No one is officially designating Fox's pickup of “Last Man Standing” and NBC's pickup of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as a “swap” for the simple reason that the two shows, both subjects of pickup stories that broke on the eve of both networks' upfronts this week, are not being directly traded.
But they do represent a “trade-off,” of sorts, since “Last Man Standing” may have played a role in Fox's cancellation of at least one sitcom Fox cancelled last week -- “The Last Man on Earth -- along with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Mick.”
Let's try to sort the whole thing out. Fox announced officially on Monday that it is picking up “Last Man Standing,” the Tim Allen sitcom cancelled by ABC after its sixth season in 2017. The show has been off the air for a year, but apparently, the various principals involved are available to take it up again.
As a result, a new seventh season of “Last Man Standing” will air Friday nights this fall on Fox -- part of the fall lineup announced at the network's upfront in Manhattan on Monday afternoon.
Tim Allen (seen in the photo above in costume as Donald Trump in a 2016 Halloween episode of “Last Man Standing” on ABC) even appeared onstage at the Fox upfront.
He recited some copy off of a teleprompter that was evidently meant to be comedic, but there was little or no discernible laughter from the upfront audience at the Beacon Theater. Oh well -- perhaps this copy was written in haste, since this “Last Man Standing” pickup had happened so suddenly.
It is reasonable to wonder whether the pickup of “Last Man Standing” helped doom “The Last Man on Earth” due to the similarity of their titles.
Someone at Fox may have felt that the titles of “The Last Man on Earth” and “Last Man Standing” were so alike that viewers would be confused. Such are the concerns that TV executives sometimes have.
Ratings considerations were likely more important, however. As mentioned in a previous TV Blog this week, “The Last Man on Earth” was drawing less than 1.7 million viewers an episode. “The Mick” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” drew audiences that were about the same.
On ABC in its last season, however, “Last Man Standing” was averaging more than 8 million viewers, which means it was a hit show. ABC’s cancellation of the show has mystified many -- so much so that rumors and speculation grew up around the cancellation that said ABC was uncomfortable with the main character's conservative, “old-guy” viewpoints.
Moreover, Tim Allen himself had gained a reputation for conservatism (rightly or wrongly) that may have also been a concern for the network. Political views, similar titles -- networks sure have a lot of “concerns,” don't they?
The irony is that ABC now has a show -- the network’s biggest hit, as a matter of fact -- featuring a main character and her husband who hold right-leaning views that are similar to those held by about half the country. That show would be “Roseanne.”
Realizing that the time might be ripe for more of these kinds of characters, Fox scooped up “Last Man Standing.” The only risk for Fox (if this is a risk) is that some viewers might equate the Fox Broadcasting network with Fox News Channel. They are co-owned but run out of different places (L.A. and New York, respectively) by very different people.
They will run that risk, however, if it means they might have a show on their hands capable of drawing 8 million or more viewers every week.
It's possible that the pickup of “Last Man Standing” played at least an indirect role in the cancellation of “The Mick” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” too. Fox execs may have looked at the ratings for those shows and realized they can do better than that.
At its own upfront on Monday morning, NBC played up its pickup of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as if it were the second (or third) coming of “Roseanne.” It is not, of course, but the show is produced by NBC Universal, which means the company stands to profit from the syndication after-market.
“Last Man Standing” happens to be produced by 20th Television, a unit of Fox, which is also looking forward to syndication riches from this Tim Allen show -- perhaps even more than “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will earn for NBCU.
Incidentally, “The Mick” and “The Last Man on Earth” are both 20th Television productions as well. Their cancellations possibly indicate that the parent company foresaw little profit potential from either one of them in syndication.
Who will be the last man standing in this indirect tradeoff between Tim Allen's “Last Man Standing” and Andy Samberg's “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”? The smart money here is on Tim Allen.