The Return of 'Last Man Standing': Original Content in a Political World
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Originally cancelled in 2017, the Tim Allen comedy has returned on a new network and is raking in views!
Friday September 28th saw the series return of Last Man Standing, Tim Allen’s newest sitcom about an upper middle class family living in Colorado, with the start of a new 7th season. Last Man Standing first aired in 2011, originally on ABC. It is a show about a man who works as a marketing director for an outdoors store and his close knit family and neighbors. Tim Allen is, of course, the main character, dad Mike Baxter, and the cast includes Nancy Travis as the mom Vanessa, Amanda Fuller as the oldest daughter Kristin, Molly Ephraim (Seasons 1-6) / Molly McCook (Season 7) as the middle daughter Mandy, and Kaitlyn Dever as youngest daughter Eve, among a plethora of coworkers and friends.
It is undeniably a more conservative show, as Mike and Vanessa have good educations and make good money, hold onto Christian values, and openly poke fun at liberals, particularly with the character of Kristin’s boyfriend/husband Ryan, played by Jordan Masterson, who is always passionate in his liberal agenda. Mike and Ryan butt heads over opposing views periodically throughout the show. To no surprise, the show is popular amongst Republicans.
During the 2016-2017 television season, this show was ABC’s 2nd most highly rated sitcom. However, in May of that season, ABC decided to not renew the show for a new season. Fans were quite upset about this, many of which expressed their disapproval on social media. A petition on change.org to bring back Last Man Standing even raised over 380,000 signatures.
The show was canceled for a whole year before being brought back on Fox. When the first episode of the 7th season aired on September 28th, 8.1 million viewers tuned in. It was Fox’s most watched TV show that first week (especially impressive because it aired on a Friday evening).
ABC said the cancellation was purely a business decision, blaming scheduling as they decided to stop showing comedies on Fridays. Nevertheless, everyone suspects political influence. Tim Allen is a known Republican and some think that liberal Hollywood wanted to kick out this conservative-sided show.
Personally, I think Last Man Standing is a fine show. I think it’s funny and I like that it addresses various social issues, often bringing in various perspectives. I don’t always agree with the main perspective presented, but there are usually other characters that represent different viewpoints and they tend to keep each other in check. The show addresses the modern day and is sometimes nostalgic of simpler times. All in all, the show is a sitcom and I really enjoy sitcoms.
So naturally I also tuned in for the season premiere that fateful Friday evening. I cannot recall many moments in TV history where the fourth wall was so considerably broken down and the characters made such direct commentary on the show’s real life situation. Not surprising, as I’m sure many involved in putting together the show, including Tim Allen, were mad about the whole cancellation situation. I watched incredulously as Mike, Vanessa, and daughters talked about how a dumb network would let a popular show go and directly thanking fans for continued support that helped them get back on air. They did not hesitate to bring up the success of the show and very openly embraced their new network.
I was pleasantly surprised at how direct they were about the whole situation. No hesitation to address it, which is honestly most refreshing to the viewer that is watching the show in real time as it airs, because it offers an explanation to them. This extremely direct commentary is not only a way for Tim Allen to vent his frustrations, but also a way for fans to get the explanation and respect they deserve--instead of the show continuing on like nothing has happened and nothing has changed since it got cancelled.
And a lot has changed since the show’s cancellation. We are now living in Trump’s America and as we know Mike Baxter likes to talk politics, so you bet the show also covered the state of the nation post-election. The liberal characters are depressed and the conservative ones are thrilled. The liberal ones are shown extremely effected, falling under depression and seeing no future or point anymore. You can argue that this was extremely exaggerated and a poke at liberals, which it was, but it also felt very real. I’m sure many people did actually feel this way after the election.
The Baxter family argues about the state of the nation and things get ugly. In the end, Mike Baxter gives a heartening speech about family, unity, and the temporary nature of presentational office terms. It was kind of cheesy but also spoke to many truths. Everything really is temporary, but it’s also easy for someone who will only benefit from everything Trump does to say that. In the end, we are a country shaped by a variety of people and perspectives, and what we see on TV should reflect that. We cannot escape politics on TV, but we can navigate through politics respectfully, even cracking a few innocent jokes, as long as everyone respects one another and does nothing to purposely hurt someone else (like Rosanne . . .). I think this season premiere of Last Man Standing reminds us that we can get along in the end, even if we don’t share political views.
Overall, I found this to be a very memorable episode, most notably for the very direct dialogue in the opening scene in regards to the cancellation and renewal.