to give the small screen another shot, claiming he was lured back by TV's structure and the desire to flip-flop the Improvement premise. "It's not rocket science that I'm doing here," he says, adding "instead of tools, it's sporting goods, guns, ATVs and boats, and I come home to four women." 

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Though he was approached about doing other genres, including legal fare, Allen says he had no interest. Though he claims he would have done something like Castle --a show, like Modern Family and The Good Wife, which he enjoys-- he sees little interest in straying from the sitcom form that he's excelled at. 

"But are you all ready for it?" Allen asks post-panel. "It's yet to be seen."

Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com

Twitter: @LaceyVRose