This week marks a wild and fairly unpredictable TV event, as Tim Allen's Last Man Standing will welcome none other than...Tim Allen...as a guest star. Season 9's second episode will be a true Home Improvement crossover episode, with Allen pulling double duties as both Mike Baxter and his former role of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. While that idea sounds like the kind of thing that showrunner Kevin Abbott might have been planning to pull off for years, its origin story couldn't have been more different.
It turns out a network note from Fox execs is what started the ball rolling on Last Man Standing opting to bring Tim Taylor into the fold for the episode punningly titled "Dual Time." Showrunner Kevin Abbott explained to TheWrap that after the writing team had already planned out the first seven episodes of the season, including the time-jumping season premiere, that's when Fox decided to chime in. In his words:
Fox came to us and said, ‘We’d love it if you could come up with some big promotable event.’ And I always hate that, especially on this show, where we tell smaller stories about family interaction. Plus, it’s difficult to come up with some huge promotable event that happens in our little world. And so as I was bitching and moaning about it, my writers were actually thinking about it. And Jon Haller came back and said he’d been thinking about stunt casting and said, ‘You know, we’ve had almost all the names from Home Improvement on the show and the one we really haven’t had is Tim Taylor.’ And I went, ‘That is just brilliant. That is brilliant.'
It seems like the most obvious choice, considering all of the Home Improvement stars that have appeared on Last Man Standing in its first eight seasons, from the always great Patricia Richardson to Jonathan Taylor Thomas to Richard Karn (whom Tim Allen teamed up with for a new show). But then it also seems like the most baffling choice for an event episode, since none of the aforementioned actors were actually playing their Home Improvement characters as Allen will be doing as Tim Taylor. It's the kind of universe-mashing that usually takes comic book properties eons to figure out how to pull off. (Fingers crossed for a Spider-Man appearance, too, because why not?)
Once the idea was formulated, then it became a matter of logistics and talking to the right people to make it work. One of those people was, of course, Tim Allen himself, who was apparently quite pleased with the concept. His one stipulation, however, was that the creative team do Tim Taylor diligence by not showing the character disrespect within the story. That was definitely not a problem for Kevin Abbott, who also gave an appreciative shout-out to Home Improvement's creators for allowing the crossover's existence, saying:
I really liked Home Improvement, and Matt Williams and David McFadzean and Carmen Finestra, who created Home Improvement, were really kind and generous in allowing us to use the character and certain iconic symbols from the show and bits. So we were going to bend over backward to not give them any reason to regret allowing us to do that.
One of those bits can be seen above in the Binford Tools shirt that the Tool Man is wearing. Within the plotline of the episode, however, he's no longer handling any TV Tool Man duties, as the show-within-a-show Tool Time had been cancelled. He's now a higher-up within the Binford company, and shows up in Colorado to visit the Denver store location and to peep out the Outdoor Man vlogger that he kept hearing looked just like him. Classic. Fans can also expect to see Allen paying homage to the late Earl Hindman, who portrayed Home Improvement's always-hidden neighbor Wilson.
Kevin Abbott implied the most difficult element in bringing the Home Improvement crossover together was waiting on Disney execs to give the okay, since the mega-company owns the rights to the '90s sitcom. The showrunner said it was only the day before the cast held the episode's table read that the permission came through, and he claimed it was because he told them he was going through with the table read regardless. That's the kind of power move both Tim Taylor and Mike Baxter would appreciate.
With "Dual Time" next up in the rotation, Last Man Standing airs Thursday nights on Fox at 9:30 p.m., following new episodes of Mayim Bialik's latest sitcom Call Me Kat. While waiting to see how Tim and Mike get along, head to our Winter and Spring 2021 TV premiere schedule to see all the big shows that are still on the way.