Conservative sites are apoplectic with rage over ABC’s cancellation of Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing.” But ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey told reporters Tuesday that politics didn’t play a role in the show’s ax.
Those sites are accusing ABC of killing the show because of Allen’s right-leaning politics. Yet lost in the furor: ABC also canceled several shows with more left-leaning themes, including “American Crime” and “The Real O’Neals.” (This year ABC also canceled “Dr. Ken” and “The Catch.”)
ABC remains fully committed to “The Middle,” its signature Tuesday comedy starring another well-known Hollywood conservative, Patricia Heaton. The network is also reviving another blue-collar comedy, its late 1980s staple “Roseanne,” for midseason.
20th Century Fox TV produces “Last Man Standing.” Shows heading into their seventh season get more expensive, as talent costs rise. Stick “Last Man Standing” into IndieWire’s bubble show quiz, and it doesn’t fare well. “The Middle” also isn’t owned by ABC, but it’s a quirky single-camera comedy that more seamlessly fits into ABC’s laugh brand.
Networks cancel shows every year. It gets bloody. But ABC aired “Last Man Standing” for six seasons – it even hit syndication. “Last Man Standing” did what it was supposed to do.
“Sadly, a large part of these jobs is managing failure,” Dungey said. “We have to make the tough calls and cancel shows that might otherwise love to stay on the air. That’s the job. I canceled ‘Last Man Standing’ for the same business and schedule reasons that I canceled ‘The Real O’Neals,’ ‘Dr. Ken,’ ‘The Catch’ and ‘American Crime.’ ‘Last Man Standing’ was a challenging one for me because it was a steady performer in the ratings. But once we made the decision not to continue with comedies on Friday, that is where we landed.”
Indeed, “Last Man Standing” did well in the ratings. It averaged a 1.6 in the adults 18-49 – a number that these days is considered good enough for renewal. (That kind of number would have gotten you canceled on UPN 20 years ago, when “Home Improvement” was a genuine smash.)
Yet here’s the truth: ABC didn’t own the show, just as it didn’t own its companion sitcom, “Dr. Ken.” There was absolutely no reason for ABC to keep it, once the network decided to go with a new Friday night genre strategy. “Dr. Ken” fans have a right to be pissed too: It was a landmark sitcom – you can count on one hand the number of comedies that have ever aired with a predominantly Asian American cast. But this was a business decision, too.
TV cancellations are sensitive things, but here’s what’s great about this era of Peak TV: If there’s demand, and a business model that makes sense, there’s more often a new home available for wayward TV shows. Now it’s up to Allen and 20th Century Fox to man up and find that new home.