ABC cancels conservative ‘Last Man Standing’ despite the show’s successful ratings

ABC cancels conservative ‘Last Man Standing’ despite the show’s successful ratings
The ABC network canceled actor and comedian Tim Allen’s sitcom, “Last Man Standing,” despite the show's success. The show, which ran for six seasons, was among the only — if not the only — program on television espousing a political worldview. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Despite successful ratings, the ABC network has pulled actor and comedian Tim Allen’s popular show, “Last Man Standing,” a modern spin on his ’90s sitcom “Home Improvement,” after six seasons.

According to Deadline, which first reported the cancellation, “Last Man Standing,” which premiered in 2011, has averaged “a very respectable” viewing for its time slot — 8 p.m. on Fridays. The 30-minute show routinely won its time slot, boasting 6.4 million viewers weekly.

Also, while most shows were down year-to-year by 20 to 30 percent, “Last Man Standing,” which has been ABC’s anchor show on Friday nights, boosting the audiences for the programs following it, was down by only 5 percent among 18- to 49-year-olds.

Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva said Allen’s successful sitcom has earned impressive viewership in syndication, calling it “a rare off-network ratings success story these days.”

In addition to being so successful, it was among the only — if not the only — show on primetime television that espoused a more conservative worldview.

Allen’s character, Mike Baxter, is a politically conservative Christian who celebrates traditional American values, taking cues from the blue-collar demographic that won President Donald Trump the White House in November.

Allen, who is no stranger to politics, has used “Last Man Standing” to poke fun at former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump, to mock the prevalence of “microaggressions” on college campuses in the aptly named “Precious Snowflake” episode, and to advocate for gun rights.

Apparently, viewers have appreciated Allen’s willingness to broadcast his conservative ideas. The show has done very well in syndication. In early December, “Last Man Standing,” which also airs on CMT, Freeform, and Netflix, was the No. 4 show among all 19 comedies airing in broadcast syndication.

Given the sitcom’s success, some entertainment analysts have expressed surprise at ABC’s decision to yank the show at this point. The Disney-owned network, however, is citing the cost of production, as well as Allen’s salary, as the reasons for the sitcom’s cancellation.

After six seasons, ABC is contractually required to take over the cost of producing the show. Before being licensed for broadcast to ABC, “Last Man Standing” had been produced — and funded — by 20th Century Fox TV.

Despite the show’s apparent success, ABC decided to pull the plug.

And if the main reason for the show’s cancellation — as cited by ABC — is Allen’s hefty salary, it is worth noting that the broadcast network did just strike an agreement with 20th Century to renew the left-leaning “Modern Family” for two more seasons. According to a Deadline report, the deal came with “significant salary increases” for the show’s six main stars.

The salaries for the adult actors in “Modern Family” — Ed O’Neill, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofia Vergara — will jump from the $350,000 they each earned per episode in season eight to half a million dollars in season 9.

Granted the numbers are dated, but according to a 2011 report from The Week, at the time, Allen was earning $225,000 per “Last Man Standing” episode. For comparison, in 2012, the adult actors in “Modern Family,” which premiered in 2009, were only earning about $65,000 per episode. And in the final season of “Home Improvement” in 1999, Allen was earning a whopping $1.25 million per episode.

It is not immediately clear how much money each show — “Last Man Standing” and “Modern Family” — brings in for ABC.

The cancellation of “Last Man Standing,” though, is probably no surprise to Allen. In March, during an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the actor slammed Hollywood for its intolerant elitism.

“You’ve gotta be real careful around here. You get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes,” he told Kimmel. “This is like ’30s Germany. I don’t know what happened.”

“If you’re not part of the group, ‘You know what we believe is right,’ I go, ‘Well, I might have a problem with that,’ ” he said.

He also told then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly in late November that “hypocritical” anti-Trump celebrities, most of whom supported Clinton for president, are the real political bullies.

“What I find odd in Hollywood is that they didn’t like Trump because he was a bully,” he said at the time. “But if you had any kind of inkling that you were for Trump, you got bullied for doing that. And it gets a little bit hypocritical to me.”

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