Why ABC Cancelled Last Man Standing, According To The Network President

last man standing

Every spring, TV fans get inundated with news about cancellations affecting their favorite shows, and this year was a particularly brutal one, especially at the ax-dropping ABC, which got rid of a ton of its new and established series. One of the most attention-worthy cancellations came last week when ABC pulled the plug on the thought-safe sitcom Last Man Standing, which incited much outrage within Tim Allen's fanbase. The blowback was strong enough to warrant a response from network president Channing Dungey, who shrugged off claims that pulling Last Man Standing was a political move.

A large part of these jobs are managing failure and we've made the tough calls and canceled shows that we'd otherwise love to stay on the air. That's the job. I canceled Last Man Standing for the same business and scheduling reasons that I canceled Dr. Ken, The Real O'Neals, The Catch and American Crime. And Last Man Standing was a challenging one for me because it was a steady performer in the ratings, but once we made the decision not to continue with comedies on Fridays, that was where we landed.

Something tells me that measured and logical response won't instantaneously make fans stop protesting and turn back around to the point where they're eager to eat up ABC's fall TV schedule. After all, there's no juicy drama or affronting replies to be had when business decisions are made for business reasons. Had Last Man Standing been the sole series to get chopped from the upcoming TV season, that definitely would have been a more transparent shot taken by ABC, but this was just one of many shows getting bad news in the past two weeks.

Channing Dungey was not accidentally namechecking the ABC shows that were mentioned in her explanation, either, as each quasi-refutes allegations that Last Man Standing's cancellation was only about Tim Allen's conservative leanings. Dr. Ken was one of the only shows on TV about an Asians family, and was also a Friday night entry with consistent ratings. The Real O'Neals centered on a gay teenager and his family, a more progressive story than TV's traditional narratives. The Catch was a Shondaland entry, which ABC has been particularly fond of over the years. And American Crime was a critical darling, and has been the most notable network TV show to get any awards buzz in recent years as cable and streaming took over. All five of these shows, not to mention a few others, offered very good reasons for ABC to keep them going.

ABC left comedy behind on Friday nights in order to make it a more genre-tastic evening, with the addition of Once Upon a Time's drastically different Season 7 and the post-IMAX premiere of Marvel's Inhumans. It seems like Last Man Standing could have been shifted elsewhere, admittedly, but while NBC was quick to bring Timeless back after a much more subtle fan revolt, ABC seems to be sticking to its guns on Last Man Standing being done for.

Tim Allen has just the kind of star power that might lead another network to pick the comedy up for another season, but it's hard to tell what will go down. While we're waiting to see if that happens, check out our summer TV schedule for all the new and returning shows hitting primetime in the coming months.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.