Comedian Tim Allen Brings Amateur Radio Mainstream

For more information, contact:
Dustin Cox, N0DRC
Public Information Officer At Large
ARRL – Colorado Section
(719) 422-3722
For Immediate Release
Comedian Tim Allen Brings Amateur Radio Mainstream

Ham radio has been around since the early 1900s, though lately there has been an increase of new amateur radio operators. There are approximately 2.5 million Amateur Radio operators in the world. The numbers, while believed accurate, can vary somewhat because different countries use different systems to count licensees.

Now it appears that amateur radio has gone mainstream on television. “Tim Allen — star of Home Improvement, Toy Story, The Santa Clause and Galaxy Quest, just to name a few — stars in Last Man Standing, an ABC comedy airing at 8 PM (EST) on Tuesday nights. Allen plays Mike Baxter, KA0XTT, a married father of three and the director of marketing at an outdoor sporting goods store in Colorado whose life is dominated by women. While Amateur Radio has not been prominently featured in the first episodes, according to John Amodeo, NN6JA — the producer of Last Man Standing — it is a part of the show and an important part of Mike’s character. The episode that will establish Mike as a radio amateur is currently scheduled to air on January 17th.”

“Tim’s character Mike is involved in creating the sales strategy for the store, including their catalog and Internet identity,” Amodeo told the ARRL. “The store is like Bass Pro Shops or Cabelas. There is a strong self-sufficiency overtone to Mike’s approach to life. Ham radio fits in the story as a means of emergency communication.

It’s not directly featured in the foreground story, but at the moment, it’s a background element on the home set. Once I allow something to be put on the set, there’s a chance the writers will feature it. Now that we have actually established Mike Baxter as KA0XTT, we can do more things featuring Amateur Radio.”

To make Mike a ham, Amodeo needed Mike to have a call sign. So he contacted ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, to help him out. “In film and TV, we create fictitious telephone numbers, addresses and brands,” Amodeo explained. “We do this mostly to avoid being sued by real brands and to avoid complications with advertisers. As a producer and a ham, I was torn between wanting the show to be accurate and needing to keep my studios out of trouble. An accurate and positive portrayal of ham radio on TV would be a good thing.” Many TV shows and movies use telephone numbers with a 555 exchange (such as 555-1212), as that exchange is not valid.

Together with Pitts, and with input from Tim Allen, Amodeo created a call sign for Mike Baxter: KA0XTT. Since the show is set in Colorado, they wanted Mike to have a call sign with a 0 in it. “We wanted a call sign that sounded real, but was not valid,” Amodeo said. “The call sign is a 2×3 format with an X suffix. A call sign in this format is an experimental call sign and is not assignable to a radio amateur except in special circumstances. We especially liked the suffix, as it is a play on Tim’s character from his former show, Home Improvement: ‘ex-Tim Taylor.’”

Amodeo told the ARRL that both his studio (Fox) and ABC were “delighted to have a useable call sign. In the past, TV shows just made up some crazy call or used someone else’s without permission. And because we’ve had so much talk about Amateur Radio here on the show, a few of my production assistants took their Technician exam.” Amodeo applied to be an ARRL Volunteer Examiner so he could help administer the exams. On October 6, Amodeo and two other ARRL VEs administered the Technician exam to seven prospective hams. All seven passed, with two making perfect scores.

If you are interested in learning about upcoming ham operator classes, you may contact Dustin Cox, N0DRC the Public Information Officer at Large for the Colorado Section of the American Radio Relay League.


Tim Allen – Last Man Standing On Set.jpg

Comedian Tim Allen plays Mike Baxter, KA0XTT, on the new hit television show Last Man Standing. The ARRL has been working with John Amodeo, NN6JA — the producer of Last Man Standing — to make sure that Amateur Radio is correctly portrayed on the show. Photo by American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.


About Dustin Cox, Colorado State University-Pueblo

Student at Colorado State University-Pueblo currently studying Mass Communications. I am also a published professional photographer working as a freelance photographer and helping people make lasting memories through photos. Summer 2015 USA TODAY College Visual Correspondent.
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