LOS ANGELES — Mike and Vanessa Baxter are engaged in dining-table banter in a scene from Fox’s revived “Last Man Standing” (7 p.m. Friday on WFLD-Channel 32), but between takes, the actors continue the comedy. .
Tim Allen, who plays Mike, cracks jokes and chats with crew about his Detroit Lions. Travis, who plays Mike’s wife, Vanessa, goes faux put-upon at one point, saying, “I can’t work like this.”
Allen jumps at the opening. “Dig deep. Go back to NYU,” where Travis studied theater, he says. “Breathe in the subway smells.”
The playful barbs sound like a conversation a real married couple might have. But the relaxed vibe belies the topsy-turvy events that got them back 18 months later, to their original soundstage, which features the Baxter’s Denver home and the Outdoor Man sporting-goods store where Mike is an executive.
“Last Man,” which centers on Mike, wife Vanessa, their three daughters, in-laws and friends, was canceled by ABC and benched for a season until Fox, which owns the series, picked it up for this fall.
“It’s awe-inspiring to walk out [on set],” Allen says during a break. “All of us have come back with a renewed motivation. Everything’s sharper, crisper, cleaner.”
The cancellation was “jarring,” executive producer Kevin Abbott says, but the year away “almost was a benefit, because everybody came back feeling invigorated, like it was a new start.”
Travis credits fans for the Fox revival. “We were canceled with over 8 million viewers. They really came out. They never gave up even when we gave up. Petition after petition, letter after letter.”
The sitcom acknowledges its change of address in Friday’s opening scene, as befuddled son-in-law Kyle (Christoph Sanders) can’t find his favorite TV show. “Why would they cancel a popular show that everybody loves?” he asks.
“Maybe they’re a bunch of idiots. Just try another channel,” Mike replies.
The year off means more than just a different network: “Man” required casting changes after some actors found other jobs. Molly McCook replaces Molly Ephraim as a very different-looking middle Baxter sister Mandy, while Kaitlyn Dever, who plays youngest daughter Eve, will make fewer appearances, explained by the fact Eve attends the Air Force Academy.
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