Spoiler warning for anyone who didn't yet watch Fox's big season premiere for Last Man Standing.
After facing a downward spiral in 2017 upon being cancelled by ABC, Tim Allen and Nancy Travis' hit sitcom Last Man Standing ascended once more in 2018 when Fox stepped up and renewed it for its seventh season, going so far as to air it in its former lead-in on Friday nights. The highly anticipated premiere finally aired, and it's almost like the sitcom hadn't been forced into taking an extended hiatus. Except, Season 7 is indeed different from recent years, and here's how Last Man Standing handled things in its first night on Fox.
The Move To Fox
As it was hinted at in the first looks at Last Man Standing's return, the comedy immediately made itself comfortable targeting its former network for the cancellation. Kyle is trying to find a TV show that isn't airing in its normal spot, and jokes are had about the kind of idiots that would cancel a show that has a large and faithful fanbase. It's soon discovered that Kyle's show was picked up on another network, which he wasn't aware was a thing that could happen.
The episode had another fourth wall-breaking moment later on, and I kind of hope the show continues commenting on its current-day status on Fox as the season goes on. I know they won't be able to work in ratings jokes, since the episodes are filmed so far in advance, but maybe we'll get a few more network-targeted barbs in future episodes.
The Casting Changes
When Molly shows up for the first time in the premiere, Last Man Standing can't help but draw some humor out of the fact that actress Molly McCook is currently playing Mandy Baxter, as opposed to former portrayer Molly Ephraim, who left the show ahead of Season 7's production. As others made complimentary comments to Mandy, Kyle felt completely out of the loop, not seeing what the changes were. Before the episode ended, he did at least land on the realization that Mandy is blonde now.
The youngest character Boyd also had a change-up, with Jet Jurgensmeyer taking over the role from Flynn Morrison. The show didn't really make any overarching wink-wink gags with that casting change, but rather used Boyd as a lynchpin in the more politically motivated narrative. Whenever he went missing, I actually thought the joke might have been that he was right there the whole time, but that no one could recognize him. Not the case, though.
Limited Use Of Kaitlyn Dever
In the time between Last Man Standing's cancellation and its renewal, actress Kaitlyn Dever locked down another excellent gig at Netflix, with a co-starring role in the based-on-a-true-story miniseries Unbelievable. Thankfully, though, the show was able to find gaps in Dever's Netflix schedule in order to get Eve Baxter into as much of the season as possible, even when it means filming things out of order.
Kaitlyn Dever got some good use in the Season 7 premiere, returning home to a home full of smiling faces welcoming her back from her time at the Air Force Academy. To be expected, Eve didn't lose any of her edge in a military setting, and immediately got into some tiffs with Mandy over the episode's topical storyline. They eventually made up, in the loosest sense of the word, but expect to see Eve's fiery attitude recurring throughout the season.
The Political Angle
Last Man Standing's cancellation was controversial at the time, as it was seen by some as a political move for ABC to lose one of the only conservative-leaning comedies on TV right now. (Tim Allen also found himself in the crosshairs a time or two.) On Fox, where subject matter tends to get more pointed than it does on other broadcast networks, Last Man Standing used its premiere to address the past year of politics in a head-on fashion.
Uncomfortable with Donald Trump's administration, Ryan declared he was moving Kristen and Boyd to Canada, a threat that Mike wasn't all that worried about, even as he chided Ryan about his liberal ideals. The aforementioned arguments between Mandy and Eve also hinged on Left vs. Right issues, which Mike got sick of. After getting into his own murky-waters conversation at work, Mike tried to inspire all the warm feels with an episode-ending speech about everybody needing to get along regardless of politics, because that's what people do, especially the Baxters. In the end, surprising no one, Ryan did not move the family to Canada.