‘Last Man Standing’ Final Season Premiere: How Season 9’s First Episode Handled Time Jump to 2023

by Clayton Edwards

The final season of the hit TV show “Last Man Standing” premiered last night. The opening moments of the episode featured a leap forward in time to 2023. It is a future without COVID-19 restrictions or worries.

Time travel is a tricky thing. You either nail it like Doc Brown or you fail completely. There isn’t much of an in-between. The “Last Man Standing” team nailed the transition into the future. In short, they did it with a montage and the addition of a new character.

“Last Man Standing” Goes to the Future

The episode begins in 2020. The Baxters are throwing Mandy a virtual baby shower. The socially-distanced affair is all too familiar to most of the population. Then, when Mike is reminded that they cannot go out for dinner, he gets the idea for a new vlog.

In the vlog, Mike says that he won’t shave until after the pandemic. What follows is a montage of vlog clips in which Mike’s beard continues to grow. This pushes the narrative forward to 2023.

After the montage, Mike is once again clean-shaven. More importantly, the audience is introduced to Mandy and Kyle’s daughter Sarah who seems to be around two or three years old.

The “Last Man Standing” team brought their world into the future with more subtlety than you would expect from a sitcom. They presented the scenes and allowed the audience to come to the conclusion that the narrative had moved forward instead of hitting them over the head with it. This was probably the best possible way it could have been handled.

Why Move the Story Forward So Far?

There were several reasons to move the narrative forward. For one, they felt that predicting what January 2021 would be like. If the last year was anything, it was unpredictable. So, trying to write and produce a show with topical themes months ahead of time just wasn’t feasible. At the same time, they didn’t want to dwell on the suffering, loss, and uncertainty of 2020. The “Last Man Standing” team wanted to tell positive stories. They wanted their show to be a haven to which fans could escape for half an hour every week.

Showrunner Kevin Abbot spoke to TV Insider about this decision in a recent interview. When asked about how “Last Man Standing” would handle the pandemic Abbot said, “When the writers met, obviously that was the biggest topic of conversation — how do we deal with everything that’s going on? Not only the pandemic but certainly the social justice movements, the economic downturns, people suffering. That’s a lot of issues. And since we weren’t going to debut until January…it’s like “OK, do we really want to try to predict what it might look like in January 2021?” [Writer] Erin Berry happened to pitch something that I thought was wonderful, which was we’ll do a time flight. We will move forward a couple of years so that we’re past some of these crises. “

Tim Allen’s previous smash-hit sitcom did much the same. “Home Improvement” never tackled current events. They stuck to telling the stories of everyday family life, instead. It seems that “Last Man Standing” is taking a page out of that playbook for the final season.