The new Fall TV offerings haven’t stopped yet, and Matt LeBlanc chatted with me about his new sitcom, Man With a Plan, premiering tonight on Global TV and CBS. It’s his return to network TV in a show that records in front of a live audience, and he hopes it’s a fun little escape for viewers each week. Here is what he shared with me about the relationships in the comedy, and what’s coming up beyond the pilot.
Adam and Andi have this well-balanced marriage that we don’t always see on TV. Can you talk a bit about that relationship in the pilot and in future episodes?
We wanted to break away from the television mould of relationships and that it’s very clear that they care about each other. They love one another, and really sell the sense of history. Luckily, I’ve known Liza [Snyder] a long time, and that helped in the history and chemistry, and I think that being a parent these days, you really need to stick together. Some days, you play good cop/bad cop, sometimes it’s good cop/good cop, and others it’s bad cop/bad cop. In storytelling, we want conflict and resolution, and sometimes that conflict will come between Andi and Adam, and the resolution will come by the end of the episode. We really try to search for episodes that put Andi and Adam on the same side of the problem instead of as adversaries.
In the pilot, it’s tough to get a sense of Adam’s relationship with his kids. What can you tell us about what that dynamic is like as the show progresses?
Prior to the pilot, he’s a guy who only really sees his kids at the end of the work day. He’s out of the house early in the morning, and his wife has been a stay at home mom for 13 years. Now their littlest one is in school full time and Andi wants to go back to work. Adam is his own boss at a construction company that he runs with his brother, played by Kevin Nealon. You’ll meet him in the second episode, and he’s a great addition to the cast. But Adam’s relationship with the kids is he gets the shined and polished best behavior version at the end of the day — I think we even make that joke — and once Adam starts taking care of them more than a few hours a day, he gets the B-sides of the records, the deep cuts, the drum solos. In that discovery that his kids aren’t who he thought they were draws him closer to them. He grows as a dad, as a person, and as a friend to his kids as a result of spending more time with them, and the journey that he goes on with them.
In one of the episodes, Andi becomes jealous that she’s missing these milestones that are happening with the kids. Some of them are mini-milestones, like Emme learning to tie her shoes. It’s a bit of “the grass is always greener.” There’s a little more of Adam’s way of parenting versus Andi’s way of parenting, and somewhere in the middle is the right way of parenting. That’s always the struggle. It reflects real life, and people can relate to that.
While watching the first episode, I thought that this family feels real. It could be your sister and brother-in-law, or your neighbors.
I’ve also got to say the kids are fantastic. I’m really impressed with their talent level. They say “don’t work with kids and animals” but the kids on this show are fantastic. People tend to put pressure [on a new show] and that it’s so important. Having three kids around, all they want to do is play, and to them, it’s fun. It’s a constant reminder that this should be fun. I try to remind myself always that it’s a TV show at the end of the day, we’re here to make people laugh. We’re not working on a cure for cancer and it’s not political. We’re here to hopefully give people a bit of escapism.
Is there one of the kids that would be the one to butt heads with Adam the most, or challenge him, or call him out if he makes a parenting mistake?
In one episode, we deal with the eldest daughter, Katie (Grace Kaufman). She’s 13. We butt heads but come to an understanding by the end of the episode. I butt heads with my son as well, he’s 11. Haven’t had any friction yet with the littlest one, but we did one episode where something happens in the house, and Adam is trying to get to the bottom of it. The three kids are sticking together and form an alliance, and Adam and Andi cannot break them. That was a fun one to shoot.
The kids’ school comes into play fairly quickly, especially the fact that parents are expected to be way more involved than it used to be. Does that set up the potential for conflicts with other parents?
It’s a good jumping off point for stories. The show is more about parenting. It’s a little less Full House and a little more Mad About You and Everybody Loves Raymond. It’s more about the struggle to parent.
When I was little, I went to a public school and my mother was not involved. This is a public school the kids are in [on the show], and you’re right, parents are expected to get more involved. What’s fun about that is to the see the parents struggle with whether or not they’re qualified to be in that role. As a parent, your role is to teach your kids right from wrong, don’t touch that, that’s hot, that’s cold, that will bite you, that will sting you. But when it comes to educating them, in terms of history and social studies and math, we’ve always relied on schools to do that, and now [parents have to get more involved]. I’ve gone through it in my own life. I had to go back and almost re-learn long division.
Photo Courtesy of CBS