Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Last August, Leah Remini’s name was in the news as she was ousted from CBS daytime’s The Talk along with Holly Robinson Peete. Now she’s at ABC in the new comedy Family Tools. And at today’s TCA panel on the comedy, she was relentlessly upbeat about the change.
“I do believe things happen for a reason, it’s a blessing”, she said. “I started at ABC in 1989 with Living Dolls. My mother said: ‘What part are you playing?’ Yeah”, she cracked. “But it is a blessing to be here, I love being back at ABC, I’d like to stay here and get comfortable”.
Remini seems determined to deflect any negatives and called her ouster from the daytime talk program “a learning experience”. After the session, she acknowledged that in hindsight “there were a lot of things I wish I didn’t say, but it’s live television”. As far as regrets go, she added: “It’s the relationships. It’s not just a job, it’s about the relationships”.
But back to the show. Remini was joined on the panel by co-stars Johnny Pemberton, J.K. Simmons, Kyle Bornheimer, Edi Gathegi and Danielle Nicolet, as well as executive producer Bobby Bowman. Bowman was asked to explain the genesis of the show’s title and how it will differ from the British series it is based on, White Van Man.
“It’s had more than three titles,” Bowman said. He said at first they thought of maintaining the title but “van man,” which means “fix-it guy,” is not an American expression. Then they considered “jack-of-all-trades,” but eventually landed on Family Tools.
The family in the title also reflects Bowman’s intention to better align the comedy with two successful ABC comedies, the megahit Modern Family and The Middle. In producing the pilot he was looking at “those tent pole shows that are still on the air.”
Another change from the original: That show focused more on being out and about in the van. The new show focuses more on friends and family for lead character Jack Shea (Bornheimer).