By Ryan A. Berenz
At a time when the number of TV series is ever-expanding while the average lifespan of a show continues to shrink, the longevity of Tim Allen’s family comedy Last Man Standing is impressive.
Even more remarkable is what the show had to overcome. The sitcom ran on ABC for six seasons, then was unceremoniously and surprisingly canceled in 2017. Still, Allen felt the show was in a “sweet spot” and had stories left to tell. FOX rebooted the show in 2018 and aired Seasons 7-9. When the series wraps on Thursday, it will have aired 194 episodes.
“We’ve got about a 10-year run, and it seems like two years to me,” Allen says. “That’s a sign of a great experience. It just seemed like it just flashed by.”
In “Baxter Boot Camp,” the first part of a two-episode finale, Mike (Allen) teaches Kristin (Amanda Fuller) the importance of work/life balance as she prepares to take over Outdoor Man. Meanwhile, Ed (Héctor Elizondo) consults with aspiring minister Kyle (Christoph Sanders) on a theological conundrum, and Vanessa (Nancy Travis) and Mandy (Molly McCook) give Jen (Krista Marie Yu) a crash course in camping.
The last part, “Keep on Truckin’,” is the first and only Last Man Standing written by Allen.
“I believe we knocked it out of the park,” Allen says. “Rather than have one where it’s sad, it wasn’t about sad. It wasn’t turning the light out at the end of the scene. We didn’t want to do any of that. We wanted to go out kind of naturally.”
Mike puts the finishing touch on his gleaming 1956 Ford F-100, only to have the truck stolen out of his garage. The Baxters gather their family and friends together to reflect on what the prized vehicle — an obvious metaphor for Last Man Standing — meant to each of them. It plays out as both a love letter to the series and a portrait of a man accepting the loss of something he’s poured his heart and soul into for years.
“And he’s OK with it,” Allen says. “And that was something I had to say to myself and to the audience that we had for that last show. I did have to say it to them and to myself. I’m OK with it. Really it was the process of getting it to the finish line. It was mission accomplished. We did it. We got here.”