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Tim Allen and ‘Last Man Standing’ Boss on Premature Finale, How Baxters Could Deal With COVID-19 in a Season 9

”I don’t think you can go back to just telling regular old family stories,“ Kevin Abbott tells TheWrap

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 8 finale of “Last Man Standing.”)

“Last Man Standing” brought its eighth season to a close on Thursday with an episode that was never intended to be this year’s finale and definitely not meant to be a series finale — but it could be. Though star Tim Allen and showrunner Kevin Abbott are hoping that’s not how things turn out for the Baxters.

Due to production shutdowns amid the pandemic, the Fox comedy was just one day shy of filming a proper Season 8 closer, a half-hour that would have seen the birth of Mike (Allen) and Vanessa’s (Nancy Travis) oldest daughter, Kristin’s (Amanda Fuller), baby and be a better note to end on for fans — should the show not get renewed for Season 9.

“I think the best analogy is a sports analogy for me,” Allen said. “We got right up to bat, we were gonna win the game, it was pretty obvious we were gonna finish the game and everything was gonna be alright. And then we got a thunderstorm and a rain delay and they canceled the game and we never came back.”

Abbott told TheWrap the plan was going to be to have fewer people on set, eliminate the usual studio audience and aggressively clean and sanitize everything as much as possible to safely complete the one day of shooting they would have needed to finish filming on the finale. But Fox ultimately decided it was best to shut down production, leaving the season on a cliffhanger of sorts, with the Baxters waiting at the hospital for Kristin to give birth.

Luckily, tonight’s episode was the first of two that was set to include Kaitlyn Dever’s Eve, who comes home from the Air Force Academy for the weekend just before her sister goes into labor. So “Last Man Standing” fans at least got to see a few sweet moments between Mike, Vanessa and their youngest daughter, who hasn’t been back since the season premiere.

“You’ll see in this finale, this wonderful scene between the three of us about the positions that children feel they are in with their parents and the positions they’re actually in,” Allen told us. “If you could see us as you see them. And it’s a wonderful piece of business and funny as hell because she’s so funny. And it’s also around the birth of a child, which we’re not gonna get to. And if the stars align, you’re gonna see this is a the premiere of Season 9, which is fun to think about.”

Though Allen and Abbott don’t know what the future holds for “Last Man Standing,” let alone the world,” Abbott does have some thoughts on where he wants to take the Baxters next — which would include addressing the coronavirus’ effects on the family.

“With the virus, I’m the one that believes comedy is important in a time like this,” Abbott said. “It was Dan Ferguson, a sports writer I love, had a quote that I love which is just, ‘Laughter shrinks troubles down to a size where you can talk about them.’ And to me that means that sometimes things just seem so overwhelming and so huge that you can’t even deal with them, and laughing about them makes them seem not so world-ending. And something like the virus, which is kind of world-ending, I would love to have a chance to deal with that, to see what are the after-effects on our family. ‘Cause I don’t think you can go back to just telling regular old family stories, ’cause the world will have changed and we will change with it. And we will tell stories about it. And I mean this in the most sensitive way I can, that is an interesting thing to do.”

Abbott says he values his role, which he believes is to bring “comfort and laughter” to the “Last Man Standing” audience.

“I hope that we make them feel better at the end of watching a show, about whatever given situation, if they can find anything to relate to in what our characters are going through,” the Fox comedy’s showrunner said. “So to be able to bring a perspective and bring a little laughter to an otherwise really devastating situation is something I would look forward to doing. I would want to be able kind of put that positivity out there.”

Allen doesn’t know if it would be possible, but he’s open to the idea of shooting a remote episode.

“You can’t do these virtually, I don’t think you can. Although it would be fun to make,” Allen said. “I keep thinking crazily, that they’re not expanding the way they do these TV shows. I watched ‘Saturday Night Live’ with my buddy Tom Hanks and I watched ‘American Idol’ just did one. And it kinda works and it kinda doesn’t, but it’s clumsy because it’s new. But certainly, when they first did television, they just shot a camera on a vaudeville stage. That’s how it started and then they started doing skits. And I think we’ve learned something about this, about doing virtual stuff, and there will be a business about this. But I predict — and I’m not a prophet — but I think by August, should the powers pick us back up for a Season 9, I think we’d be able to go shoot in studios.”