Was Conservative ‘Last Man Standing’ Canceled Because of Politics?
As Tim Allen's show is axed, evidence mounts that those on the right have it harder in entertainment land
The conservative comedy series “Last Man Standing” was the third most-watched scripted show on ABC (behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Modern Family”). The Tim Allen-starring sitcom averaged 6.4 million viewers in its final season, quite a feat today — and it regularly won its time slot on Friday night.
Despite all this, “Last Man Standing” has been canceled after six seasons.
Tim Allen’s sitcom appealed to America’s heartland. It focused on a main character who was a devout Christian and political conservative who targeted everything from Hillary Clinton to political correctness in his comedic tirades.
The timing is rather suspect for a “Last Man Standing” cancellation, since it comes after the 2016 presidential election, during which actor Tim Allen was more outspoken about his political beliefs. He had appeared on both Megyn Kelly’s former Fox News show and Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night program to express support for President Donald Trump and to call out the hypocrisy of Hollywood.
In March, Allen told Kimmel he had attended Trump’s inauguration and that conservatives had to tread lightly when discussing politics in Tinseltown.
But Hollywood would never fire someone for political beliefs, right? Actually, the evidence of bias against creative conservatives is frighteningly significant.
Take a look at director Spike Lee, who openly admitted on Instagram to scrapping a musician's song from an upcoming soundtrack simply because the musician had agreed to perform at Trump's inauguration in January.
Then there's James Woods, an Academy Award-nominated actor who has starred in everything from "Videodrome" to the CBS procedural "Shark." Yet the actor said in 2013 that he would likely never again get the kind of work he once did because he was more outspoken about his politics on Twitter.
Should we keep going? Let's. Producer Ann McElhinney revealed in an interview with LifeZette this year that her completed movie about abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell had been denied distribution by every major studio because essentially the studios don't want to be connected to a story that could be perceived as conservative. For perspective, the film stars former Superman Dean Cain, is directed by Nick Searcy (TV's "Justified"), and earned over $2 million through crowdfunding. So it shouldn't be that hard a sell.
Or how about the 2011 letter that conservative comedian Steven Crowder received from "The Daily Show," then hosted by a supposedly politically middle-of-the road Jon Stewart? The letter said the program refused to hire conservative political pundits.
Let's now take a look at ABC, the distributor of "Last Man Standing," which is Disney-owned. Disney is run by CEO Bob Iger, a big Clinton donor and someone who has been suspected before of burying conservative-focused programming.
Disney is run by CEO Bob Iger, a big Clinton donor.
"The Path to 9/11" was an immensely popular miniseries when it first aired on ABC in 2006. It averaged 25 million viewers over the course of two nights. The trouble is — it never aired again. It's been denied a home video or streaming release since then, something Iger has publicly said is not politically motivated. But who's buying that? Not the writer/producer.
The political nature of the series stemmed from the fact that it showed how former President Bill Clinton missed opportunities to kill or apprehend Osama bin Laden.
"The amazing thing was, the Clintons were able to put pressure on Disney/ABC basically to bury their own movie that they spent $40 million on," writer Cyrus Nowsrasteh said last year to Brian Sussman of the "KSFO Morning Show."
"The Clintons were able to put pressure on Disney/ABC basically to bury their own movie."
He continued, "The Clintons made sure that no one can see 'The Path to 9/11.'"
For the record, Iger has donated thousands to the Clintons and hundreds of thousands to the Democratic Party.
He added, "In factual detail — [that] was really the problem for the Clintons because we portray the opportunities that Bill Clinton had to kill bin Laden, and passed on it."
A letter from then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to Disney and Bob Iger in 2006 even criticized the series and urged its cancellation.
But back to "Last Man Standing." ABC's "official" excuse seems to be that after six seasons, the company was now required to cover production costs of the series, which 20th Century Fox had previously covered; then ABC would license the episodes. Though this can be a bit of a costly endeavor, it happens all the time and is something likely worth doing for a top network show, especially one that is in syndication (meaning there's enough episodes to bring in a constant flow of money from repeats airing elsewhere).
And wouldn't you know it, ABC had the same thinking. It made essentially the same deal happen for one of its other top programs, the typically more left-leaning "Modern Family."
Maybe things just didn't work out. Maybe.
A report from Deadline about the two-season renewal of "Modern Family" said this: "Reaching both agreements, especially a new license-fee pact with ABC, was not easy. Talks between the network and 20th TV started awhile ago. The studio originally sought a two-season renewal, which was met with resistance by the network at first until the two sides finally came to a deal. It followed an agreement in principle ABC and 20th TV reached at the end of February, which outlined what the license-fee structure should look like, predicated on making new salary agreements with the actors."
So the effort was worth it when it came to "Modern Family" — but then not worth the efforts for the similarly highly rated but openly conservative show starring an openly conservative actor.
Maybe "Last Man Standing" wasn't axed for political reasons. Maybe things just didn't work out. Maybe. What remains frightening today for creative conservatives is that the question even needs to be raised.