Tim Allen of ‘Last Man Standing’: The Long, Hard Road to Faith

On June 13, comedian and actor Tim Allen turns 63 years old — and there’s good news and bad news. He’s had two successful sitcoms on ABC, one of which was just unexpectedly canceled. On the other hand, he’s sober, is the father of two daughters and has rediscovered his Christian faith.

Derailed by his father’s death in a car accident with a drunk driver when he was 11 — which severely impacted his faith — Allen went from a self-described “Episcopalian kid with a nice background” to 28 months in a federal prison for selling drugs in 1979. Paroled in 1983 at the age of 29, he picked up the threads of his life and began working as a standup comic, focusing on the differences between men and women, and especially on what makes men tick.

That led to the long-running hit sitcom “Home Improvement” on ABC in 1991, and such hit movies as “The Santa Clause.” Allen parlayed his man’s-man persona into stardom and wealth. But his first marriage, to the college sweetheart who stuck by him, ended in 1999, after producing one daughter.

But during that time, in 1997, Allen was arrested for DUI. Sentenced to probation, he went into rehab for alcohol abuse and has remained sober. In 2006, he married actress and longtime girlfriend Jane Hajduk, and they had a daughter in 2009.

In the fall of 2011, ABC premiered “Last Man Standing,” loosely based on Allen’s life as a conservative Christian Republican father of three (but the character is a sporting-goods executive, not a TV star).

Here he is in 2011, while “Last Man Standing” was just starting on ABC, talking to Elizabeth Vargas of ABC’s “20/20” about his life and how he regained his faith in “The Builder,” as the former “Home Improvement” star refers to God.

In part, he said (as transcribed in ABC News’ blog):

Allen’s father died when he was hit by a drunk driver when Allen was just 11. The comedian says that after that, he questioned whether if he had prayed harder or had been with his father that fatal day, he could have prevented his death.

“For years, I just did not like this idea of God, church,” he said. “(I was) still a churchgoer, but constantly a cynic.”

But the cynicism didn’t last. Today, he calls God, “The Builder.”

Despite “Last Man Standing” being ABC’s number-two sitcom after “Modern Family,” it got the ax last month from the Disney-owned network. That set off a furor from fans who believed it was because of Allen’s outspoken political and religious views, which don’t mesh with most of the Hollywood elite.

Here’s what he said to Jimmy Kimmel in March, as reported by Deadline.com:

“You’ve gotta be real careful around here,” Allen replied. “You get beat up if don’t believe what everybody believes. This is like ’30s Germany. I don’t know what happened. If you’re not part of the group, ‘You know what we believe is right,’ I go, ‘Well, I might have a problem with that.’ I’m a comedian, I like going on both sides.”

When the cancellation news came through a couple of months later, here’s how Allen responded:

 

Snopes.com checked into the reasons behind the cancellation. It cited ABC’s claim that this was a business decision, driven in part by the fact that ABC doesn’t own the show, so the network won’t share in any syndication, cable or streaming revenues. The network also says it’s moving away from a Friday comedy block.

All of these may be true, but there’s seldom a single reason a show gets picked up or cancelled. It’s always a calculation with money, scheduling and taste figuring in. Few shows on network TV feature overt orthodox Christians or political conservatives, although they make up a large chunk of the audience. It’s hard to know whether that’s a result of the networks thinking Americans don’t want to see those folks, or because the networks just don’t want to showcase those particular viewpoints.

But, since 20th Century Fox Studios, not ABC, produced “Last Man Standing,” this may not be the end. Reportedly, the studio is seeking another home for the popular show.

From Variety:

But the series, which was ABC’s second most-watched comedy last season behind “Modern Family,” may not be dead. Asked whether “Last Man Standing” would be shopped to other networks, [studio president Howard} Kurtzman said, “We’re starting to explore that. If it’s not going to go forward at ABC, of course Jonnie and I are hopeful that we can find another home for it.”

Whatever happens, at least Allen knows he’s got “The Builder” to rely upon.

Image: Courtesy ABC/20th Century Fox Videos

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