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Why Last Man Standing Was the Rare Conservative Sitcom Success

Mar 24, 2023


It’s no great secret that Hollywood has an overwhelming liberal bias when it comes to the values that most major industry players share. These values are often reflected in the kinds of themes and motifs that make their way into virtually every mainstream movie and television show that comes out of it.

However, Hollywood often tends to forget that a huge swathe of the US population doesn’t share its values and gravitates more toward conservative values, or are at least closer to the political center than the liberal stances that most modern films and shows take today.

Whether it’s simply being against excess wokeness in entertainment, or by simply espousing old-school family values that don’t fit well into neoliberal narratives, conservative audiences do exist. While movies and shows that are outwardly conservative can be a risky investment for studios, Tim Allen’s sitcom Last Man Standing was a rare exception and has found a great deal of success.

Changing Times

ABC

If you go back a few decades, the political lines between what we now call conservative values and what was ordinarily seen in Hollywood, especially on television, weren’t that far apart. This was reflected in a lot of famous and successful sitcoms. For example, shows like Family Matters, Who’s the Boss, and Full House were far tamer and more reflective of nuclear family values than many modern sitcoms and TV shows are today.

Related: Our 9 Favorite TV Families of All Time, Ranked

Back then, things like profanity, sexualized content, and glorification of drug culture seeping their way into sitcoms would have been scandalous. Fast-forward to the modern world and shows that try to remain wholesome would likely now be considered boring (and are usually canceled, as with the wholesome and brilliantly sincere Joe Pera Talks with You).

While times have certainly changed and the mores of society have evolved with it, in both very positive and negative ways, this doesn’t necessarily mean that sitcoms can’t still be successful for retaining a classical edge that tends more towards a strong nuclear family and the specific morals of many individuals. Last Man Standing was a show that proved this perfectly.

As an outspoken Republican, Tim Allen has never hid the fact that he gravitates toward conservative values — a trait that was unapologetically injected into Last Man Standing. Despite the show running counter to the dominant culture in Hollywood, audiences loved Last Man Standing, and it was renewed for no less than nine seasons. Despite this success, it was by no means an easy road.

Controversy and Cancelation

Fox

Despite the show having some of the highest ratings on ABC (it was the second-most-watched sitcom on the network), in 2017, after six seasons, it was unceremoniously canceled. In what was a thinly veiled act of retribution by the network, fans of the show were quick to notice that the cancelation came in the wake of Tim Allen publicly speaking out on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and saying that being a Republican in Hollywood was like living in Nazi Germany.

He was reportedly gutted and felt betrayed by the cancelation, and many fans of the show were too. After rallying the support of fans, Allen proved his point by getting Fox to pick up the show, where it was able to go on for a further three seasons. Allen and other regulars from the show were retained, and the show continued its success unabated.

Sticking to its Guns

Fox

Despite all the controversy, the show and Allen’s personal values stayed true and fans of the show were appreciative of this fact. Without showing any propensity for controversial content, the show stuck to its themes of a close-knit family and a main character who is unashamedly conservative.

Related: Actors Who Got Into Politics

While many people on the right expected the show to automatically align itself with Donald Trump, Allen himself has spoken out against Trump and mentioned that the show is about family, not Trump. The glaring rift between the show’s values and audience base and the liberal attitudes of Hollywood were plain to see through its critical consensus. While it killed with audience ratings, it was constantly given a low rating by critics and slammed for being boring and insulting.

Here’s what The Los Angeles Times had to say about the show:

“Allen’s character, Mike Baxter, is pointedly a man of the past, of some imagined time when men slew dinosaurs and only women had feelings — a sort of cousin to Archie Bunker and to William Shatner’s character on last season’s “$#*! My Dad Says,” and to any crusty curmudgeon who thinks the world has grown decadent since he was a lad.

Audiences Didn’t Care

Fox

As is often the case, critics and audiences don’t always agree. Despite critics not loving the show, audiences weren’t bothered and continued to support it loyally. While the show is billed as a rare success for a conservative show, this notion is perhaps a little unfair. In truth, it’s also possible that it was just one of the rare shows that tried to appeal to conservative audiences and buck the usual trend of Hollywood’s propensity to pander to liberal politics.

Whatever the true reason for its success, the show’s success itself proves that conservative series do have an audience base and are just as capable of being successful as any other mainstream show.

Here’s how Allen himself explained his thoughts on the political leanings of the show while speaking during Fox’s summer press day panel about network executives not wanting the show to get too political:

“I loved that we all are the type of people who said, ‘Well, screw that, we’re going to talk about it anyway.’ What I’ve always appreciated about this group is that we have a broad range of attitudes. We really pushed a little bit, and I really admire that.”

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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