While there was a happy ending for one series, whose cancellation triggered an outcry from fans, NBC freshman drama Timeless, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for another, veteran ABC sitcom Last Man Standing.
I hear Fox seriously considered rescuing the series, which is produced by sibling 20th Century Fox TV. I hear the network tried to fit Last Man Standing on the schedule but couldn’t find a way to do it. Fox has been out of the multi-camera business for a while, and its live-action comedy brand consists mostly of edgy, often outrageous single-camera comedies including The Mick and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
I hear there don’t seem to be any other viable scenarios to keep the sitcom alive elsewhere and, with its writers already scattered and lining up new gigs, a seventh season of Last Man Standing appears highly unlikely.
The development comes as the wave of very strong reaction from fans over last week’s cancellation of Last Man Standing is not subsiding. It has become a rallying cry for conservatives, with a petition launchd that calls for ABC to bring back the series and for boycott of the network if it doesn’t. The petition, which refers to Last Man Standing 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 — quickly reached its goal of 150,000 signatures.
With a central character — played by Republican Allen — who is a political conservative and devout Christian adhering to traditional American values, the blue-collar comedy appeals to viewers in the Heartland, a constituency that helped elect Donald Trump as president and has been energized post-election.
Asked on Tuesday whether the show’s content and Allen’s political views played a role in the decision, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said, “I canceled Last Man Standing for the same business and scheduling reasons I canceled The Real O’Neals, Dr. Ken, The Catch, American Crime.”
However, unlike the other canceled ABC series, Last Man Standing has been a sturdy ratings performer.
The sitcom, which airs on the low-trafficked Friday night, is coming off one of its strongest seasons, averaging 8.1 million viewers in Live+7 and ranking as ABC’s second-most watched comedy this season, only behind flagship Modern Family (8.7 million), and the third-most watched ABC scripted series overall behind Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family. It was a surprise off-network hit when it launched in broadcast syndication last fall, possibly giving the sitcom an extra boost on ABC where it hit series highs.
Dungey called the cancellation decision “a challenging one because it was steady performer but when we made the decision not to continue with comedies on Friday that’s where it landed.”
ABC’s Friday comedy block will be gone in the fall, replaced by Once Upon a Time and Marvel’s Inhumans/Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a fantasy/sci-fi block.
Last Man Standing, which comes from an outside studio, 20th TV, often had gone down to the wire on renewals, with the studio agreeing multiple times to license fee reductions in tense negotiations, something I hear the studio was open to again. But this time — likely because ABC had decided to end the Friday comedy block that had housed LMS and possibly because the sitcom was still expensive without the backend revenue that comes from ownership — the show’s future was not a subject of negotiations, with the network simply deciding against another season.With LMS doing well in broadcast syndication, it would make financial sense for 20th TV to try and keep the show going on a broadcast network. That is likely why the series was seriously considered by Fox. The network and studio are in lockstep with a shared leadership now, unlike several years ago when there was talk about Fox picking up comedy My Name Is Earl after its cancellation by NBC. But that never happened,
There have been cases of a sister broadcast network rescuing a show canceled by another net. ABC took in the ABC Studios-produced comedy Scrubs after its 2008 cancellation by NBC and CBS picked up CBS TV Studios’ (then Paramount Network TV) drama Medium after NBC canceled it in 2009.