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Add Tim Allen to the list of people who were surprised by the racist tweet that got his longtime friend Roseanne Barr fired from her show.
The comedian, appearing Thursday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour to support his revived comedy Last Man Standing, told reporters after the panel that Barr’s comment was not reflective of the person he has known for years.
“I go way back with Rosie, and that’s not the Roseanne that I know,” Allen told The Hollywood Reporter after the session. “She was the most diverse and tolerant woman I’ve ever known for a long time. So, whatever got in her head isn’t the Roseanne that I know.”
Allen, who like Barr has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, declined to address what he thought of ABC’s decision to cancel Roseanne, which wrapped the season as the No. 1 comedy on all of TV. Instead, he used the question to weigh in on the state of comedy today.
“It’s a very icy time. I’ve been a comedian for 38 years. What Lenny Bruce said at the Purple Onion in 1951 … we’ve gone backwards,” he said. “There’s things you can’t say, there’s things you shouldn’t say. Who makes up these rules? As a stand-up comic, it’s a very dangerous position for me to be in because I like pushing buttons. It’s very sensitive. I don’t know what Roseanne [meant] … but that’s not the woman I know. Whatever came out of that, whatever she said by that, she is inclusive and tolerant. It’s unfortunate.”
When pressed to answer what he thought of ABC’s decision to cancel Roseanne, Allen added: “They had to do what they had to do and that’s their decision. I know Barr, and she’s not that person.”
For his part, Allen — who plays conservative Mike Baxter, the father of three girls, on the ABC-turned-Fox family comedy Last Man Standing — reiterated that ABC’s decision to cancel his show had nothing to do with his politics. He reiterated ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey’s May remarks that the cancellation for the network’s second-most-watched comedy was based on ownership.
Fox revived Last Man Standing a year after ABC’s cancellation as broadcast networks doubled down on multicamera comedies after the breakout success of Roseanne. Helping Fox renew the series was that the comedy is owned by studio counterpart 20th Century Fox Television. (ABC said last year that Last Man Standing‘s ownership structure made it challenging to renew the show as the network would have had to pay a sizable licensing fee and take on more production costs — including Allen’s growing salary.)
For now, Fox has ownership of the series, though that will soon change given Disney’s acquisition of 20th TV (among other assets). That would mean the show is in the opposite situation of where it was last year: Fox airing it and having to pay a licensing fee to owner Disney.
Allen used his time before the press Thursday to drive home the point that he is not Mike Baxter and stressed that his Last Man Standing character is a “centrist.” “He owns a big business, so if it’s helping his business, he’s pro-Trump,” Allen said of Baxter’s political leanings.
Returning showrunner Kevin Abbott however said that the show was “not going to comment specifically on Mr. Trump. Mike Baxter is a conservative Republican. The character himself … we aren’t going to address it one way or the other.”
Producers also fielded questions about why Last Man Standing didn’t pull the same ratings as Roseanne, given their similar family issues. “If we’d gotten that kind of promotion on ABC, maybe we’ve had had the same audience,” Abbott joked. “Roseanne handled topical issues — issues of the week — but we’re not an issue-of-the-week show. We’re a family show with a central character at the center.”
For his part, writer and executive producer Matt Berry said the core of the series is the dissension within the show’s nuclear family: “There’s a lot of fracturing going on inside the families [in America right now]. So [this show is] relevant because this is a family that stays together no matter what. You’re allowed to disagree in the family, but it doesn’t separate us. We hope that resonates.”
In terms of what to expect from the Fox revival, there will be some new faces — including a Chinese exchange student — as some of the show’s original stars moved on to other opportunities in the wake of ABC’s cancellation.
Later in the day, former Roseanne star Martin Mull met the press to support his new Fox comedy The Cool Kids and was asked afterward about his relationship with Barr during his time on the original series. “They did what they had to do,” Mull told reporters of ABC’s decision to ax the reboot. “My own dealings with Rosie never indicated to me anyone who would write that tweet. I certainly don’t approve of the tweet. I never saw that in her. But I did see things in her that were inexplicable.”
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