‘Last Man Standing’s Showrunner on That Finale Cliffhanger & the Show’s Future
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 8, Episode 21 of Last Man Standing, “How You Like Them Pancakes?”]
Last Man Standing may have ended one episode shy of the intended finale, but it certainly gave viewers a lot to look forward to should the show continue to air — as of now a season renewal has yet to be announced.
After Kristin (Amanda Fuller) went into labor, it was certainly a shock to the system when the episode ended without a follow-up, but such is the case for a show in which production was shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus. We caught up with showrunner Kevin Abott who is discussing everything from that cliffhanger situation to the show’s future.
Did production shut down during this episode or the one that was supposed to follow it?
Kevin Abbott: There was gradual awareness of [the virus] and then … the menace grew very quickly. So when we shot Episode 21, we knew that it was becoming a much bigger threat, but there weren’t stay at home orders yet or even safer at home orders.
Had I known even what it was going to be like … I believe we would have changed some things in Episode 21 … I said, “Episode 21 can’t be the season finale. We sent Kristin off in labor. You can’t end a season like that.” Of course, you totally can, it’s a great season ending as a cliff hanger. When a show is as late in its run as we are, I’d feel an obligation not to end on a cliff hanger because we might not come back. I don’t want to pose some big issue and then not be able to answer for our devoted fans. So I really wanted to shoot Episode 22 and I held on for as long as I could, but it was obvious that we couldn’t do that, we couldn’t guarantee safety of everybody involved. So we had to shut down.
Speaking of coming back, have there been any rumblings about a ninth season?
I mean, I think we’re in the situation we were in last year in terms of if it were a normal year. I would feel very confident that we would be back. As confident as you can feel in this general environment. I would say we would be favored to come back, let’s put it that way. And in that instance, I would want to shoot the show that we didn’t get to shoot because it’s a great episode. I can’t imagine that in this changed universe that that exact episode could just be re-shot and put on the air and feel correct, you know what I mean? Hospitals changed drastically. People now have a very different opinion of hospitals than when we shot that episode.
Would you consider doing a coronvirus-related episode of the show?
I would love to because I think the value that we bring to society ideally is that we show situations that other families get into … When you’re in a situation that just feels so overwhelming, so devastating that it just shuts down and sometimes it feels too big to deal with, laughing about it, seeing the insane, funny and weird side of it shrinks it down to where you can start to at least try to cope with it. I would like the opportunity to do that for our audience, to give them a little bit of positivity and laughter about it in an otherwise horrendous situation.
Kaitlyn Dever returned as Eve in this week’s finale — are you hoping to see more of her in the future if Season 9 happens?
We’re not assessing new season stuff because these variables are just too crazy. That being said, I can guarantee you that we would want Kaitlyn back. I would want to try to figure out some way to at least get connective tissue between 21 and the next episode that airs up and Eve’s obviously a big part of that. And we just love Kaitlyn. I would always want Kaitlyn on at the beginning and end of every season at the very least, and then whenever we can grab her with her busy schedule during the year.
The Baxters are expanding as Mandy (Molly McCook) and Kristin’s family’s grow. What has it been like getting to explore the more grownup side of the Baxter daughter?
It’s been fantastic. That’s a great question because the key I think to longevity in a series is life is not static, relationships are not static, they change, and we want to change things in our characters so that we can change the dynamics between characters that we’re not telling the same stories over and over. We tell them differently because the characters were in two different places. So when you get a chance to have your characters grow and mature and change, it just gives you more stories to talk about and it makes them a little more interesting and richer because they’re more complex.
Sitcoms, especially when they’re just starting off, tend to have more one note characters. So it’s great to have characters that have had a couple of years to grow and become more complex, and that gives us a lot more interesting story areas to talk about. Just the way parents and their children’s dynamics change, especially as those children become parents themselves. I love telling those stories.
It was fun seeing the dynamic between Chuck (Jonathan Adams), Ed (Hector Elizondo) and Jen (Krista Marie Yu). Could fans hope to see more of that in the future as well as dynamics between characters not usually seen onscreen together?
We love Krista. She’s phenomenal. She’s just been a massive upgrade in terms of bringing a new character onto the show. It’s been a pleasure to have her on, and we certainly want to pursue more of those things. It’s interesting because one of the things we do in the writer’s room is say, “Who have we not seen together recently? Which characters have not interacted with each other?” You’re going to get different stories because they have different dynamics between each other. You don’t want to keep telling the same stories over and over, and that’s one way to kind of change things up.
A lot of TV casts are reuniting via video chats to conduct table reads or host other fun programs for fans. Would you be open to something like that with Last Man Standing if Fox asked?
Absolutely. If Fox wanted us to do something like that, I would absolutely consider doing something. I’m starting to go stir crazy. Anything that gives me a chance to flex the creative muscles is something I would look forward to doing, and again, if something we could do with our show can brighten somebody’s life for just a little bit out there, then it’s absolutely something worth doing.