‘Last Man Standing’ Finale Almost Brought Back ‘Home Improvement’ Character in Classic Sitcom Reference

Last Man Standing ended with an episode typical of the series, although it did include some emotional nods to the show ending. There were no major changes in the Baxter family, but there were some plans to include major plot developments at one point. In a post-show interview, showrunner Kevin Abbott explained a few alternate ideas they had for the finale and one major sitcom reference they almost made.

Abbott told TVLine that they did discuss the idea of ending Last Man Standing like Newhart, where Tim Allen's Home Improvement character Tim Taylor would have woken up next to Jill (Patricia Richardson) and realize all of Last Man Standing was a dream. "We talked about it. Yes, we did," Abbott said when asked about this idea. There was one big thing that stopped this idea from becoming reality. Earlier this season, they already had Allen's Last Man Standing character Mike Baxter meet Tim Taylor. Abbott said referencing Newhart would have been a good idea since Allen and Bob Newhart are the only comedians with two sitcoms that ran over five seasons.

"I wouldn’t have felt bad for borrowing from that, because I think it would’ve been honoring Bob Newhart," Abbott explained. "And we did talk about it, and had we not done Tim Taylor meets Mike Baxter earlier in the season, we might’ve done something like that. But we also wanted to end on the [Outdoor Man vlog], since the vlog was the signature device of the series."

The season finale, "Keep on Truckin,'" revolved around Mike coming to terms with his truck being stolen after he worked on it for 10 years. Missing the truck worked as a metaphor for the show itself, with the characters talking about what they miss about the truck, but they really meant the show itself. This was one of three ideas the producers had for ending the show. The other two were scrapped because "we didn't feel like they were the right tone," Abbott said.

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One idea was having Kyle (Christoph Sanders) achieve his dream of going to the priesthood and Ed (Hector Elizondo) moving with him. Abbott thought the idea of centering the finale on Kyle would have been a nice echo of the pilot, which focused on Kyle becoming a new Outdoor Man employee. "We would’ve made it as funny as we could, but there was going to be a bittersweet, melancholy underpinning to everything," Abbott told TVLine. "That’s why we made [the finale] about the truck being stolen, and made the truck the metaphor for losing something that you care about and invested in for a long time. We could say goodbye to the truck [and] keep that bittersweet, maudlin quality to one scene, as opposed to manifesting itself [throughout the episode]."

The second idea was to pick up the story involving Kristin (Amanda Fuller) taking over Outdoor Man. She needs to find her own mentor, like Ed was for Mike. Over the course of the episode, Kristin would realize that Mandy (Molly McCook) could be her Ed. "...It felt very legitimate, by the way, because that role wasn’t about business expertise. It was about common sense… having a feel, you know, for what works and what doesn’t," Abbott explained. As for why neither of these ideas hit the "right tone" for the finale, Abbott said they would have represented such big changes at Outdoor Man that "the show, as everybody knew it, no longer existed."