CM – « Last Man Standing » Finale: Showrunner Kevin Abbott speaks on « Nothing Unspoken » & « attitude of gratitude » in the final chapter of the Baxter family


SPOILER ALERT: This post provides details on the two-part series finale of Fox ‘Last Man Standing.

Last Man Standing ended its nine-year run with a two-part series finale where the Baxters’ green truck is a literal vehicle, to celebrate nearly a decade of family, love, and the outdoor man.

Ed Yeager’s « Baxter Boot Camp » begins with the newly minted « real Baxter » Jen (Krista Marie Yu) hooking up with her friends from Hong Kong prepared for a camping trip. Vanessa (Nancy Travis) is concerned about her safety and offers Jen to prepare for unpredictable scenarios by teaming up with Mandy (Molly McCook) for a challenging boot camp in the backyard.

Meanwhile, Mike (Tim Allen) watches Outdoor Man, how Kristin (Amanda Fuller) delves deep into work which cuts her family time. In the next office, Kyle (Christoph Sanders) tells Ed (Hector Elizondo) that he is trying to move part-time as he has more responsibilities as a minister. But in order for Ed to approve his proposed schedule, Kyle must create a plan that will help his boss get to heaven. With the help of Ryan (Jordan Masterson) and comics, Kyle decides Ed deserves more than a simple answer about faith and is ready to have a conversation about the afterlife with his boss, but as a pastor.

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When Mike catches Kristin staying late at work again, he tells his daughter that it’s up to her to draw work-life boundaries. After Kristin hears him, she tells her father that she’s not worried about forgetting her family.

The last episode « Keep Truckin » by Allen picks up on the previous episode. While the kids and Jen enjoy hot cocoa, Mike tells Vanessa that the original owners of their beloved green truck sold the vehicle to Joe (Jay Leno). Shortly after the truck is back in Mike’s possession, a thief drives away with it.

« I’ve had this truck for 10 years, that’s longer than I’ve improved it on this house, » says Mike to Vanessa after the truck disappeared.

The Baxter clan band together to find the missing vehicle and recalls their memories with family. But if the truck looks like it’s gone forever, Mike says he’s fine letting go, much to Vanessa’s surprise. Friends and family meet in the Baxter house for a « truck memorial ». Eve (Kaitlyn Dever) makes a cameo from the Air Force Academy via FaceTime. She shares that working on the truck « was some of the best times of my life ».

At this point, the metaphor of the beloved truck is not that difficult to grasp. But just in case it wasn’t obvious enough to viewers, Mike hits the symbolism on the head with his latest Outdoor Man vlog. In his most recent webcast, streamed alongside a slideshow of Baxter family photos, Mike thanks his viewers for optimizing and informs them of his recent loss.

“I loved every moment of this show – I mean truck. It was a classic from a simpler, happier time, the truck. That can’t be stolen from me, ”he says.

Kevin Abbott, Last Man Standing showrunner, spoke to Deadline about the fact that there was“ nothing unspoken ”left in the final of the pandemic, the“ temporary shelter ”of network television and much more stayed. Read the full interview below, edited for length and clarity.

DEADLINE: What was it like getting Last Man Standing to a real finale after it ended prematurely on ABC?

KEVIN ABBOTT : It’s funny you bring this up because I was running the show when it was canceled on ABC and we didn’t expect it to be canceled this year. The only year we got canceled was the year we didn’t think we were in the bubble.

When we got back we got the gift that it was the final season. It was a gift, it was really a great thing that they did for us because it allowed us to plan, appreciate and be really grateful for what we had. I wanted to make sure we got it right in our mind, and especially in Tim’s mind because he’s the one who invested the most in her. He’s given a lot for the show over the years, and it was important to reward him for it, to give him the respect he deserves.

We sat down to consider what we can get out of this last one Episode want. We quickly concluded we didn’t want it to be a sad episode. Ideally, the series finale embodies the show with the added message of hopefully saying “thank you.”

ABBOTT: We had an episode in the B story where Kyle and Ed talked about going to the priesthood. That was originally a much bigger story, where Kyle went to the priesthood and Ed went with him. We’ve had people saying goodbye to them instead of saying goodbye to the show and you know it just felt very maudlin ‘. It just felt like this … there was no way we could stop the cast from not feeling the feelings they were feeling by saying goodbye to these people.

We also had a full episode, in which Kristin Outdoor Man took over, it became a B-story again, but the bigger story would be that Kristin will take over and Ed decides he will leave but that he has to find Kristin, her Ed. The guy who told Mike the hard truths. The guy who supported him with his other ideas. Kristin needed this person. That would be Mandy.

Matt Berry actually came up with the idea of ​​the truck that was on the show throughout the series. I thought that was a great idea. It allows us to write an episode that would have just been another episode during the season. It would have only focused on theft and this issue would get a grip on the loss. Be okay with it, be grateful for what you had, not angry, bitter, or frustrated that it is no longer there. That’s the message we wanted to send.

So he threw that up. We went through a few variations. We actually tracked down a car, a truck like Tim’s that we wanted to wreck because we thought seeing this visually, uncovering it, like we’re at an autopsy, with a big sheet of paper, would bring a really good ending over the truck, and then you uncover it and see it, but it’s ruined.

It kind of went away from where we ended up, which wasn’t just Tim’s loss. It’s not Mike’s loss. It is everyone’s loss, and we have to give them the opportunity to deal with it.

DEADLINE: Tim Allen previously said that he emotionally prefers the « sudden death » of a cancellation over the lengthy planning of a series finale. Do you feel the same way after being part of the LMS team for so long?

ABBOTT: I lost two brothers. One to sudden death and one to prolonged illness, and although they are not the same, this is work and our lives go on. I don’t prefer sudden death.

To use the loss of a loved one as a metaphor, I prefer the opportunity to say goodbye and feel like you left nothing unsaid. Nothing unspoken. No loose ends. Everything will end badly for us in the end. We all die at the end of the book. So I would prefer to get out of this story and feel like all the loose ends are tied up as opposed to being messy and maybe leaving family members with no ability to cope with the loss.

I really appreciated knowing at the beginning of the season that it would be the final season.

Deadline: What did it mean for you to create a picture of joy and family in the ongoing coronavirus crisis?

ABBOTT: That was something that was very close to our hearts, we didn’t want to end on a downward grade. We are there to help you in difficult times. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the feelings of loss right now and we felt that this was going to be a betrayal of what the show actually was.

We felt like we wanted deal with problems and some bigger issues, and we wanted to deal with emotions, but we would save those emotions for a scene and moment when it would have the most impact. We didn’t want to wallow in something like that.

The truck gave us the opportunity. Telling a fun story, but then also having the memorial scene where you can be emotional and real. That was important because it meant the actors weren’t asked to play this. « Oh, we’re really sad during the whole thing. »

It allowed us to have fun and then hit the moment of emotion and then go back to where I wanted to and I felt like Tim wanted to end the show. An attitude of gratitude. We have been playing around with gratitude as the end point.

Loss is something that will be there. You will have to deal with this all your life. We want people to have the opportunity to laugh along the way, have a little joy and, if they don’t experience loss, appreciate the good moments.

DEADLINE: How did the lack of a live studio audience for this last one Chapter influenced the final moments?

ABBOTT: It was tough. This year has been tough because it’s your last season and we don’t have shows. The actors do not receive curtain calls. It’s all different and a lot of the things that were wonderful about producing the show – table readings and show nights and the joy we all had from the show nights – were all gone. What we wanted to do for the final episode is « get an audience ». We had 45 people. They were production workers or friends of production workers who were in individual, plastic-lined booths in the audience, six feet apart. They weren’t allowed to come on stage or leave it. They had to stay up there in their small, closed rooms. We usually have 175 people just for reference, but it was something.

We wanted to at least give the cast a chance to do one final curtain instead of just filming one final scene and then everyone would say, « This is a wrap » and you’re gone. We obviously don’t get a closing party and had to be pushed off the stage because they shot a pilot and we couldn’t say goodbye to anyone after the show.

ABBOTT: The vlog was the last. When Tim said the words « Baxter out » he stopped. Very emotional and the cast joined him in Mike’s office to say goodbye to everyone. To each other. To hug and comfort each other, and then we called the curtain. It’s all very moving. I wish I could have recorded it.

Personally, I haven’t had a chance to say goodbye to people at the moment because we couldn’t. That was actually more difficult than the cancellation, because the first time we canceled with ABC, we said goodbye for the break. We got the chance to have a graduation party and everything. It just felt like it stopped at that moment. At least we got a taste of it.

ABBOTT: Kevin Hench wrote the vast majority of the vlogs over the course of the series. Usually I would give him the subject for the episode and he would do a vlog and he and Tim would work on it until they shot it Monday or Tuesday.

With that, the mandate was that we would have a patio scene where Vanessa and Mike would have a moment together and this couple would have a chance to essentially say goodbye to the audience. We wanted Ed to have a chance to have his moment, Hector, and then Mike was the only character who didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the show and the truck in the episode. We made that conscious.

We saved him. He saved his emotions until the last moment. So the mandate was for this to be Mike / Tim’s farewell. The message to the audience was a message of appreciation, but also of positivity. It may be a touch of heartfelt emotion, but it had to highlight the positive emotions that are also present in loss. So Hench didn’t include things like the truck. Tim felt those moments.

Tim’s instincts are phenomenal. We trust them. So they worked on it together. Hench had chosen to stress, and wanted to stress the thought of shaking yourself off, moving forward after something that knocked you down, and maintaining that spirit of determination.

Deadline: Where will the Baxters be in the next five to ten Years?

ABBOTT: I see Kristin and Mandy running outdoors ten years later. I think there’s probably a major argument going on between Mike Baxter and his daughters over whether « Outdoor Man » is more appropriate. I think Eva stayed in the Air Force. I think she is a decorated pilot. I think Kyle entered the priesthood as a minister and is doing just fine. It spreads messages of joy, hope, and resilience.

I think Mike, Chuck, and Joe are still running their auto recovery business and they’re very excited about it. I think in the meantime Mike goes back to all the wonderful journeys he made for Outdoor Man in the catalog, but this time he brings Vanessa with him and they hit all the highlights.

Deadline: What happens to « True Baxter » , Jen? Do you see her return to Hong Kong or will she stay with the Baxters?

ABBOTT: Yes. Absolutely. COVID interrupted and changed many of the plans we had made. François Chau, who played her father Henry on the show, we could sneak him in that one time, but we would have loved to have him for the finals.

I mean, the same goes for Susan Sullivan. It’s a difficult year not bringing in Ed’s wife Bonnie because we had so much planned for her. We couldn’t do this due to COVID logs, which was heartbreaking.

When Kaitlyn walked off the show, Jen was in many ways led to bring the influence Eve had on Mike. You know, the person who would spurt out on him. Krista Marie made Jen her own. She is not a mini Eva. She is her own character and we just loved what she brought with her.

We did what we could in portraying the protests in Hong Kong. I watch Jen go back and bring what she learned from Mike Baxter back to Hong Kong because I believe her heart is in Hong Kong.

DEADLINE: What were the challenges or the rewards to get over the sitcom dive into topical issues like the legalization of weeds, the Hong Kong protests and racism?

ABBOTT: We don’t necessarily want to talk about social issues, we want to say that these social issues affect our characters because our characters would be affected by them . This is how we tell stories. We talked about the social justice movement, Black Lives Matter, in which Chuck was arrested for doing the same thing as Mike and Joe. So we prefer to comment on these things.

So we decided to tell stories and ultimately, and I don’t want to be on a soap box, we want to have fun. We want to have a fun story where we can get real and emotional in a scene, and in one moment we can be really impactful and then move on and have more fun.

Hollywood is obviously stereotypically left-leaning. My writer’s room is definitely sloping. I definitely sit back. You know Mike Baxter is a conservative. Tim is a conservative. In a time of great polarization, I’m not going to pretend there aren’t any times when I was angry about things and I have to go in and work with people who feel exactly the opposite of me.

You know what? It’s a valuable lesson because we all respected and talked about these things. We haven’t necessarily changed our minds or reached agreements, but we existed wonderfully together and cared for each other. If something comes through this final season, I want Mike Baxter to talk about being connected and respecting the other side, even if you disagree. Overcome where we are right now in terms of polarization and demonization of people with whom you disagree. Every day I had to go in and hear things that I didn’t necessarily agree with, and I found it enlightening and made me a better person.

ABBOTT: The longevity I think. In show business, they only offer temporary accommodation. That’s all we’ll ever get Nothing remains. So, to have the opportunity to rent a house for nine years where you feel like you actually own it? It’s special and heartbreaking at the same time.

It was great to be able to spend a decade of my life with these people and really get to know them. The good and the bad. The hard and the easy. The fun and the difficult. I have the full range. You don’t really get that at most shows.

ABBOTT: New lessons don’t come to me often. I would say that – creative problems require creative solutions. That you get used to doing things a certain way and when you are no longer allowed to do them panics you a little at first and you think, how the hell are we going to do it? And you know what? You can find a way to do this, but it’s worth it in a completely different way.

ABBOTT: Absolutely. Trying to generate a show and produce a show under the conditions that we produced it, you know, and that we were in for the whole season – I didn’t think we could do it. Everyone’s ability to improve has been remarkable and so inspiring to me. Yes. It was a big challenge. But finishing it, completing the task, was a reward.


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