‘Last Man Standing’: Why Showrunner Intentionally Avoided Current Events For Final Season

by Suzanne Halliburton

Maybe you noticed Last Man Standing didn’t address current events during its final season. It was by specific design. And it didn’t have much to do with politics.

Showrunner Kevin Abbott said the plots were created with syndication in mind. The director of Last Man Standing even went so far as to skip mention of the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, the show fast forwarded through time. Other shows like This is Us and NCIS: New Orleans made it a part of the story.

Abbott said he noticed how other shows, which relied on current events, didn’t fare that well in the lucrative syndication market. He used Murphy Brown as an example. Murphy Brown was a news anchor during the show’s run from 1988-98. It was difficult to avoid current events because the show was about Murphy’s place of work in Washington, D.C. It was a terrific and sophisticated comedy and ranked among the nation’s top 10 highest-rated series for four seasons. There was a Murphy Brown revival in 2018. But the show was canceled after 13 episodes.

“You know, I’ve always been more of the mind where, I think, Murphy Brown was the example long ago of a show that wasn’t necessarily going to syndicate particularly well,” said Abbott, the Last Man Standing show runner. “Although that may not be an issue for shows from now on. (Murphy Brown) was so topical-heavy, so ripped from today’s headlines, and jokes were all about that.

“I do want to kind of keep an eye on the future in terms of, I don’t want a show that says, oh, that joke only works if you knew what was happening in this particular political moment,” Abbott said. “Which, by the time you see this again, you’ll be going, ‘What was that?’ You know, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to do jokes that that are only good the one time you tell them.”

Ratings Were Flat For Last Man Standing Series Finale

Last Man Standing ended last Thursday (May 20). There was no spike in viewership for nostalgic fans tuning in for one last glimpse of Tim Allen as Mike Baxter. About 2.5 million people watched the show. That was the same number as the week before.

Last Man Standing ran for nine seasons, with six on ABC and three on Fox. The show already was running in syndication when it moved to Fox.