It’s last call for ‘Last Man Standing,’ for real this time

Playing Tim Allen's wife ends for Nancy Travis a second time

Nancy Travis appears in the series finale of “Last Man Standing” Thursday on Fox.

This time, apparently, it’s really the last stand for “Last Man Standing.”

Canceled by ABC in 2017, the Tim Allen-starring sitcom was revived a year later by Fox … where the show concludes its total nine-season run with a one-hour telecast Thursday, May 20. Its stories involve Mike Baxter (Allen) preparing daughter Kristin (Amanda Fuller) to handle the future of the Outdoor Man store chain, and the search for Mike’s prized green truck after it’s stolen.

Co-star Nancy Travis, who has played Mike’s wife Vanessa, says filming the finale at the end of March was “like going through having a child taken from you. It was very emotional, and not just for the actors but for the crew and the writers and everyone who has worked on the show. It was a really sad departure.”

It also was the sort of departure the “Last Man Standing” team didn’t have when the series’ first run ended, since that then-surprising cancellation notice came after work on Season 6 already had wrapped.

Travis acknowledges that “felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us, but going into this season, we had the perk of knowing it would be the last. Ironically, though, that also was very painful because doing each episode was like slowly ripping the bandage off a cut. I don’t know if either way is good when it’s a job that you really enjoy and love doing.”

A big part of that, Travis maintains, has been working with “Home Improvement” alum Allen. “It’s been a pleasure,” she reflects. “Honestly, I’ve learned so much from him. It’s been very collaborative, and the same goes for the writers, who helped me find what worked for me and for Vanessa.”

While Travis wishes she’d had more scenes with fellow series regular Héctor Elizondo, she also has enjoyed playing “mom” to the actresses portraying her daughters — including Kaitlyn Dever, who returns in the finale as Eve, a role she left to focus on her burgeoning career in movies such as “Booksmart.”

Over the course of “Last Man Standing,” Travis also was able to take parts in the streaming series “Mr. Mercedes” and “The Kominsky Method” (though she won’t be a regular when the latter, award-winning Netflix show debuts its third and final season May 28, owing to her “Last Man Standing” commitment).

The “Last Man Standing” repeats that have been popular in syndication likely will continue, so Travis explains the finale is “a nostalgic goodbye to these nine seasons, and the characters move on. They go back to their lives and keep doing whatever they do. I get messages from people who are just now discovering the show. It’s really gratifying.”

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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