The Fox network made its bones more than 30 years ago by putting on bold, edgy programs that targeted a young audience.
But the face of the “new Fox” is 64-year-old TV and movie star Tim Allen.
The network’s schedule, announced Monday, is its first since parent company 21st Century Fox announced that it would sell its TV and movie production assets to the Walt Disney Co. If the deal goes through, the Fox network will be more dependent on sports, news and live-event programming.
Allen’s last sitcom, “Last Man Standing,” which ran for six seasons on ABC but was dropped last year, is returning on Fox this fall, a head-turning choice in the 2018-19 TV schedule. The series is owned by 21st Century Fox’s TV studio, which has successfully sold the show to broadcast and cable channels.
But the multi-camera family comedy series is a break from the quirkier single-camera comedies and daring animated fare the Fox network has been known to favor over the years.
When Allen’s program, in which he plays a sporting-goods retail executive and father of three daughters who sneers at political correctness, was canceled last year, conservative pundits claimed it was done in by Hollywood liberals who disagreed with the star’s own right-leaning political views.
“Last Man Standing” was actually dropped by ABC because the network was losing money on the show. The network was unable to sell ads on the program at a high enough rate to cover the cost of the license fee paid to Fox’s TV studio.
Fox Television Group co-chairs Dana Walden and Gary Newman said during a conference call Monday that the network wanted to pick up the program last year but did not have an appropriate spot on the schedule for it. This year, the network will put the show on Friday, when executives believe it will benefit from promotion on “NFL Thursday Night Football,” which moves to Fox this fall.
Walden said ABC’s recent success with the revived “Roseanne” was a reminder that in Allen, Fox has a “huge comedy star” in its fold who also has the potential to appeal to a broad audience.
She said “Last Man Standing,” which averaged around 8.5 million viewers in its last season on ABC, was never heavily promoted on that network.
“We always wondered how it would do if it was prioritized more,” she said.
Newman said ABC’s cancellation was not related to politics. He said it had more to do with ABC not owning the program. He also said Allen’s character, Mike Baxter, is a political centrist and that the show’s stories are not a partisan platform.