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Scott D. Pierce: No, politics did not kill 'Last Man Standing'

Published May 23, 2017 10:13 am

Television • Threat by conservatives to boycott ABC is the result of a persecution complex.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The latest Really Dumb TV Controversy is the protest over ABC's cancellation of "Last Man Standing."

The fact-free theory is that because the sitcom's star, Tim Allen, is an outspoken conservative, the liberal executives at ABC canceled the show.

Mike Huckabee wrote that conservative anger was "understandable" because "Last Man" is "about the only show in prime time that presents a conservative point of view."

If that's true, then ABC canceled 10 liberal shows. Heck, the five broadcast networks combined canceled 40 liberal shows, so left-wingers ought to be furious!

The online petition demanding ABC reverse its decision declares: " 'Last Man Standing' is one of the only shows on broadcast television, and the only sitcom, that is not constantly shoving liberal ideals down the throats of the viewers. And sadly, that is likely the real reason the show has been canceled."

That's baloney, of course. Allen himself said ABC allowed his character to express conservative views without interference — although it nixed a bit Allen wanted to do about President Obama raising a communist flag over the White House.

"I canceled 'Last Man Standing' for the same business and scheduling reasons that I canceled 'Real O'Neals,' 'Dr. Ken,' 'The Catch' and 'American Crime,' " said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey.

How about some perspective? "Last Man" lasted six seasons — a very good run. And 130 episodes is plenty to make big bucks in syndication.

No, it was not a big hit. The ratings were decent for a Friday, but not great. After six seasons, the costs were rising. And Fox produces and owns the show, so ABC had no financial incentive to renew it. If there had been a huge upside to renewing the show, ABC would have.

"It was a steady performer in the ratings," Dungey said. "But once we made the decision not to continue with comedies on Fridays, that was where we landed."

Dungey and her team decided to get out of the sitcom business on Fridays — she also canceled "Dr. Ken" — and create a fantasy/sci-fi block with "Once Upon a Time" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." And "Last Man Standing" was not a fit for ABC's Tuesday or Wednesday sitcom lineups.

You've got to wonder if those threatening to boycott ABC ever expressed gratitude to the network for airing the conservative show for six years. I doubt it.

For that matter, how many of them actually watched "Last Man"? If they had, the ratings would've been better.

This attempted boycott seems much like the (failed) attempt by Donald Trump supporters to get CBS to fire Stephen Colbert by claiming he had made a homophobic joke on "The Late Show." That was a cynical attempt by people who aren't exactly known for supporting gay rights.

This manufactured controversy is reminiscent of the false rumors that CBS had to cancel "Touched by an Angel" because atheists petitioned the FCC to take references to God off TV.

It's also reminiscent of Kelsey Grammer whining that he didn't get an Emmy nomination for his role in "Boss" (2011-12) because he is "a declared, out-of-the-closet Republican in Hollywood."

Except that Grammer campaigned for George W. Bush in 2000, was nominated for Emmys in 2001 and 2002, and won in 2004 and 2006.

Like the "Last Man Standing" protesters, Grammer has an unfounded persecution complex.

He should have known better. So should they.

Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.






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