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The Real Reasons Last Man Standing Was Canceled

As the broadcast networks announced their slate of pickups and cancellations for the upcoming season in 2017, viewers and pundits received a number of surprises — but the biggest came from ABC. Even though the Tim Allen show Last Man Standing ended the year as the network's second highest-rated comedy, execs decided to cancel the Home Improvement star's sitcom after six seasons. On the surface, the decision might seem somewhat confusing. Why would a network pull the plug on one of its most successful shows, let alone so suddenly and without warning? As is often the case with big business decisions, there were a number of factors at play behind the scenes of the show's shocking demise, and some were less obvious than one might think. Wondering what happened to send Allen's fan favorite series off the air? Read on to find out the real reason Last Man Standing was canceled.

ABC doesn't own the show

Though Last Man Standing aired on ABC, the network didn't actually own the show. The sitcom was produced by 20th Century Fox, which meant ABC had to pay licensing fees every season. In the past, the studio and the network would negotiate fees, often leading to reduced rates for ABC, but this year, the network didn't even bother. They never approached Fox for lowered licensing, opting instead to call it quits on the sitcom.

This may have factored into the cancelation because it made the show more expensive than some of their other comedies. Still, that may not be the whole story—ABC's Fresh Off the Boat is also produced by 20th Century Fox, but was renewed for a fourth season despite lower ratings.

ABC ended its Friday comedy block

With hit network comedies in shorter supply, the sudden cancellation of the Tim Allen sitcom had to be addressed by the network. ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said that axing Last Man Standing was a simple business decision, one that's just a part of her job.

The network decided to make Friday a night for dramas and once the scheduling switch was made, they felt Last Man Standing had no place to go. The show shared the night with Dr. Ken, which was also canceled, though the Ken Jeong program netted half as many viewers on an average night. "Last Man Standing was a challenging one for me because it was a steady performer in the ratings," admitted Dungey, "but once we made the decision not to continue with comedies on Fridays, that was where we landed."

Fridays ended up being all drama on ABC the following season, including Once Upon a Time and Marvel's Inhumans. It marked the first season in years without any multi-camera sitcoms on the ABC schedule.

The show was too expensive

For a lot of shows, season seven is a year of contract negotiations. Last Man Standing was no exception: Allen's contract needed to be renewed, which more than likely meant a pretty big raise. Since the show made less money for ABC since it was owned by Fox, and Allen already had a pretty sizable salary, the network may not have wanted to pump even more money into the sitcom.

Sure, ratings were good, and good ratings typically equal lots of network dollars, but Last Man Standing also didn't have the ideal audience. Advertisers want viewers in the 18-49 age group, and though the program did fairly well in that demo, the show's audience skewed older. If advertisers weren't willing to shell out the big bucks, ABC wasn't willing to foot the growing bill.

Some think politics played a part

After Last Man Standing's cancellation was announced, rumor quickly spread that ABC pulled the plug because of Allen's conservative politics. The show's premise rested on an old school guy who rails against PC culture and wishes we could go back to the days when men were men, and some feel the network wanted to distance themselves from that conservative viewpoint.

In real life, Allen is a proud Republican. At a Q&A before the sixth season, he talked about how excited he was to make fun of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and when asked about her run for the presidency, he said "It will be horrible [for me] personally if Hillary continues, but it will be great for the storyline." In 2017 on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he compared being Republican in Hollywood to living in 1930s Germany.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tweeted his support to Allen, stating "Looks like ABC is playing politics with your show despite decent ratings. Sad." Conservative pundit Glenn Beck chimed in during his online radio show, vowing "to start looking into why this show got canceled." Whether or not the rumors are grounded in reality, they're likely to persist as part of the narrative surrounding Last Man Standing's cancellation.

The humor was often political

Whether or not Allen's personal politics played into ABC's decision, Last Man Standing made plenty of room for right-wing one-liners. On one episode, when a character talked about looking at "losing as a win," another shot back, "You sound like Hillary Clinton's therapist." Allen's character could often be heard taking potshots at Democratic politicians, such as when he quipped that "fair went out with Obama" and joked that the then-current Commander-in-Chief's "first job was President."

Occasionally, the line between Allen's personal bootstrap politics and his fictional character's point of view seemed almost too thin to define, as when one episode of Last Man Standing saw Mike addressing his daughter's graduation by arguing, "It's the land of opportunity. Some whiny babies might not think so, but in America, if you work hard, anyone can be successful."

ABC says it was strictly business

In response to the rumors, the network has insisted politics played no part in Last Man Standing's demise. As ABC President Dungey put it, "I canceled Last Man Standing for the same business and scheduling reasons I canceled The Real O'Neals, Dr. Ken, The Catch, and American Crime." Straightforward as that might sound, it's probably unlikely to quell conspiracy theories to the contrary—and at least in the short term, it did nothing to stem the tide of fan outrage.

Conservative fans are mad

Days after the cancellation was announced, Tim Allen tweeted that he was "stunned and blindsided by the network I called home for six years," and his fans were just as upset. A Change.org petition to save the show drew more than 225,000 signatures of support during the days after the show's fate was sealed.

People started tweeting their support with a suggestion to boycott ABC for their liberal ways. One fan tweeted "ABC is jumping in with both feet joining the idiots on the left.. No free speech allowed. Shame on you! Boycott ABC." Even James Woods joined the brigade and tweeted out the link to the petition.

20th Century Fox is looking for another network

About a week after the cancellation, 20th Century Fox TV spoke to Variety about the future of the sitcom. Studio chiefs Jonnie Davis and Howard Kurtzman were just as surprised as everyone else by ABC's decision; as Davis put it, "That's the one that's really an open sore right now. We really were expecting a pickup. The fact that we didn't get a pickup was a surprise and a disappointment."

But Fox wasn't giving up hope. The presidents said they'd started thinking about new homes for the fan favorite. "We're starting to explore that," Kurtzman said. "If it's not going to go forward at ABC, of course Jonnie and I are hopeful that we can find another home for it." Their efforts ultimately paid off in May of 2018, when the Fox network announced it had picked up Last Man Standing for a seventh season. All's well that ends well?