In May of 2016, ABC executives made an inexplicable decision, one that from a business standpoint seemed totally incoherent.
The Disney-owned network mysteriously cancelled its second-highest rated sitcom, which made no sense since the comedy had already received two prime time Emmy nominations and was on a solid upward trajectory.
“Last Man Standing,” starring Tim Allen, was in its sixth successful season at the time of its cancellation, with an average of more than 8 million viewers for the 2016-17 season. It was well on its way to the lucrative syndication level to which television producers, showrunners, and stars perpetually aspire.
Mike Baxter, the show’s lead character played by Allen, is a charmingly crusty outdoor sporting goods executive. He is also a refreshingly vocal and hilariously brazen center-right individual.
One rational explanation for ABC’s exercise in poor judgment back in 2016 may be that the company has an inherent disdain, as many in Hollywood do, for the show’s conservative-leaning content.
The fact that Allen’s actual political views are pretty much the same as the character he plays seems to give credence to the network’s likely motive in terminating the show. Adding possible fuel to the proverbial fire, Allen also happens to be a supporter of President Trump.
The comedic tension in the show comes from the nature of Allen’s character being a married father of three, who as a tried and true male head of the household attempts to safeguard his family fortress against attacks from left-minded relatives and the PC police.
A petition to bring back the show was launched by center-right TV viewers. “Last Man Standing” was described in the petition as a show that “appeals to a broad swath of Americans who find very few shows that extol the virtues with which they can identify; namely conservative values.”
ABC predictably denied that bias played any role in the decision to deep-six the original sitcom. Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, claimed that the reason the show was cancelled was due to high costs as opposed to Allen’s personal politics or the political content of the show.
Considering the fierce competition within the television industry as well as the difficulty of achieving the kind of consistent ratings success that Allen’s show garnered, ABC’s explanation simply does not hold water. As Allen himself told the Hollywood Reporter, “…there is nothing more dangerous, especially in this climate, than a funny, likable conservative character.”
After “Last Man Standing” was cut, ABC plugged the adult fairy tale drama “Once Upon a Time” into the time slot, which drew far lower ratings.
Then recently, in a sort of serendipitous Hollywood surprise, along came the refreshing reboot of the 1980s sitcom “Roseanne,” which took the TV world by storm and gave a starving center-right public (which incidentally is a huge demographic) a reason to laugh again.
Fox Television Group, led by chairpersons Gary Newman and Dana Walden, made a wise call and announced that they were bringing back the series.
“‘Last Man Standing’ ended too soon and the outcry from the fans has been deafening,” Newman and Walden said in a statement. “We’ve wanted to put the show back together since its final taping a year ago, and Tim never gave up hope either. Thanks to its millions of devoted viewers and the irrepressible Tim Allen, we haven’t seen the last of ‘Last Man Standing.’”
It initially appeared that key players Nancy Travis and Hector Elizondo were caught up in other television projects. However, in addition to Allen the show has been able to get Travis onboard, along with other original cast members Jonathan Adams, Christoph Sanders, Amanda Fuller, and Jordan Masterson. Hopefully the network can find a way to include Elizondo in the renewed show as well.
As for Allen, he issued a statement asking himself whether he was excited by the announcement that his show was returning to the air.
“Team LMS was in the sixth inning, ahead by four runs, stands were packed and then for no reason, they call off the game. It leaves you sitting in the dugout, holding a bat and puzzled. Now we get the news from Fox that it’s time to get back out on that diamond – hell yes, I’m excited!” Allen said.
In the same manner as his character would, Allen quipped, “When I heard the offer to create more episodes of ‘Last Man Standing,’ I did a fist pump so hard I threw my back out.”
“Last Man Standing” is expected to be part of the Fox schedule in the 2018-19 season, and much to the chagrin of ABC, many viewers will be doing fist pumps as they hand Fox a mega-ratings hit.