ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey again fended off allegations of political bias at the network on Sunday as she insisted that politics had “absolutely nothing to do” with the cancellation of the highly-rated Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing this year.
The multi-camera sitcom — starring Allen as Mike Baxter, a marketing director for a sporting goods store who juggles work and a hectic family life — was one of the few shows on network television to approach its worldview through a conservative lens, while Allen is himself politically conservative.
The show’s abrupt cancellation in May after six seasons came as a shock to fans, who immediately accused ABC of axing it for political reasons. Last Man Standing was the second-most watched comedy on the network behind its mega-hit Modern Family, drawing an average of 8.1 million viewers in live and DVR viewing across its most recent season — an especially impressive viewership for a Friday night program.
Allen wrote on social media that he was “stunned and blindsided” by the cancellation, and an online petition calling for the show’s reinstatement racked up more than 400,000 signatures.
Dungey insisted Sunday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills that the cancellation was not motivated by politics.
“Politics had absolutely nothing to do with it,” Dungey told reporters, according to the Daily Mail. “We have actors on our shows who have all sorts of political views. Tim Allen is a valuable part of the Disney family and has been for a very long time.”
At the time of the show’s cancellation, Dungey said the move was made for “business and scheduling reasons,” including a move away from comedy programming and into a fantasy lineup for Friday night. But that explanation failed to satisfy fans of the show, some of whom threatened to boycott the network after the move.
In an eerily prescient appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in March, Allen said that conservatives need to be careful when discussing their politics in Hollywood, as doing so could come with professional consequences.
“You’ve gotta be real careful around here. You get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes,” he told Kimmel when asked about his attendance at Trump’s inauguration in January.
“This is like ’30s Germany. I don’t know what happened,” he added. “If you’re not part of the group, ‘you know what we believe is right,’ I go, ‘Well, I might have a problem with that.’”
Last Man Standing fans got a brief jolt of hope in June when it was announced that cable network CMT, which already plays re-runs of the show, had entered preliminary negotiations with 20th Century TV to revive it. However, the show’s price tag was reported to have been a sticking point in negotiations, and the talks fell through.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum