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Spoilers ahead for the Season 8 premiere of Last Man Standing on Fox.
Last Man Standing has finally returned for Season 8 after more than half a year of hiatus, and pretty much all fans had to go on about the long-awaited premiere were the trailers and the Terry Bradshaw-starring cold open poking fun at the schedule change. The back-to-back episodes didn't just deliver an hour of laughs, however, as the opener dropped a shocking and tragic reveal about Kristin: she'd suffered a miscarriage years before, and executive producer Kevin Abbott weighed in on how the show handled something more somber than usual.
The reveal came after Mandy (Molly McCook, who'd faced a recasting backlash after the show's Fox revival) freaked out when Kristin (Amanda Fuller, who was pregnant in real life) happily revealed that she's pregnant again, first saying that it was insensitive of her sister because Mandy was struggling to conceive herself and then eventually explaining she was hurt that Kristin hadn't told her before any of the others. Kristin then reminded her sister that she'd told her first that she was pregnant a couple of years earlier, very early in the pregnancy, and she had a miscarriage.
Speaking with TVLine about bringing the tragic twist to TV in a sitcom, Kevin Abbott said this:
When you’re doing a comedy, you approach these things carefully. We want to be real and grounded, but we don’t want it to be maudlin or preachy in any way... because I wanted to be sensitive to the actress. She wanted to keep it real, but not be pitying or anything. She kind of hits it, gives it a little bit of an emotional weight, then says that it’s OK… We tried it a number of different ways during rehearsals to try and get that balance.
Last Man Standing did infuse the scene between the sisters with some comedic notes, as Kristin was taken aback that Mandy was surprised at the real reason for their fight and Mandy's desire to reenact the scene so she could find out first. That said, as I watched, I was struck by the fact that the whole confrontation would feel very different if not for the laugh track. A lot of that is due to Amanda Fuller's performance.
She was very dignified and direct as Kristin reminded Mandy that she'd gone through a miscarriage, and Mandy immediately got that she'd been inconsiderate toward her sister even through she herself was struggling to get pregnant. It was clear that even though Kristin was thrilled to be having a baby, the miscarriage still hurt. She didn't break down or get angry when she brought up her miscarriage. Seriously, if not for the laugh track, I would have believed this was a scene straight out of a drama or at least dramedy rather than a Tim Allen sitcom.
Fans shouldn't expect Season 8 to be packed with dramatic twists from start to finish, though. (They also shouldn't count on seeing all that much of Kaitlyn Dever, though she was present in the premiere.) Executive producer Kevin Abbott also shared that Vanessa's new storyline will tackle some political subject matter without being "too partisan and too issue-oriented."
See what happens next for the Baxters when new episodes of Last Man Standing air Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. For more viewing options in the new year, swing by our 2020 winter and spring TV premiere schedule.