The blueprint: Assemble familiar character actors into an on-screen family, then nail it to one of the last new series of the television season.
Premiering Wednesday, May 1, the ABC sitcom “Family Tools” revolves around a passing of the torch as a heart attack forces veteran handyman Tony (J.K. Simmons, “The Closer”) to turn his business over to his ne’er-do-well son Jack (Kyle Bornheimer, “She’s Out of My League”). Though his aunt Terry (Leah Remini, “The King of Queens”) offers Jack encouragement, he has much to prove as he sets out to move the family trade forward.
“Family Tools” is based on the British show “White Van Man.” Writer-producer Bobby Bowman (“Raising Hope”) did the Americanization and defines that title term as a “sort of fix-it guy. The direct translation would be ‘jack-of-all-trades’; that’s why I named (the central character) Jack. The British version was Ollie. I don’t know any Ollies. And I also changed his name to Jack because it had this Americana directness.”
Bornheimer has played straight man and boorish lout in past comedy vehicles that also have included the CBS series “Worst Week” and the movies “You Again” and “Bachelorette.” He maintains “Family Tools” gives him room for both personas, saying that as Jack, “I often think I’m the most reasonable person in the room until things get serious, then I’m the crazy person. The show gives me the range to do all that kind of stuff, so I never feel like I’m going out of bounds or anything.”
Also known now for his Farmers Insurance ads, Simmons chose to do “Family Tools” immediately after “The Closer,” though he could have moved — as several others did — into the TNT spinoff “Major Crimes.” He tells Zap2it, “I’ve always said, ‘One of the good things about being an actor is you don’t have to do the same thing day after day after day.’ We had great writing on ‘The Closer’ and great actors, and I did it for seven years and had a really good time.
“When that was done, I had the option of continuing on with another version of the same show with most of the same cast or looking for something new to do. I really felt like I wanted to do a half-hour, and I was lucky to find a good one with good people.”
In a sense, “Family Tools” brings Remini full circle, since her first series also was an ABC comedy, “Living Dolls.” The new job follows her stint as one of the original co-hosts of CBS’ daytime program “The Talk,” and she reasons, “Every experience, I think, is a learning experience. I could always say there’s things you could do differently, but I look at it as a blessing. I’m supposed to be right here right now.”
Presumably, so are the other “Family Tools” stars who include Edi Gathegi (“Twilight”), Johnny Pemberton (“21 Jump Street”) and Danielle Nicolet (“The Starter Wife”).
Bornheimer is first among equals in the show, though, and he believes his character will ring true to many viewers.
“I like watching people who have forgotten that they failed the first time,” he says. “You’re watching this innocent do it again, run into the same screen door and then just get right back up.
“I think that’s really fun to play because you can hit the reset button and commit fully, as opposed to being a neurotic who is shy about the next adventure. He’s really going to nail it this time – and we know he won’t, but we’re just interested to see how he will screw it up.”