Is TV Ready For the Return of Tim Allen?

When thinking of big-name male sitcom leads from the last few decades, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, and Kelsey Grammer are right there on top of the heap of ha-has. But not to be overlooked is Tim Allen, who fronted handyman goofball family comedy Home Improvement for almost all of the '90s.

In its heyday (1992-1994), Home Improvement was averaging 18-19 million viewers per episode and was a top three show, jockeying for the number-one spot with ratings monsters Roseanne, ER, and Seinfeld. Allen was a celebrity behemoth, at one point simultaneously appearing in the number-one rated television show (Home Improvement), starring in the number-one movie (The Santa Claus... really), and writing the number-one book (Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man). To summarize, Allen was God. At least for ABC.

Last week, Allen signed on to play the lead role in an untitled ABC sitcom pilot (previously called The Last Days of Man) about a manly man who is "fighting for his manhood" while adjusting to life surrounded by women. It's a return to the medium that made him famous—but will it be a triumphant homecoming, or has television moved on?

It's been a long time since Allen was on television regularly (Home Improvement ended in 1999), and the comedy landscape has U-turned away from what he's used to. Ensemble casts are more popular, the family comedy scenario has given way to workplace comedies, and older guys playing the king of their castle just aren't "cool" anymore.

Allen's list of achievements since he was last on TV don't exactly put him on the A-list. He voices Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story films, but when we think of Buzz, we think "plastic plaything," not "Tim Allen." He did play the lead in one of the best movies of all time according to me (1999's Galaxy Quest), but aside from that, his biggest role was in the old-timers-on-Harleys "comedy" Wild Hogs, and he's been nominated for the Razzie award for Worst Actor three times. His star, once burning bright, is now a chunk of ice among young adults who never had posters of Jonathon Taylor Thomas on their walls.

The climb back to TV stardom won't be an easy one for Allen, as some of his peers already know. Seinfeld never fully returned to television (no, The Marriage Ref doesn't count) except for a stint on the like-minded Curb Your Enthusiasm, Grammer tried and failed miserably twice (Hank, Back to You), and Romano opted for light drama, single-camera, and cable for his return (Men of a Certain Age).

Watching Tim Allen crawl back onto television might be like seeing David Lee Roth perform at an Indian casino today. But there is hope for him. Allen's Tim 'The Tool Man' Taylor is the original Larry the Cable Guy, who is still enjoying a strong following wherever collars are blue and necks are red. If Allen is going to be a success on TV again, he's going to have to tap into that same audience.

Do you want to see Tim Allen back on television?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (19)
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Mar 15, 2011
Hmm. Galaxy Quest... I haven't watched that movie in about, lets see.. Two weeks. Definitely one of my favs and YES, i would like to see Tim Allen back on TV. His humor is timeless.
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Mar 01, 2011
I think it would be great to see him again. I would watch.
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Feb 26, 2011
Tim is good at what he does and extremely funny, i just think it'll be different because he will be trying to reach a diferent audience,....good luck
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Feb 26, 2011
OMG I also loved Galaxy Quest, Tim! We must be separated twins from birth. Anyways, I think the news is great... hoping to see it when it comes on the air.
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Feb 24, 2011
Tim Allen seems like a great guy, nice and funny. I hope he has succes with the new show.
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Feb 24, 2011
BTW, it's The Santa Clause, with an e. Tim is on our TVs several times a day already. I hear his voice on commercial after commercial. I don't know about a starring role. He could easily step into Chevy Chase's roll on Community. :)
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Feb 24, 2011
Home Improvement was brilliant, and I still watch it in syndication. That said, I don't know that Tim Allen can carry a show now. He's hilarious, but not in a Network TV appropriate way, and without strong co-stars (because as much as Home Improvement was his show, it was also about the family and Tool Time and not just Tim The Tool Man Taylor) and good writers, not to mention more to the premise than 'a manly man who is adjusting to life surrounded by women' I don't see it working. (btw, my walls were plastered with JTT posters when I was younger. I vaguely remember crying when he cut his hair to play Pinochio)
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Feb 24, 2011
Yes, Home improvements was a brlliant show
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Feb 24, 2011
I like Tim Allen's comedy but it is way too racy for Network Television. Put him on cable at least.
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Feb 23, 2011
Also left out is the underrated Jungle 2 Jungle
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Feb 23, 2011
How DARE you link Tim and Larry the Cable Guy. That's one of the biggest insults you can give a comedian, and Tim doesn't deserve that kind of negative press. I still watch Home Improvement reruns on TV Land, still a pretty damn good show. It aged a hell of a lot better than Married With Children.
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Feb 23, 2011
He was in Galaxy Quest and for that he gets big kudos, I did watch Home Improvement but I was pretty young and didn't know any better......Compared to Seinfeld and any number of other sitcoms it doesn't stand up.
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Feb 23, 2011
Yes, I'm gonna watch, I LOVE Tim Allen. "Home Improvement" is one of my FAVORITE sitcoms of all time.
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Feb 23, 2011
I loved home improvement but this new show sounds kind of lame. home improvement was on from 1991 to 1999.
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Feb 23, 2011
it would have to be really good I very rarely watch sitcoms except for reruns of SEINFELD
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Feb 23, 2011
Home Improvement is one of my all time favorite sitcoms. I've seen every episode several times, so yeah I'll watch whatever sitcom Tim Allen is on.
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Feb 23, 2011
You bet! he's a great comedian. I love everything he does. He's just a natural. comic. loved Galaxy Quest as well. The Christmas movies we're VERY special I'd love to see more of them. More ANYTHING with Tim Allen
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Feb 23, 2011
While I do agree that Galaxy Quest is one of the best comedies ever, I think the success of Tim Allen's return to tv will largely depend on the material that he has to work with.
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Feb 23, 2011
Judging by the previous title, as well as it having Tim Allen, the show sounds like it'll be Home Improvement 2, which I don't really want. In fact, I'm still tired of that type of television. (Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, According to Jim) But maybe they put a new spin on it and make it worth watching, you never know.
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