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Yes, Jonathan Taylor Thomas is reuniting onscreen with his TV dad, Tim Allen, for the first time since 1998, but what does the '90s teen dream really want to do?
Allen, who will reunite with his "Home Improvement" son on the March 22 season finale of Allen's current ABC hit, "Last Man Standing," says JTT (as he was known to the millions of girls who had posters of him hanging above their beds in the 1990s) was asked to make the guest appearance on camera after spending the last year hanging out on the "Standing" set.
"He's been around. He's been shadowing John Pasquin, our director, because they've known each other for years," Allen says of Thomas and Pasquin, who was also a director on "Home Improvement." "[Thomas] is interested in directing. He's always been wonderful [as an actor], then he went to college and he found other interests. He really was dedicated to his studies, and then kind of got away from TV. But he graduated and he came back, and loves directing, loves working with actors. So he's been shadowing John, some of last year and most of this year. He's just been on the set all the time.
"But he's so shy. It's funny to see him so shy, so nervous," Allen continues about the actor who played his middle son, Randy, on "Home Improvement." "He worried whether he still had it, and he didn't want to do this because he's had other stuff in mind. But they asked him, and he agreed to it. I was shocked, because as I said, he's just shy."
See JTT on "Last Man Standing":
Without spoiling too much about the guest spot, Thomas plays a character who bonds with Allen's Mike Baxter. The two actors make several nods to their old series, and the storyline for Thomas's character leaves the door open for return appearances, as his Jon Baker was conceived as the third part of a potential love triangle for Baxter's daughter Kristin and her boyfriend, Ryan.
"The character expanded more and more as he got on set," Allen says. "He got into it, but again, this is a kid that's really intelligent. He likes directing, he loves this business, but he's not sure that this is what he wants to do. We certainly would like him to come back [on camera], because he does a great job. He's fighting it, but everybody loved him. He's a regular guy, and remember all the girls, how they loved him? A couple of them [from the show] said they had posters of him on the wall of their bedrooms. It was so funny, because they'd go, 'Is he here?' I go, 'Yeah, he's standing right behind you.'
"It was too fricking much," Allen says. "I'm an emotional guy sometimes. I just adore Jonathan. I adore all those boys [from 'Home Improvement']. I see Zachery [Ty Bryan] a lot, I still see Debbe Dunning, and I miss Earl [Hindman], who passed away. Taran [Noah Smith] I don't see that much. I see Richard Karn a lot. I resist any kind of description, because it sounds cheesy, but it was adorable watching [Thomas] there. It was so much fun having him on the set, but he's there a lot, anyway. Of course, I tell him he's probably just there for the craft services. I tell him he probably stops by, yeah, for shadowing, but then he just gets a turkey sandwich and goes home."
Watch a clip of Thomas and Allen on "Home Improvement":
NEXT: Allen also talked to Yahoo! TV about the future of "Last Man Standing," his return to standup comedy, and the possibility of another Buzz Lightyear adventure with a fourth "Toy Story" movie.
Between the Jonathan Thomas Taylor guest appearance and the fact that the storyline opens up some nice changes for everyone, it's a good season finale for "Last Man Standing."
Thanks. It's been almost cataclysmic, the challenges that this show has faced [this season], between very, very personal problems with some staff members who lost children, to changes of guard. It's just been one thing after another, but underneath all of this is a very clever, warm idea. My mother sent me an article out of a paper … "I love this show," the reporter says. "It's the only sitcom that depicts an older married couple raising teens and talking about politics and issues with humor and sensitivity."
But it's an absurd comedy. I love that this [reporter] picked out that [my wife on the show] is an Ohio State grad, and [my character] is a Michigan grad … She's very bright, and I'm very bright. I've been around the world a million times, photographing and doing our catalog for Outdoor Man. It kept me out of these making jokes that … they had a whole series of me making jokes about lattes and cappuccinos. I said, "Now listen, this is a guy that's traveled to South America extensively. He's lived on cappuccinos. He knows about fashion, and he knows … you can't go there." He's not uneducated. I love that this guy is complex like that, and he can be very conservative and believe it. It's very, very difficult, because the network leans left and the writers lean left … not sure as a comedian where I fall -- I'm more of an anarchist. I find politically one side's ridiculousness is mirrored by the ridiculousness of the other side.
Watch a clip of Allen on "Last Man Standing":
You don't want the show to be politically correct.
Right. [Mike Baxter] just hates everybody. (Laughing)
I'm just really grateful for this cast and the crew. I loved my last sitcom so much. It tore me up to leave it … it was like having a wonderful black Lab that you had to put down. I never got over it. I really never got over it. Then this puppy came along that was so different that it didn't disrespect my affection for my black Lab. It created a new affection, and it just reminded me that your heart and soul are bigger than you can possibly imagine. You can love a lot of different things in a lot of different ways.
I don't mean to be dramatic, but I really love these girls and Nancy and this crew. Most of whoever is still alive from "Home Improvement," I've got on [this show]. All the primary cameras are from "Home Improvement," and we all took a picture, and one of the guys said, "Can you imagine hitting it twice in this business?"
Are you happy to be back in the TV business in general? The industry has changed so much in such a short time.
Oh, gosh, the landscape is, it's a whole big turn. I mean, we're winning our time slot on Friday with numbers that would have … the numbers that we were doing on "Home Improvement"? We kept at [top 10] status for, what, six, seven years? It was huge. We were a big success for ABC. But this climate, my God -- Friday was, at one point, a big night. They've moved us, you're working against juggernauts. CBS, literally, when I started, was not very hot. NBC was the big deal. Not only that, there was nothing -- and this wasn't 150 years ago or something -- there was nothing on cable. Now you have, literally, some of the best stuff [on cable]. "Homeland" … there's some really good stuff coming now.
We all think of the fall season, but my brother's kids, not so much. If you took TV away from them, they wouldn't care. He's got three girls. If you took TV away from us [when we were kids], it was a punishment. It was a real punishment. It's not that big a deal for these kids. Sitting down and watching, thank God, "Last Man Standing," my brother said -- it is something for Friday, and they love it. They love the fact that Friday is a family night. But he said, "If it weren't for your show, we wouldn't be doing this." It's a very different landscape.
Were you happy with ABC moving "Last Man Standing" from Tuesday nights to Fridays?
It was the original plan. The original idea was to build a Friday night. That's what they really wanted to do, is get a foothold on Friday night. Showcase us on Tuesday and then, Reba [McEntire's] show ["Malibu Country"] was supposed to be ready, but Reba was very particular, and they wanted to get it right. Whether they have or not is for the audience to decide. I love her and what's she's doing … I think they've got a great cast and a gem of an idea. But they just, they've been through their first year where they've got to figure out who's who and backgrounds and little stuff that'll get better and better. They pushed that off by eight months, so we were out there by ourselves … I kind of like it [on Fridays]. I feel like it's Secretariat, put out to just run around the yard. We're not in the competition. It's not like I was before. They put "Home Improvement" wherever they needed it. We were like the "Modern Family" of that time.
Do you think it'll come back on Friday nights next season?
That is up to them. I would think that they've got … when I look at the night they've got with us -- "Malibu," "Shark Tank," "20/20" -- one of the strongest nights that they can build on. But ABC and 20th Century Fox might want to [move us around]. We get some more traction with bigger numbers, they're going to want to put us somewhere else and spearhead another night. But me, I would make Friday a destination. That's what I would do, but that's not up to me to say.
You're doing regular standup appearances again, at the Venetian in Las Vegas. What do you talk about in your performance now?
I love it, because it's very different. As I tell my audience in Vegas, this is not Tim Taylor, this is not Buzz Lightyear, this is not Santa [Clause] -- this is the guy where all that comedy comes from. But he's a little bit rougher. What I -- it's not, like, sexual stuff or it's not inappropriate. I just have very colorful language. You learn a little bit about where the characters came from. A lot of the characters you've seen me play come from the guy, me. It's really a very … I pay homage to all the characters when I perform in Vegas. Obviously, Buzz Lightyear comes to mind, because it's my voice. But a very different guy shows up in Vegas. [I talk about] my family growing up, and politics. I rant and rave about taxes and cars and girls and body functions a little bit, because I grew up with seven boys. It was literally, a lot of our life revolved around that. It's not highbrow humor at times. But it borders that. I'm a religious guy, so I talk about religion … It's not the [act] I did that got me "Home Improvement." It's bits of it. I do some old favorites and the crowd appreciates what I used to do on my old standup concerts. There's a little of it there.
Will you maybe do another concert special?
Oh, yeah. Something a little different though. Not really a one-man show, but I have something in mind.
And what about "Toy Story 4"? The rumors persist that we're going to see Buzz Lightyear in action again.
That, you should ask Woody [Tom Hanks]. Tom always seems to … he says whatever he wants to say. Disney would prefer mum, that's what they want. My question is, you saw how "Toy Story 3" ended … what do you think? I don't think they planned quite that response from the audience. It brought everybody to tears. It's like, wedding tears. You weren't sad because it was over -- you're sad because it looks like your daughter getting married. When that little girl peeked around her mom, you knew, wait a minute, she'll take care of these toys. As soon as [the audience] saw that, boy, that theater was sobbing, when [all the toys] were waving on the porch … I think everybody said, wait a minute. Why not? Why not have these kids have a new player, the little girl? There's so much potential that I would be very, very surprised if they don't surprise us all with something.
Is that a character that you would enjoy going back to again?
Oh, hell, yes. I love being Buzz. I love it, I love those movies.
The season finale of "Last Man Standing" airs Friday, 3/22 at 8 PM on ABC.