How Last Man Standing earned season 8 renewal, became a TV underdog story

Last Man StandingLate last week, Fox announced they had renewed Last Man Standing for a season 8, and upon first glance, you would look at this headline and say “of course that they did.” After all, we are talking about the network’s highest-rated comedy and the #1 Friday show in the 18-49 demographic. When you see numbers like that, the obvious implication is that a renewal is around the corner.

Yet, this is where you remember that if Last Man Standing was any other show, it probably wouldn’t be around for this discussion. It’s odd to refer to a sitcom as an underdog story, given that for the better part of over sixty years, these comedies have been the backbone of most network television. These are the families away from your family, the people who you share a laugh with to get a taste of life outside of your own home. They are relatable, heartfelt, but above all else funny. They’re often people you wish you had in your day-to-day life.

Last Man Standing became an underdog story over the past two years following its cancellation at ABC. It was an underdog story at Fox, and we’d argue that in some ways, it still even remains that way now. It’s not a comedy that generates near-constant press and even since its arrival back on the air, it has still been forced to combat many obstacles. It all goes back to what we said in the second paragraph; if Last Man Standing were any other show, it wouldn’t be here … but it is, and it feels like it’s high time to really investigate why. This isn’t a CarterMatt article about ratings, as those have already been well-documented. Instead, it’s an article about why those ratings are what they are.

Nostalgia – Maybe this is a show that you watched with your family for years and it’s now a tradition. Or, maybe it’s a show that reminds you of one you used to watch with your family. There are certainly many Tim Allen fans out there who watched Home Improvement and are looking at something new. Meanwhile, there may also be those who remember Nancy Travis from Becker. It’s a classic sitcom with classic sitcom DNA, but also a recognition that it’s 2019. Its stories cannot just live in the past, which is why this season has focused a good bit on social media and the challenges that parents and children now face.

Universality – Let’s talk for a moment about unfair criticisms. One of the lazy TV critic remarks over the past several years has been the Last Man Standing is a show geared towards a single side of the political spectrum. It’s not. What we see it as instead is a show for all sides of the political spectrum. It makes fun of liberals, sure, but it also makes fun of conservatives. It features both within the same family and presents a dynamic where despite the differences people can come together and actually function as a family. It’s a situation that many families out there can actually relate to.

While we’re in an era of extreme politics, and by no means do we intend to go down this road within this piece, wasn’t there a time when television was a way to bridge a gap between people from different viewpoints rather than just having it feed solely into one or the other? A part of the appeal with Last Man Standing is this idea that there are multiple audiences who can watch it, enjoy it, and take something away from it. Any critic who wants to just dismiss it for a political viewpoint is not only hurting its message, but also limiting the potential of future shows like it.

Commitment – For those out there who feel like most TV viewers today are flighty, demand instant gratification, or refuse to watch television live in favor of Netflix, there’s a segment of Last Man Standing fans ready to prove you wrong. Look at the campaigns that existed to bring the show back, or the performance of the show immediately after it returned! Beyond just that, look at the commitment many of these viewers had despite some adversity.

When Last Man Standing arrived on Fox for season 7, it’s hardly like Fox just cloned the ABC version and threw it on the air. The Mandy character is completely transformed with Molly McCook in the role. It’s a tough sell anytime that you replace a major character, but what else could Fox do? Molly Ephraim opted to not return and writing out the character entirely would have taken away such a large percentage of this show’s overall DNA. McCook, meanwhile, has embraced the part with humor and style, allowing Mandy to evolve while also keeping some core elements to the character. Sure, there was uncertainty and people concerned about the change — and there still is in some circles, but there has been a tremendous amount of positive reaction and she has been welcomed into Last Man Standing. The same goes for Jet Jurgensmeyer, who plays the older version of Boyd, and Krista Marie Yu as foreign exchange student Jen. The Last Man Standing community is by and large a welcoming one. They understand that TV shows must change and often ebb and flow, and they’ve shown now through eight years that they are sticking around for the ride.

Want to get some more Last Man Standing news in video form? Then check out some of our discussion on the season 8 renewal below! Meanwhile, remember to subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube for some other updates and take a look at our show playlist.

How long can a series like this last?

The sky could really be the limit, with a potential move to a new night in the works and with there being more opportunities to try and court new viewers. We foresee a season 9 already as likely, provided the cast and crew remains interested in a return. We wouldn’t even rule out a season 10, though at that point things become a little bit dodgy. Ten years is a long time to do a single project, and we also understand the creative cravings to go on and try other things, though we don’t want to draw any assumptions from either the cast or the writers.

While sitcoms may be dying off elsewhere with The Bang Theory coming to a close and there being a lack of true breakout hits, Last Man Standing is lighting a path. With the right combination of nostalgia, universality, commitment, and maybe a little bit bravery to buck what else is out there, there can be other shows that find a following from families all over the country. It may not be the Baxter family, but it can be something else.

For more news regarding the next Last Man Standing…

Be sure to visit this link, and also let us know why you think that this show has become the runaway success that it’s been on Fox for this season. (Photo: Fox.)

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