Last Man Standing's cast and crew have experienced quite a noteworthy journey since debuting back in 2011. That journey was seemingly cut short after Season 6, when ABC cut ties and cancelled the sitcom, but Fox stepped up and eventually saved the day with its Season 7 renewal. Now, though, the Tim Allen-led comedy is once again unfortunately being put to pasture, and things are a lot different this time around, considering COVID protocols have been set so that shows like Last Man Standing are unable to utilize live studio audiences.
During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this week, Tim Allen explained how weird it is for Last Man Standing to film new episodes without an audience around to keep the laughter and energy going. Here's how he put it:
I said, ‘They’ve taken the show out of show business.’ You’re just doing your work, lighting guys got to come in, separate, it’s Disney protocols, and they’re doing it to save everybody’s life and all that. It’s just weird. Our show is based on... it's like theater, but stand-up. We have 200, 300 people in the live audience. We love our live-audience show. Not there! No live audience. So we have a bunch of penalty boxes. It was very sad. It was dry, and no one knew what to do, and we have paid laughers in penalty boxes. They're just up in these boxes and then they were getting dry after a while. So we had a paid warm-up guy to warm up the paid laughers. And you're going, 'You gotta be kidding me. Come on, people, let's go!'
The way Tim Allen puts it, things were already pretty unique as soon as filming started, without the hundreds of audience members that everyone on the show is used to seeing. While some talk shows tend to put staff and occasionally staffer families in their studio audiences to add whatever laughter they can to episodes, Last Man Standing went a step further and set up dedicated seating arrangements for people to come in with the express purpose of providing laughter and other reactions.
But because the reactions from those audience members became "dry" quite quickly, they apparently decided to populate the audience boxes with "paid" laughers. But even those people lost the usual enthusiasm that drives live tapings, so Last Man Standing's producers then brought a comedian to loosen the paid audience up so that they would be more reactionary in the future episodes. That definitely seems like a strange slippery slope to start walking down when it comes to trying to supply one's sitcom with laughter. Whatever works, I guess.
It's been interesting to see how various TV programming output handles live audiences. Sports organizations like the NFL combine the limited live crowd noise with curated reactions culled from past years' games, while some talk show hosts give viewers the chance to chime in remotely. For Last Man Standing's fellow Fox sitcom Call Me Kat, a laugh track implemented even though no audiences were around to take part in that show's early episodes, though that would likely change if and when protocols are lifted.
Check out Tim Allen's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! below:
Last Man Standing fans watching at home cannot wait for this season to arrive, seeing as how we'll get to see the return of Kaitlyn Dever's Eve Baxter, even though it might only be through a Zoom call in the premiere. (Which itself is taking place after a time jump.) But perhaps the biggest final season reveal so far is that Tim Allen's own Home Improvement character Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor will be making a crossover appearance at some point during Season 9. Check out a first look at the classic TV character below:
Last Man Standing is heading into its final episodes on Fox starting on Sunday, January 3, at 8:30 p.m. ET, before shifting to its regular weekly slot on Thursday nights at the same time. The final season will be airing after new episodes of Big Bang Theory vet Mayim Bialik's new show Call Me Kat. While waiting to see more, head to our Winter and Spring 2021 premiere schedule to see what other new and returning shows will be around when the new year arrives.