Last Man Standing has made a lot of jokes based on politics over the years, and Tim Allen's onscreen wife, played by Nancy Travis, has opened up about the political bent of the show and how the humor tries to play both sides, even as the political landscape in America has changed over the years. The actress defended the shows take on politics in a recent interview, noting about the humor:
Tim Allen plays a conservative character, and there are other characters in the family that are more liberal minded. There's a balance of yin and yang. ... We were on the show when Obama was president, we were on the show when Trump became president. We've had numerous episodes and successions.
Originally, when Last Man Standing first began airing on ABC, the year was 2011 and we were only partially though President Obama's tenure in office. Although the series was still doing relatively well in its Friday night timeslot, ABC cancelled the comedy, and licensing fees with Fox were cited as a reason. A year later, Fox just picked the show back up on its own network and the political humor also picked right back up in the Donald Trump era, although Tim Allen has said that the show cannot jump into the immediate news cycle most of the time since episodes are filming a little while in advance. Instead of being super timely, the show is often generally topical.
Speaking to Country Living, Nancy Travis told the outlet that the Baxter family is large-ish and filled with diverse viewpoints, including from Ryan, Boyd's dad. His character is a democrat and a lot of the big back and forth on the show is between Ryan and Mike Baxter. In the Season 7 premiere, for example, seeing how Trump's America was going, Ryan considered moving his family to Canada. Mike Baxter was the person who ultimately talked sense into his whole family at the end of that episode.
Nancy Travis believes the differing viewpoints and storylines such as the one above should be something that all comedy viewers should be able to identify with, as families are often diverse and in disagreement about something, whether or not that something is politics.
What we try to do is say, 'We're a family and we have some differences, but we're still a family and we have to live with each other and talk to each other. But also, to be able to find humor in it, to find the comedy and find the humor and be able to laugh at ourselves.
It's a fine line the show attempts to draw. In fact, the character Nancy Travis plays in Last Man Standing herself has somewhat ambiguous political opinions, although in Season 5 it was revealed that she did vote for Hillary Clinton, believing her vote would help move women's issues forward. Even with that vote, Vanessa also said on the show that she would have voted for any woman, regardless of political party. Still, even that somewhat differing viewpoint is another example of Last Man Standing not just giving in to Mike Baxter's political point of view all of the time.
Nancy Travis' comments are coming a few months after Tim Allen revealed he didn't think his personal politics should matter to the fans of Last Man Standing. At the time, he noted that personally his politics are not the same as Mike Baxter's and he's a little further right than his TV counterpart. However, Last Man Standing is supposed to be a show that anyone can enjoy, even with political jokes. He said at the time:
When you get into this world -- these two guys are not the same guy. You know, Mike Baxter is much more tolerant of other ideas than me onstage. Me, personally -- Tim Allen is nobody's business, and really, who cares what I think. Really, in my stand-up it has nothing to do with it. My comedy has been the same since I've been doing it for 33 years and it's about the ultimate political divide -- [between] men and women. I've been doing that -- and that's all it's about. And underneath all of that is that you just don't get the other side, but you love the other side.
When Fox picked up Last Man Standing long after it was originally cancelled, there was some question regarding whether or not Season 7 would have conservative humor like the previous ABC incarnation of the show. Certainly, there were some changes related to the series in its return, particularly thanks to some major changes within the cast, including the addition of Molly McCook taking over for Molly Ephraim. However, a lot of the humor is very much along the same kind of bent as the ABC version of the series.
People seem to still be enjoying the comedy, even with the changes. On Friday nights, the series has been averaging over 6 million total viewers each week. On Friday nights, a lot of shows struggle to do over a 1.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic. This past week, Last Man Standing earned a 1.3 rating. (Other popular shows, like MacGyver, skew older.) So, it seems there is an appetite with network TV viewers for a comedy that sometimes delves into politics.
Although politics come up a lot with Fox's Tim Allen starrer, his co-star ultimately believes that Last Man Standing isn't really as much about the political humor as it is about raising three daughters and working through familial issues, noting that politics are "such a small part of our show." Still, if you aren't a fan of politics intermixed with your comedy, Fox's Friday night comedy may not be the series for you.
If you don't mind a little bit of opposing viewpoints, however, new episodes of Last Man Standing air on Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET only on Fox. You can take a look at what will be joining the show at midseason with our full TV premiere schedule.