ABC Boss Talks Losing ‘Last Man Standing’ to Fox, ‘Roseanne’ Moving Away From Politics in Season 2

Disney-owned network is “returning to form” with three nights of comedy, Channing Dungey says

Last Man Standing

Fox has gotten a lot of attention in the last week for reviving the Tim Allen comedy “Last Man Standing,” but ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey says she isn’t losing any sleep over it.

A multi-camera comedy with a star known for being outspoken about his conservative politics, “Last Man Standing” bears much in common with ABC’s new hit “Roseanne” revival, and could have made a nice timeslot partner had ABC not canceled it last year in spite of its steady ratings.

“The decisions that we made last year in terms of canceling ‘Last Man Standing’ were made with the best information that we had at the time,” Dungey said in a conference call with reporters ahead of the network’s upfront presentation on Tuesday, adding “we wish them all the best” at their new network home.

On Tuesday nights, the network is instead attempting to build its own lineup around “Roseanne,” which premiered to staggering ratings and will be used to launch the new comedy “The Kids Are Alright” in the fall.

“I think that one of the things that was fresh for us with ‘Roseanne’ on the air is that it is focusing a family that is in a different economic status than some of the other family comedies that are on the air,” Dungey said, adding that ABC’s goal is to be “as diverse and as inclusive as possible … across all metrics.”

The debut episode of the revival revolved around her character’s clash with the rest of her family over her politics, lining up the character with Roseanne Barr’s own position as an outspoken Trump supporter. However, Dungey said that might change come season 2.

“I think that they’re going to stay on the path that they were on toward the end of last season, which is away from politics and toward family,” she said.

ABC has faced some criticism on the diversity front in the recent months, including marketing for “Roseanne” that billed the show’s white stars as “the family that looks like us” and a dismissive joke from the show appearing to mock “Fresh Off the Boat” and “black-ish.”

“I was a little bit surprised to the reaction to that line… It certainly wasn’t meant to offend,” Dungey said, adding that she stands by the joke and the “Roseanne” writers. “I think they felt they were expressing the point of view of the Conners in what they would actually have said. And we do similar things on some of our other shows as well.”

Asked if she thought Barr’s stance as an outspoken Trump supporter played a factor in the public response to the joke, Dungey replied, “I do think that there’s a little bit of that, yes.

Dungey said the network’s other creators are afforded similar leeway, but a recent dispute with “black-ish” creator Kenya Barris over an episode about the NFL national anthem protests resulted in the episode being shelved entirely.

When asked about that disagreement and the subsequent reports that Barris could be seeking an early exit from his deal with ABC Studios, Dungey downplayed the issue.

“We have long been supportive of Kenya and team tackling sort of challenging and controversial issues on the show,” she said. “We have always traditionally been able to come to a place creatively where we felt good about the story that he was telling even if it felt like it was pushing some hot buttons and he felt like he was getting to share the story how it should be shared.”

“With this particular episode, there were a number of different elements to the episode that we had a hard time coming to terms on,” she continued. “Much has been made about the kneeling aspect of it, which wasn’t even really the issue.”

“At the end of the day, this was a mutual decision that was made between Kenya and the network to not put the episode out, and I think we all feel that was the best decision overall,” Dungey said.