Considering that Last Man Standing had held pretty steady in the demo for the past three years — and this TV season ranked as ABC’s second-most watched comedy, behind Modern Family — its cancellation came as a bit of a surprise.
So much so that it spurred speculation that star Tim Allen’s well-vocalized, right-wing beliefs may have played a factor. (In March, he likened the treatment of conservatives in today’s Hollywood to “1930s Germany.”) Online petitions of course followed, some calling for a boycott of those who advertise on ABC.
But in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey waved off the suggestion that Allen’s politics informed the axing.
“Look, sadly, a large part of these jobs [as network bosses] is managing failure. We have to make the tough calls and cancel shows that we otherwise would love to stay on the air,” she said. “But I cancelled Last Man Standing for the same business and scheduling reasons that I cancelled 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,” Dungey acknowledged, “but once we made the decision not to continue with comedies on Friday, that was where we landed.”
ABC this fall will open Friday night with Once Upon a Time‘s seventh season. Marvel’s Inhumans will follow at 9/8c, then cede that time slot to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after its 8-episode run ends. Explaining that combo, Dungey said the network was curious to see how Once performs away from Sunday night football, and that there has always been viewer interest in seeing the fantasy drama paired with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Of course, Last Man Standing was also a pricey sitcom, fueled by TV vet Allen’s salary, and it also is produced not by ABC but 20th Century Fox TV. Addressing the ownership issue, Dungey said, “I wouldn’t say that that was the sole factor in not bringing Last Man Standing back.”
UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, an hour before ABC was set to take the stage at Lincoln Center for its annual Upfront presentation to advertisers, Allen broke his silence on the situation, with a simple, strongly-worded tweet: