Even the most forgiving fans of Last Man Standing can’t ignore or explain away these odd things about the show.
Tim Allen struck gold twice with his second televised comedy series Last Man Standing, which came along after his original sitcom Home Improvement had wrapped. After striking it big in Hollywood with a series of memorable roles, including the iconic Buzz Lightyear from the beloved Toy Story franchise, Allen eventually settled back into television.
Last Man Standing was an instant hit, but it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. There are lots of odd things that have happened throughout the series’ run that simply can’t be explained away, and they continue to plague the legacy of the show in minor and major ways. These include recasting decisions, characters that come and go, and others who disappear, never to be seen again. What happened to Boyd on Last Man Standing? What Happened to Muffin? Why did Kristin leave? Why does Ryan look different? Fans often can’t figure out these mysteries but there are answers.
Updated on July 23rd, 2021 by Derek Draven: After being abruptly canceled by ABC, Tim Allen’s popular sitcom Last Man Standing made the jump to Fox, where it finished off a nine-season run in May of 2021. The show had grown by leaps and bounds, but when ratings began to drop in the middle of season seven, the writing was on the wall. The network switch to Fox proved problematic for several cast members, prompting them to exit the show or participate in a reduced capacity. Fans were not pleased by the recasting of Mandy Baxter, and it wasn’t the first time another actor had taken over a role on the show. This is part and parcel of a larger problem with Last Man Standing, and fans were never really able to get past a number of odd decisions made behind the scenes.
The Kristin Switch
Kristen Baxter was played by actress Alexandra Krosney in the first season of the show, but she was swapped with Amanda Fuller from season two, onwards. Many fans wondered why the actress who played Kristin decided to leave Last Man Standing, but it mostly involved Fuller’s more mature disposition and believability as a young single mother. Fuller would later go on to star in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, becoming recognizable to fans for work outside of Last Man Standing.
While it proved to be a blessing in disguise, the switch-up was jarring at first. Season one of the show now feels disjointed, almost like a year-long pilot. Kristen’s personalities are also as different as the actresses themselves, but at least the change occurred relatively quickly, rather than further down the road.
What Happened To Muffin?
The Baxters got a dog in the early seasons, but nobody really knows where little Muffin went since that time. The dog shows up only a sparse handful of times throughout the show, before disappearing completely. This means Muffin certainly won’t be remembered in the annals of TV’s most iconic dogs any time soon.
Unfortunately, this is a long-standing tradition in Last Man Standing, where characters seem to disappear without notice, never to return. Some lucky few manage to turn up for what it essentially a cameo appearance, but it’s entirely possible Muffin simply died offscreen, never to be mentioned again.
Young Boyd started out practically as a series regular beginning with season two, but his character started to drop off massively between seasons four and six. Fans couldn’t help but wonder what happened to Boyd on Last Man Standing. Eventually, he began to resurface before being recast by an entirely different young actor for the latter seasons.
This makes no sense given that Boyd was the entire reason the character of Kristin was created, in the first place. The decision to swap actress Alexandra Krosney for Amanda Fuller was done because the latter presented a more motherly attitude and personality. That doesn’t explain why such a key character would see less and less screen time.
Ryan’s Character Change
The first season of the show mentions Ryan only in passing as a numbskull who got Kristin pregnant, then fled town as a deadbeat dad. He finally showed up in the latter half of the season, played by none other than Disney alum Nick Jonas. That version of Ryan was a far cry from the one introduced in season two.
Jordan Masterson took over the role from that point on, and the character was presented as more of an intellectual thinker type, as opposed to a buffoon. This was a striking contrast in personalities that was never fully rectified, similar to the Kristin actress swap. At least it helped explain why Ryan’s character looks different between seasons of Last Man Standing.
Joe’s Infrequent Appearances
Jay Leno joined the cast of Last Man Standing halfway through the series in an attempt to play up his knowledge of cars, while giving Mike Baxter a funny antagonist to play off of. Joe instantly became a series favorite, thanks in large part to Jay Leno’s charm and hilarious disposition.
Unfortunately, Joe suffers from the same infrequency of appearances as many second-tier cast members. He shows up for a handful of back-to-back episodes, before disappearing into the ether again. This makes it hard for audiences to stick with the character, and even harder for that character to grow.
Carol Goes AWOL
Chuck Laarbee and his wife Carol were the perfect excuses to carve in some hilarious tension into the show in the same way that the best episodes of All In The Family managed to do, years before. As a tag team, they were excellent together, but Carol never lasted for the long haul. She began disappearing from the show midway through, leaving Chuck to pick up the slack.
While this did give Chuck an opportunity to become more fully integrated into Mike’s “guy crew,” it hurt the dynamic by robbing actress Nancy Travis of someone to play off of. Indeed, the character even makes reference to her being upset at Carol moving out of state in season six. She briefly resurfaced, played by another actress.
Eve’s Pointless Character Arc
Eve Baxter was supposed to play against the traditional female character type with her tomboy personality. She fired guns, she was Conservative, and she had dreams of joining West Point. Unfortunately, that dream was squashed when her application was rejected, and her character arc took a turn for the worse.
The next two seasons found Eve wading aimlessly through a musical career that was going nowhere before she learned she’d been accepted into the Air Force academy. Between those two events, Eve just sort of wandered around like Darlene Conner during the rough teenage year period of Roseanne.
Ed Alzate has been married more times than most people can fathom, and he frequently makes reference to this throughout the series. He eventually meets and marries another woman who already has a teenage son, but both of them seem to disappear from the show as quickly as they are introduced.
Ed basically became a lighter version of the bad boss movie stereotype, and that didn’t leave room for character development. Ironically, the character would end up playing off of dimwitted Kyle, and the two quickly became a comedic duo, but that’s not enough to explain why Ed’s wife is nowhere to be found.
Three Men And A Baby star Nancy Travis is hilarious as Mike’s good-natured, bad pun-loving wife Vanessa, and even though her character seems to go around in circles when it comes to her professional career, it’s hard to imagine the show without her. One thing doesn’t add up, however.
Vanessa is quite fond of wine and tends to hit the bottle at every possible opportunity. This, combined with her career woes and family stresses makes one wonder why an episode centering on her health was never fully explored. With the recent focus on the so-called “Wine Mom” phenomenon, this might have been a good excuse to shine some public awareness on the issue.
Where Did Jim & Bud Baxter Go?
Both Mike’s dad Bud and his younger brother Jim made early appearances on Last Man Standing, but those have since dried up. Jim has only made one appearance on the show so far (played by the excellent Mike Rowe), and Mike has only made reference to him a handful of times throughout the seasons.
Meanwhile, Bud started out hot as a not-too-hip dad who opens up a marijuana shop, only to disappear soon afterward. Eventually, the character would resurface in season seven after having passed away. Tragically, actor Robert Forster would go the same way in October of 2019, after a brave battle with brain cancer.