How ’Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ & ’Last Man Standing’ Have Fared Since Changing Networks

Two sitcoms at the opposite ends of the political spectrum revived by opposing networks.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Andy Samberg (left), Last Man Standing's Tim Allen (right)

For fans of broadcast television, the month of May is normally a hectic time where low-performing shows are laid to rest and high-rated juggernauts advance on to another season of prosperity. Whenever a popular show does get the ax, viewers frantically express their outrage by creating online petitions calling for the slaughtered program to see the light of day once more. The harsh truth is that television operates like a business. No matter how many angry enthusiasts bombard them with colorfully-worded emails and resentful social media posts, the network has little reason to award the program with more episodes if it is not making them enough revenue.

While most of these campaigns end with no progress being made, that doesn't mean programs have not been revived from the dead and placed on another platform before. Last Man Standing and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are two recent examples where a series jumped networks after their original home sent them packing. Last Man spent a full year in limbo after ABC canceled the sitcom in May 2017. It returned on the Fox network in September 2018 for its seventh season, airing in its signature Friday night timeslot. Brooklyn spent a lot less time deceased after its cancellation. Mere hours after Fox's announcement, NBC picked the cop comedy up for a sixth season and it was back on the air eight months after its finale.

What sets these cancellations apart from many others is that both shows deserved to be renewed when basing their fates on Nielsen ratings alone. Last Man Standing's final ABC season was down just 4% from the previous year and produced a sturdy 1.15 A18-49 average. The Tim Allen sitcom was garnering ratings on a Friday night that the alphabet network would have gladly accepted in more high-profile timeslots. And while Brooklyn Nine-Nine was far from a strong performer, it had an unprecedented resurgence in spring 2018 when placed on Sundays at 8:30. It managed to beat out its Simpsons lead-in on one occasion and stayed relatively close to both Simpsons and Family Guy during its final Fox episodes. The comedy ended up declining just 11% on a year-to-year basis, averaging a modest 0.74 rating.

As always, enthusiasts of these sitcoms put their own little spin on why they were canceled by their respective networks. Fans of Last Man blamed its tragic fate on the fact that liberal ABC was upset lead Tim Allen attended President Trump's inauguration. In reality, it was an unowned and expensive veteran that the alphabet network could not profit enough from to warrant another season. And, if the network did have a vendetta against conservatives, how come they let Tim Allen throw jabs at Obama and Hillary for a solid six years? Surely they would have canceled it by season one if they were so offended by Allen's right-wing views. Likewise, B99 enthusiasts blasted Fox for canceling a diverse, well-written series. Nine-Nine may have been a critical darling but it was also not an in-house production. Additionally, Brooklyn crumbled in the ratings when taken out of its plush Sunday slot, declining dramatically in its move to Tuesdays. Viewers should be ecstatic Fox even gave the Samberg sitcom a five-season run considering it posted ratings that would have gotten it canned on any of the other major broadcast networks.

With that out of the way, here's a look at how the fairly conservative Last Man and generally progressive Nine-Nine have performed since their resurrections and whether or not it was worth bringing the comedies back from the dead.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine 

NBC put substantial time and effort into promoting the sixth season of Brooklyn, so the 1.2 rating and 3.5 million viewers it garnered for its January 2019 premiere was likely just enough to be considered a solid return. Buoyed by some assistance from a 'Titan Games' lead-in (1.6), this was Nine-Nine's strongest performance for a regularly-scheduled installment since December 2015. Unfortunately, that was about as good as it would get on a Nielsen ratings basis. What followed in the weeks after was a slew of ratings in the 0.7-0.9 vicinity. While still respectable, these were far from the numbers that could have been expected given the massive outcry its cancellation announcement received. Brooklyn's numbers became outright dreadful in March when The Titan Games ended and the cop comedy was stuck between flop comedies A.P. Bio and Abby's. B99 hovered around a 0.6 for a bit but soon fell to a disastrous 0.5, marking a new series low for the program. After the dust settled, Brooklyn averaged a 0.70 rating and was down 5% from its final season on Fox. These results were ultimately quite disappointing since the series collapsed over the course of 18 episodes, from a robust 1.2 debut to a pitiful 0.5 finale.

The 7th season of Nine-Nine debuted in February 2020 with a 0.7 rating for the first-half and 0.5 rating in the second. After its dismal performance as a 9pm anchor, NBC decided to move it up a half-hour to the 8:30 slot, providing it with a reliable Superstore lead-in. Unlike the volatile sixth season, Brooklyn was relatively stable this time around. Even during the multiple times when Superstore went into repeat mode, Brooklyn remained in the 0.5-0.7 range. Even if some of its stability was due to heightened viewing levels as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it still closed out the season (0.6) a notch higher than the prior one (0.5). Its 0.59 ratings average was nothing earth-shattering but looked like a godsend in comparison to the network's other comedy offerings like Indebted (0.35 average), Sunnyside (0.34 average), and the final season of Will & Grace (0.50 average).

You can find the full season six ratings here and the full season seven ratings here

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing opened its seventh season in September 2018 to a ridiculously massive 1.8 rating and 8.1 million viewers. This was higher than every rating it posted on ABC since its second season debut back in 2012. It had a huge decline in week 2 to a 1.3 A18-49 rating but remained in the respectable 1.0-1.4 range until early March. Similar to B99, Last Man hit some new low points towards the end, falling below the 1.0 threshold for the first time and even dropping down to a preliminary 0.7 rating for the penultimate episode. And yet, it still closed out with a magnificent 1.09 Nielsen ratings average, just 4% below its final ABC season. Given the Tim Allen comedy was off the air for a full year, this was a phenomenal performance.

Unfortunately for Fox, the sitcom's eight season was an entirely different story. Last Man made the move from Friday nights to Thursdays in January 2020 and premiered to a solid 1.0 rating. Although the number alone is admirable, this was nearly 50% below its 2018 Fox debut. The comedy's numbers trickled down from there with the series generating a tepid 0.6 rating on four different occasions. In total, LMS averaged a 0.74 rating, a significant 32% decline from its first year on the Fox network.

You can find the full season seven ratings here and the full season eight ratings here.

Was It Worth Reviving These Shows?

Following their initial ratings explosion, Brooklyn and Last Man essentially returned back to the level they were at in their last Fox and ABC seasons. But, given the fact that live ratings continue to decline at a rapid rate, being steady still goes down as a pretty major accomplishment. Nonetheless, both sitcoms have become fairly middle-of-the-road performers in their new homes. Nine-Nine ranked #10 out of the 21 scripted programs NBC aired in the 2019-20 television season. Last Man was the 6th-highest rated program out of 15 Fox shows, virtually tied with the three ones below it. Although NBC and Fox could certainly live without having Brooklyn and Last Man on their schedule, they provide stability to their roster and have proven to be far stronger options than many newbies they have launched. They could do better but could also do much worse. 

What do you think of this article? Are you a fan of either program? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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