Speaking to Variety Thursday, studio presidents Jonnie Davis and Howard Kurtzman said that they were surprised by ABC’s decision to pull the plug on the show.
“That’s the one that’s really an open sore right now,” Davis said. Kurtzman added, “We really were expecting a pickup. The fact that we didn’t get a pickup was a surprise and a disappointment. I think no one was more disappointed than Tim Allen, such a huge star with such a huge following.”
But the series, which was ABC’s second most-watched comedy last season behind “Modern Family,” may not be dead. Asked whether “Last Man Standing” would be shopped to other networks, Kurtzman said, “We’re starting to explore that. 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.”
“Last Man Standing” faces an uphill climb in search of a new network. After six seasons, costs for the series are significantly higher than those for younger multi-camera comedies typically are. And the buying patterns of broadcast networks this development season showed little appetite for multi-cams among most of the Big Four.
Some streaming services have seen recent success with multi-cams, such as Netflix with “Fuller House” and “The Ranch.”
And the studio heads are encouraged by the fan support that they’ve seen for the show since ABC confirmed its cancellation last week. “We know how passionate our fans are, and we’re seeing that now,” Davis said.
Political and social conservatives have been vocal in their disappointment over the show’s end. Allen, its star and executive producer, is conservative and a supporter of President Trump.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey denied that “Last Man Standing” was canceled because of Allen’s right-leaning politics, and said that it was, instead, a scheduling decision. “Once we made the decision not to continue with comedy on Friday, it was just kind of that’s where we landed,” she said.
In its sixth season at ABC, “Last Man Standing” averaged a 1.2 rating and 6.4 million total viewers, according to Nielsen live-plus-same day numbers.
Allen on Tuesday, took to Twitter to express his shock at the cancellation:
Stunned and blindsided by the network I called home for the last six years. #lastmanstanding
— Tim Allen (@ofctimallen) May 16, 2017