The Tool Man is Back! - Tim Allen stars in new TV sitcom as Ham Radio Operator "KA0XTT"
Believe it or not, it's been twelve years since Tim Allen starred in a weekly television sitcom. In his former show (Home Improvement),
he was Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. Host of the fictional "Tool Time" cable tv show, and a married father of three boys.
Well now he's back, only this time he is Mike Baxter, advertising director for a chain of (Cabela's-like) sporting goods stores called "Outdoor Man." Allen's new digs are eerily similar to his last show, except that this time he has a wife (played by Nancy Travis) and three girls, making him the only male in the house, thus the name "Last Man Standing." And much like his former show, Allen often encounters "family life problems," which end up being carried into his workplace, only now, instead of explaining his problems on camera to his Tool Time audience, his viewers are on the internet, where he maintains an advertising video blog for the store.
The show has been on since October of 2011, and seems to be gaining traction. It is typical ABC Family fare, with a lesson-to-be-learned at the conclusion of each show, and general good-heartedness in all of the characters.
But more important to us, the writers have made Mike Baxter a ham radio operator, with the (ficticious) call sign of KA0XTT. (Note: The call sign was made up with assistance from the ARRL, but the last three letters, "XTT," are a play on his prior show. As an inside joke, X-TT means "Ex Tim Taylor.")
The show's producer, John Amodeo NN6JA, worked with the ARRL to make Mike Baxter's "ham shack" (located in his office at work) look
(and operate) as realistic as possible, including showing that he has earned serveral ARRL certificates for WAS, DXCC-CW, etc. The radio equipment you see on the show (provided courtesy of ICOM), is connected to an array of antennas located above the set. In other words, it's not just "set dressing," itallworks. (Very rare for a television show.) Several of the show's employees are now hams, and they use the equipment to make contacts when filming is not taking place. Although Tim Allen does not have his "ticket" in real life, he has expressed an interest in taking the test, and we're hopeful he will become a "real" ham during the run of the show.
So far none of the episodes have focused on ham radio per se, but the producer says he is working hard to get Mike's "hamming" ability written into the storylines. In an episode earlier this year, we saw Mike Baxter finishing the end of an HF QSO, but only for a second or two. He then fooled around with the ICOM 2M handie talkie on his desk while talking to his "boss," played by veteran actor Hector Elizondo, but that was about the extent of it. Mike's "ham shack" is prominently shown in the background of just about every episode, and if look closely you will see that the radio equipment is always on and "lit up," it just hasn't had much use yet. Meanwhile we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will see more amateur radio usage in future episodes. Last Man Standing airs Tuesday nights on CBS at 8pm/7 central.
Incidentally, while the call sign KA0XTT is not real, the QSL card shown above is, and if you send one of your's to the show, you will get one of Mike Baxter's QSL cards sent back to you -- signed by Tim Allen!!
Wonder if we'll see KA0XTT in Dayton this year?
-- Rich Hartnett WA3RTH
* 05/23/12 followup - KA0XTT was not at the Dayton Hamfest in 2012, but show producer John Amodeo NN6JA was, and gave a nice presentation at the ARRL Expo display entitled "Ham Radio in Hollywood" on Saturday morning. The lecture offered convention goers some personal perspective about the media’s portrayal of Amateur Radio.
Check out the links below for more information about the show, more pictures, and Mike Baxter's Official Facebook Page!