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Sitting in on a taping of Tim Allen's new ABC sitcom, "Last Man Standing"

Sitting in on a taping of Tim Allen's new ABC sitcom, "Last Man Standing"

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So how did I almost wind up winning an autographed "Tim the Tool Man" Taylor toolkit while attending a taping of Tim Allen's new ABC sitcom, "Last Man Standing" ? It's kind of a funny story.

Tim Allen and Nancy Travis on the set of "Last Man Standing." Photo by Peter "Hopper"
Stone. Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

To explain: I have always wanted to attend a TV taping just to see what one was like. But in all my previous trips to Southern California, the timing just never worked out. Either they weren't taping while I was in town or I had waited too long to order tickets. So I kept missing my chance.

But this past summer, Jim had asked Angela Ragno and I if we'd like to come along and help cover the 2011 D23 EXPO for JHM. And since Angela is an event planner ... Well, she knows a thing or two about planning ahead. Which is why -  before I had even got on the plane to fly out to Orange County - Angela had already lined us up some seats for "Last Man Standing."

Which - given that Tim Allen's new show was going to be on ABC's Fall schedule ("Last Man Standing" actually has its series premiere on that network tonight at 8 p.m. ET / PT) - I thought this sitcom would be shot on the Disney Lot in Burbank. No such luck. As it turns out, "Last Man Standing" is a 20th Century Fox production. Which - to further confuse the issue - is being shot at the CBS Studio Center in Studio City.

The entrance to CBS Studio Center in Studio City

Anyway ... On the day of the taping, Angela and I drive up from Anaheim and roll up to the gate at CBS at the appointed hour. The instructions that came with our "Last Man Standing" tickets said to arrive at 5 p.m. More importantly, because cameras and cell phones aren't allowed on the soundstage during a taping, we were told to lock all of that stuff up in the car.

Angela and I made our way to the meet-up point at CBS Studio Center. A page then walked our group back to the soundstage where "Last Man Standing" was being shot. En route, we passed trailers for "CSI." I also noticed that - as we walked through the Lot - that NBC's new sitcom, "Whitney" also seemed to be shooting at CBS Studio Center.

Once we actually got to the soundstage, before we entered the building, all would-be audience members first had to be wanded by Security. Just to make sure that none of us were still carrying our cell phones and/or were trying to smuggle a camera into this taping.

Setting up a shot on "Last Man Standing." Photo by Peter "Hopper" Stone. Copyright
American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

After that, we led up into the bleachers on this soundstage. Angela and I wound up with great seats, right down front. And I then tried to take in everything that was going on around me.

There were sets for "Last Man Standing" all over this soundstage. Some to our left, some to our right, while the main set of the Baxter household was right in front of us. Meanwhile the  cameramen and technicians were all making ready for the start of taping.

Then suddenly the warm-up guy appeared. His job was to keep the crowd in the bleachers upbeat & energized. He kept asking for volunteers to come help him out. Which I eventually found myself standing in front of the "Last Man Standing" set, trying to lead this group in a cheer. It didn't work.

Tim Allen says a quick "Hello" to the audience before a taping of "Last Man Standing"
gets underway. Photo by Peter "Hopper" Stone. Copyright American Broadcasting
Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

Now because "Last Man Standing" was a brand-new show at this point which had yet to air ... Well, obviously the members of the audience at this taping had no clue as to who these characters were and what their relationships might be. Which is why - before this taping got underway - the warm-up guy screened  the pilot of "Last Man Standing" for us. At which point, we were well versed in the world of Mike Baxter, his wife and three daughters.

And then finally it was time to start taping. The producer of "Last Man Standing" introduced the cast, with Tim Allen - of course - getting the largest round of applause as he entered. Tim grabbed the mike and said a quick "Hello" to the crowd. And with that, the taping of Episode 3 of this new ABC series quickly got underway.

I have to admit that that was what impressed me the most about attending this taping of "Last Man Standing." How quiet & professional the cast and production team were. Each scene in this sitcom has obviously been rehearsed well in advance. The cast all hit their marks and got their laughs. Sometimes - just to freshen things up a bit - Tim would vary his reading of a particular line or maybe tweak a punchline. But there wasn't a lot of horsing around or ad-libbing. They'd do two, sometimes three takes of each scene and then quickly move on to the next camera set-up.

Evan/Luke Kruntchev and Tim Allen on set at "Last Man Standing." Photo by Peter
"Hopper" Stone. Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved

The only member of the cast who wasn't actually cooperating with this extremely professional on-set work attitude was little Evan or Luke Kruntchev (I'm not sure which twin they had in front of the camera that night). This extremely cute toddler plays Tim Allen's grandson on "Last Man Standing." But as toddlers often do, Evan and/or Luke was misbehaving. Which is why - after a while - young Mr. Kruntchev was taken backstage.

The producer then came out and explained that they'd shoot those parts of this episode which featured  the grandson character at another time when this toddler was feeling better / was better behaved. But in the meantime, to help the actors who were still onstage get through this scene / maintain the proper sightlines when it came to performing this scene with a toddler, the "Last Man Standing" production team then brought out a blonde-headed doll. Which then became Little Mr. Kruntchev's stand-in for the rest of the scene.

As time went on, the warm-up guy - in order to help keep the audience's interest and energy level up - challenged us to singing and dancing contests. The studio even provided us with pizza and bottles of spring water.

(L to R) Joel David Moore, Christopher Sanders, Kaitlyn Dever, Molly Ephraim, Alexandra
Krosney, Hector Elizondo, Nancy Travis and Tim Allen take their bows at the end of a
taping of "Last Man Standing." Photo by Peter "Hopper" Stone. Copyright
American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

By the time 9 p.m. rolled around, this "Last Man Standing" taping was over. The cast all gathered onstage for a quick bow, waved to the audience and then disappeared backstage. The warm-up guy then announced that he'd awarding a special souvenir to the audience member who had done the most to keep the crowd revved up that night. At our taping, this person was a young Irish girl who worked as a counselor at a camp for autistic children. Her energy (more importantly, her laugh) was so infectious that, all throughout the taping, the warm-up guy kept circling back to her.

Anyway ... As you might have already guessed, this special souvenir was a genuine "Tim the Tool Man" Taylor toolbox from Tim Allen's first sitcom, "Home Improvement." And since Tim himself had signed this toolbox, the young Irish woman seemed very pleased with her prize.

And as for me ... Well, it's not like I went home from this "Last Man Standing" taping empty-handed. I have my memories ... as well as an autographed picture of Tim Allen that I got for volunteering. Which was pretty cool.

And - no - this is not the kind of camera that they use to shoot "Last Man Standing."
Photo by Peter "Hopper" Stone. Copyright American Broadcasting
Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

So now ... Well, having seen how this sitcom was shot, I just can't wait 'til later this month to see what changes - if any - they've made to the episode of "Last Man Standing" that I saw get taped.

But - all in all - this was a very fun experience. And I highly recommend that you try and attend the taping of a sitcom the very next time that you're out in LA.

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  • What link did you use to get tickets? I want to see Last Man Standing but not sure what site is legit. Thanks!!

  • Excellent show. Just really found here in 2016. Watching all the reruns to catch up on Hallmark and CMT.  Will definitely watching this season.

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