It's pretty impressive that Last Man Standing aired for six seasons. The TV tactic of bringing back a beloved, old-school sitcom star (in this case, Tim Allen) to make something both nostalgic and modern tends to fall flat, but ABC pulled it off with a family friendly show that, notably, catered more to conservative audiences than shows in competing prime-time slots.
But all good things must come to an end, and ABC has decided not to renew the show for a seventh year.
My family enjoyed watching the show when it first aired, and while it didn't remain a weekly watch for me, those I knew who watched were happy with it.
This is the unfortunate reality of TV. Your favorite shows might not even survive their entire freshman season, and even successful programs are always at risk of being cut. Fans of Last Man Standing aren't taking the news lightly, though. There is a petition to save the show (currently more than 100,000 signatures strong) and there are talks of boycotting ABC for their decision.
If you're looking for a new battleground on the "war" between the media and conservative values, though, look elsewhere.
A petition is a fair play, if a longshot, and one I fully support your right to sign. Heck, I spent more than one mid-season break fighting to save Chuck on NBC, a show that was critically acclaimed and beloved by its fans but nonetheless was always on the verge of being canceled. There's nothing wrong with telling a network you love its show, and sometimes it works.
This particular petition loses me, though, when it comes to this line: "Last Man Standing is one of the only shows on broadcast television, and the only sitcom, that is not constantly shoving liberal ideals down the throats of the viewers. And sadly, that is likely the real reason the show has been cancelled." The author of the petition goes on to say that they will no longer watch any ABC shows that they previously enjoyed, as an act of protest.
I understand why the author would make that assumption. If you feel that there is only one sitcom geared to your political beliefs, and that sitcom gets canceled, it might feel like an attack on those beliefs.
But that supposed motivation for canceling Last Man Standing doesn't make sense.
ABC and its parent company Disney are motivated by profit. Potential boycotters know this, because that's the whole point of a boycott -- cut off some of their money and make them change their minds. Cynically, politics and even principles don't matter as much as the bottom line.
In other words, if Last Man Standing was bringing in enough of an audience to make ABC a profit, there's no political reason for them to cancel it. In fact, having a show that reaches a different demographic than the rest of their programming could be useful in attracting a wider variety of advertisers.
So why was the show canceled, then?
The petition has a point: The ratings for Last Man Standing seemed fine. It was not ABC's highest-rated show, and neither was it one of the lowest.
So the reason for the cancellation is probably more boring, but it still boils down to the same thing: money.
Deadline reports that ABC and producing studio 20th Century Fox TV had previously sparred over the licensing fee for Last Man Standing. The kicker seems to be this: Starting with a seventh season, ABC would have to start footing the bill for the show's production. Previously, 20th Century Fox had been covering costs, including Tim Allen's surely hefty salary requirements (he doesn't come cheap). With that in mind, presumably the numbers didn't work out in ABC's favor, even with the ratings being what they were.
The move is also part of a restructuring of ABC's schedule. The Associated Press reports that, "The show's ratings were modest but steady, but its fate was sealed when the network decided to discontinue its Friday night comedies."
(Update: ABC's Channing Dungey has said once again that politics did not drive their decision.)
'That's just an excuse! Contracts can always be renegotiated!'
They can, but they aren't always. Another popular ABC show, Once Upon a Time, is about to lose a significant number of its starring cast members, including its marquee star, Jennifer Morrison. Morrison had a contract that ended after six seasons, and while they had discussions about renewing, the parties involved decided to part ways.
'But... politics! The show was pro-Trump!'
And Disney CEO Bob Iger has been on a Donald Trump advisory panel. Again, if the show was going to make the network good money, the politics wouldn't have mattered.
Besides, the show has never hid what audience it wanted to attract. Just read the line that was used to pitch it to new audiences: "Today it's a woman's world, and this man's man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society." If ABC wanted to cancel the show over politics, it wouldn't have survived six seasons.
'But Tim Allen is an outspoken conservative!'
He is, and he always has been. Have you read some of the things he said in books he wrote in the mid-'90s? If Allen's outspoken views were going to be an issue for ABC, it would have been an issue years ago when the show first premiered.
Cancellations happen. They usually suck for at least some people. I'm currently mourning the loss of Powerless on NBC, which I thought was just hitting its comedic stride.
Shows come and shows go. It's business, not an attack on you or your values. Let's not declare a culture war on this one.