Why Last Man Standing's Final Season Has Avoided Topical Storylines And Event Episodes

jay leno hugging mike baxter in last man standing's series finale
(Image credit: fox flash)

Unlike many TV shows out there, Tim Allen's Last Man Standing had the quasi-privilege of learning ahead of Season 9 that this would be its final season on Fox, giving the creative team the chance to close out the story as it so desired. That set the stage for the premiere episode's post-pandemic time jump and for all the episodes that followed, which by and large steered clear of anything political and topical, and also avoided big Event Episodes that shined a spotlight on this being the final season. Turns out showrunner Kevin Abbott wasn't into doing any of that.

CinemaBlend had the pleasure of speaking with showrunner Kevin Abbott ahead of Last Man Standing's double-episode series finale, and I was curious about the motivation behind keeping Season 9's episodes as grounded and timeless as any in the series. When I asked if bypassing topical narratives was purposefully done to keep these (and past seasons') episodes as rewatchable as possible, here's how Abbott answered:

Yes, absolutely. I agree with that 1,000%. You know, I've always been more of the mind where, I think, Murphy Brown was the example long ago of a show that wasn't necessarily going to syndicate particularly well - although that may not be an issue for shows from now on - because it was so topical-heavy, so ripped from today's headlines, and jokes were all about that. I do want to kind of keep an eye on the future in terms of, I don't want a show that says, oh, that joke only works if you knew what was happening in this particular political moment which, by the time you see this again, you'll be going, 'What was that?' You know, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to do jokes that that are only good the one time you tell them.

Which isn't to say that Last Man Standing has avoided any and all time-sensitive topics in its nine years across both ABC and Fox, since the show did lean more into political humor in the years before it shifted networks. But still, a lot of that fell into more general party vs. party gags, as opposed to jokes about specific incidents involving members of Congress that have sense been voted out. Similarly, the sitcom hasn't ever really focused on modern pop culture for its jokes, unless one counts Ryan and Kyle's comic book fandom in that respect, and I don't.

By the same token, while Last Man Standing's early promos for Season 9 tipped a fourth-wall-breaking hat toward this being the final season, the episodes themselves haven't gone overboard on gimmicks and bizarre event episodes the way other sitcoms have done in the past. No episodes filled with unexplainable guest stars or wacky trips to Disneyland or animated scenes or anything of that nature. According to Kevin Abbott, the idea was to for the writers to just keep crafting the kinds of stories that fans have tuned into for the past nine seasons, saying:

And then in terms of not event-ising it, a lot of that was just our view on it was: we're just going to keep telling stories the way we've told stories. We'll keep moving the characters along a little bit, because that's what we did in the past, but that other than the final episode, we weren't going to have an eye on the fact that this is the last [season]. 'Only 20 episodes more! Gee, only 19 episodes more!' Yeah, we weren't gonna do that.

Given that, fans should take comfort in the assumption that Last Man Standing's series finale won't end on Tim Allen waking up and realizing the entire show was just a long dream being had by his Home Improvement character Tim Taylor (whose cameo in an early Season 9 episode arguably earned the "Event Episode" label more than any others). But I'd be lying if I'd say it wouldn't amuse the hell out of me if they did that. Even more so if it was just a Tim Taylor puppet that Jeff Dunham designed.

Last Man Standing's series finale, complete with a Kaitlyn Dever appearance, is set to air on Fox on Thursday, May 20, at 9:00 p.m. ET, with lots of other great shows set to follow it as part of the 2021 Summer TV season.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.