When ABC canceled “Last Man Standing” this year, it caused a bit of an uproar online, particularly because the comedy still had decent ratings after six seasons. Fans wanted to know: Was the network dropping the show because it was about a conservative character (a “man’s man” who hated President Obama) and starred a conservative actor (Tim Allen)?
ABC responded with an emphatic “no.” The network’s entertainment president Channing Dungey said part of the reason for cancellation was that an outside studio (Twentieth Century Fox TV) produced the series, not ABC Studios. In other words, there was less potential financial reward for Disney, ABC’s parent company. Plus, the network decided to move “Once Upon a Time” to Fridays, ending the comedy block where “Last Man Standing” aired.
“[‘Last Man Standing’] was a challenging one for me, because it was a steady performer in the ratings,” Dungey said. “Once we made the decision to not continue with comedies on Friday, that was where we landed.”
Still, more than 400,000 people signed a Change.org petition that stated ” ‘Last Man Standing’ stands out in the sea of network television sitcoms. It is 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.” And while there was talk that Nashville-based CMT might pick up the show, that didn’t happen.
This week, Allen — who once compared being a non-liberal in Hollywood to being in 1930s Germany — appeared on Norm Macdonald’s podcast and said that the show’s cancellation was “handled very badly.”
“You couldn’t have handled this worse. Not for me, ’cause I’ll survive, but there’s 190 of us that work there,” Allen said and added that the show did very well for ABC, even when the network “put us out to pasture” on Friday nights. “I have no idea why they did what they did.”
MacDonald wondered out loud whether it was similar to when CBS canceled “Green Acres” and “Beverly Hillbillies” in the 1970s because then-CBS President William Paley and “his friends on the Upper West Side” thought it was “embarrassing” to have rural comedies.
“I always wanted ‘Last Man Standing’ to be like Archie Bunker,” Allen said. “Archie Bunker pushed boundaries.”
Then, Allen implied that his character’s politics had an impact on the show’s cancellation. He played Mike Baxter, a father of three daughters; one of them is staunchly opposed to his Republican views.
“There’s nothing more dangerous to me, especially in this climate, than a funny, likable conservative. That was the most dangerous thing,” Allen said. “Because he was mitigated on his show by a family of women that had different opinions — but the guy was a likable guy, a principled guy, just about work and ethics and all this stuff. I think there’s nothing more dangerous now than a likable conservative character.”