Home Improvement is an American television sitcom starring Tim Allen, that aired from September 17, 1991 to May 25, 1999. The show was created by Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, and David McFadzean. In the 1990s, it was one of the most watched sitcoms in the American market, winning many awards. The series launched Tim Allen's acting career and also was the start of the television career of Pamela Anderson, who was part of the recurring cast for the first two seasons.
Based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen, Home Improvement made its debut on ABC on September 17, 1991, and was one of the highest-rated sitcoms for almost the entire decade. It went to No. 2 in the ratings during the 1993–1994 season; that year, Allen had the No. 1 book (Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man) and movie (The Santa Clause). Midway throughout the show's run, it was competing against another highly rated sitcom, Frasier, which slightly dropped the ratings. It did, however, remain a Top 10 show (with the exception of Season 7 which was at No. 11). The final episode aired on May 25, 1999 with a 90-minute finale, which was the fourth highest rated comedy series finale of the 1990s, behind Cheers, The Cosby Show, and Seinfeld.
In the United States, Home Improvement started to air in broadcast syndication in September 1995, distributed via Buena Vista Television (now Disney-ABC Domestic Television) and continued to be syndicated until 2007; in a manner similar to Seinfeld and The Simpsons after they began airing in broadcast syndication, episodes of Home Improvement were not aired in order of their production code number or original airdate. It has previously aired on cable television via Nick at Nite from September 3, 2007 to October 2009 and again on Monday mornings only since September 27, 2010, and on WGN America from 2002 to 2006. Currently, the show has aired on TBS since 2002. Home Improvement began airing on TV Land on January 4, 2010. It also has aired on Cartoon Network since 2007.
Since 1995, due to its popularity, reruns began airing on The Disney Channel, Channel 4, and ABC1 in the UK. Originally, Home Improvement was aired on Channel 4 and then later the Disney Channel; however, in 2005, it began broadcasting on ABC1. On September 26, 2007, ABC1 ceased transmissions and no official announcement was made as to which channels would be broadcasting ABC1's previous programming. Although the show stopped airing in the UK due to ABC1 ceasing transmission on September 26, on July 28, 2008 it restarted from the pilot episode on Virgin 1. However, it was announced that Virgin 1 (now Channel One) would close on 31 January 2011, and no announcement has been made regarding which channel the show will be moved to.
In Canada, it previously aired on CMT and YTV. In Germany, Home Improvement was shown on ARD, RTL, VOX, and reruns are currently shown on the private channels RTL II and Super RTL. It was also shown on M-Net on South African television, and reruns are showing throughout 2007 on the M-Net Series channel, available to DStv users. It is currently airing on TV Land at 2AM ET. In New Zealand, reruns of the show also currently play on the free-to-air channel Prime Television. In 2011, Asian Network Star World started telecasting the show in place of The Simpsons.
At the present time, reruns are aired internationally on the Seven Network and 111 Hits in Australia, Sab TV, and Disney Channel in India.
Plot details and storylines
The series centers on the Taylor family, which consists of father Tim (Tim Allen), his spouse, Jill (Patricia Richardson), and their three children: the oldest, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), the middle child Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and youngest, Mark (Taran Noah Smith). The Taylors live in suburban Detroit, Michigan and have a neighbor named Wilson (Earl Hindman) who is often the go-to guy for solving Tim and Jill's problems.
Tim is a stereotypical American male, who loves power tools, cars, and sports (especially the local Detroit teams). He is a former salesman for the fictional Binford Tool company, and is very much a cocky, accident-prone know-it-all. Witty but flippant, Tim jokes around a lot, even at inopportune times. Family life is boisterous, with the two oldest children, Brad and Randy, tormenting the much younger Mark, while continually testing and pestering each other. This rough by-play happened especially throughout the first three seasons, and was revisited only occasionally until Jonathan Taylor Thomas left at the beginning of the eighth season. During the show's final season, Brad and Mark finally became close due to Randy's absence.
Brad, popular and athletic, was often the moving factor, who engaged before thinking, a tendency which regularly landed him in trouble. Randy, a year younger, was the comedian of the pack, known for his quick-thinking, wisecracks, and smart mouth. He had more common sense than Brad but was not immune to trouble. Mark was somewhat of a mama's boy, though later in the series (in the seventh season) he grew into a teenage outcast who dressed in black clothing (a goth). Meanwhile, Brad became interested in cars like his father and took up soccer. Randy joined the school drama club, and later the school newspaper; in the eighth season, he left for Costa Rica.
Each episode includes Tim's own home improvement show, called Tool Time, a "meta-program", or show-within-a-show. In hosting this show, Tim is joined by his friend and mild-mannered assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn), and a "Tool Time girl" — first Lisa (Pamela Anderson) and later Heidi (Debbe Dunning) — whose main duty is to introduce the pair at the beginning of the show with the line "Does everybody know what time it is?" They also assist Tim and Al during the show by bringing them tools.
Although revealed to be an excellent salesman and TV personality, Tim Taylor is spectacularly accident prone as a handyman, often causing massive disasters on and off the set to the consternation of his co-workers and family. Many Tool Time viewers assume that the accidents on the show are done on purpose, to demonstrate the consequences of using tools improperly. Many of Tim's accidents are caused by his devices' being used in an unauthorized manner, designed to illustrate his mantra "More power!". This popular mantra would not be uttered after Home Improvement's seventh season, until Tim's last line in the series finale.
Relationship between Tim and Al
Though ultimately they are best friends, there is sometimes a tense or problematic relationship between Tim and Al.
Al is reserved, though he has much more knowledge, skill, and audience popularity than Tim. His catchphrase, as an opposition to Tim's ill-advised ideas or jokes, is "I don't think so, Tim". He also comes up with many puns and often giggles or snorts when a joke is made at Tim's expense.
Al, being cautious, insecure, and brighter, bears the brunt of Tim's jokes and constant put-downs. Whenever Tim makes a remark likely to put off some Tool Time viewers, Al quickly pulls out a large sign with the show's address for those viewers to write to Tim and complain. Al is frequently taunted by Tim because of his beard, weight, bland personality (in Tim's eyes), poor sense of humor, his overbearing, overweight mother, and his preference for flannel shirts. Al occasionally features other flannel items, such as an over-sized pair of flannel briefs in the episode "Room Without A View"; Tim shows the briefs again in the episode "A Funny Valentine"). In one of the episodes it is revealed why Al wears flannel - his father used to wrap him in his flannel shirts when Al would get cold helping him in his workshop. Tim typically uses his television show to vent about various problems he is having in his personal life. Al is usually very annoyed by this. By the end of each episode, Al and Tim are shown ultimately to respect one another.
An early episode shows a flashback to the premiere of Tool Time, in which Tim has a full beard, and introduces Al, who for the only time in the whole series is shown clean-shaven.
Relationship between Tim and Wilson
Wilson and Tim are next-door neighbors and close friends. Every time that Tim screws up in his everyday life, he goes to Wilson for advice. Wilson always seems to have the answer, often using a philosophical or historical quotation to make his point. Tim repeats to his wife Jill (or the viewers of Tool Time) what he thinks Wilson is saying, but often explains his revelation by misquoting Wilson, using Wilson's long words incorrectly, or mistaking the name of the person or work quoted. Wilson and Tim's genuine trust in each other is the reason they are close as friends and neighbors.
Awards and nominations
Home Improvement received numerous awards and nominations in its 8-season run. Notable awards and nominations include: Golden Globe Awards, Primetime Emmy Awards, Kids' Choice Awards, Young Artist Awards, YoungStar Awards, ASCAP Award, and many others.
Development and early recasts
Home Improvement had been in the works between Tim Allen and the writing/producing team of Carmen Finestra, David McFadzean, and Matt Williams since the summer of 1990. Originally, the project's proposed title was Hammer Time, both a play on the catchphrase made popular by artist MC Hammer and the name of the fictional fix-it show within the series, which was also called Hammer Time. By the time ABC committed to the project in early 1991, Allen and his team had already changed the title to Home Improvement. The show hosted by Tim Taylor in the shooting script for Home Improvement was still called Hammer Time when the first pilot with Frances Fisher was filmed in April 1991. The catalyst for the series' name change was to represent the aspect of fixing problems within the family and home life, as well as the use of mechanics and tools. Once the second phase of the pilot was produced, with all the actors that made the final cut into the series (including Patricia Richardson), Tim Taylor's Hammer Time became Tool Time.
The first filmed pilot was produced in April 1991, with Frances Fisher playing the Jill Taylor character. Fisher, primarily known as a dramatic actress, was well qualified for the co-starring role but was viewed by the studio audience as not being comedic enough, and too serious in her line delivery. The producers tried to work with Fisher on adapting to the situation comedy setting, but shortly after the pilot wrapped post-production, they decided to recast her.
Before the first pilot was shot, actor John Bedford-Lloyd was in the running for one of two roles; that of Tim's Tool Time assistant (originally named "Glen") and the role of Wilson. Bedford-Lloyd eventually got the part of Wilson, but his agent later made claims that the actor was unaware that most of his scenes would require his face to be partially hidden behind a fence. For this reason, the crew received news just one day prior to taping the first pilot that Bedford-Lloyd had dropped out. Casting immediately contacted the other actor considered for the role, Earl Hindman.
Stephen Tobolowsky was tapped to play the Tool Time co-host, Glen. However, he was still busy with a movie that was in the middle of production at the time the first pilot was to be shot. Therefore, the producers set out to cast an alternate character that would stand in as Tim's co-host for the pilot, or for however many episodes were required until Tobolowsky was available. The casting department auditioned Richard Karn, for what would be his first major appearance on a TV sitcom; the character of Al Borland was created from there. After the first few episodes completed with Patricia Richardson as Jill, Tobolowsky was still tied up with his other commitments, and Karn found himself in his role permanently when Tobolowsky decided he would have no time to do a series. Thus, the character of Glen never came into being.
In the first two years of the show, Pamela Anderson played the part of Tim's assistant, Lisa, on Tool Time. As she had only a very small part, and was not present in every episode, she became frustrated with her role and took the role of C.J. Parker on the syndicated series Baywatch. Her last episode as a series regular was "The Great Race", which aired on May 19, 1993. Tim's new assistant, Heidi, played by Debbe Dunning, replaced Anderson as the Tool Time Girl for the following third season, starting with "Maybe Baby", which aired on September 15, 1993. Anderson did reprise the role of Lisa, now a paramedic, in the sixth season finale "The Kiss and the Kiss-Off", which aired on May 20, 1997.
Departure of Jonathan Taylor Thomas
In the show's eighth season, the middle child Randy left for Costa Rica in the episode "Adios" which aired on September 29, 1998. This was done because Jonathan Taylor Thomas reportedly wanted to take time off to focus on academics. His last appearance on Home Improvement was the eighth season's Christmas episode "Home for the Holidays", which aired on December 8, 1998. He did not return to the show for the series finale, aired in May 1999, only appearing in archived footage. He was shooting the film Speedway Junky for release that summer. His character was not replaced.
Tim Allen, Richard Karn, and Debbe Dunning had a reunion in a show called Tim Allen Presents: A User's Guide to Home Improvement in 2003 (Earl Hindman did voice-overs, befitting his never-seen persona of Wilson). Tim presented his own favorite clips from the show, insider's tips, personal reflections, and a question and answer session with the live audience. The special is included on the season 8 DVD set.
On August 3, 2011, in Pacific Palisades, California, the surviving main cast members reunited for Entertainment Weekly magazine, including Jonathan Taylor Thomas, whom the cast hadn't seen since 1998.
|Timothy "Tim" Taylor||Tim Allen||(204 episodes, 1991–1999)||1–8|
|Jillian "Jill" Patterson-Taylor||Patricia Richardson||(204 episodes, 1991–1999)||1–8|
|Bradley Michael "Brad" Taylor||Zachery Ty Bryan||(202 episodes, 1991–1999)||1–8|
|Randall William "Randy" Taylor||Jonathan Taylor Thomas||(177 episodes, 1991–1998)||1–8|
|Marcus Jason "Mark" Taylor||Taran Noah Smith||(201 episodes, 1991–1999)||1–8|
|Wilson W Wilson, Jr.||Earl Hindman||(202 episodes, 1991–1999)||1–8|
|Albert "Al" Borland||Richard Karn||(201 episodes, 1991–1999)||1–8|
|Heidi Keppert||Debbe Dunning||(148 episodes, 1993–1999)||3–8|
|Lisa||Pamela Anderson||(48 episodes, 1991–1997)||1-2, 6|
|Martin "Marty" Taylor||William O'Leary||(30 episodes, 1994–1999)||4–8|
|Harry Turner||Blake Clark||(24 episodes, 1994–1999)||4–8|
|Benny Baroni||Jimmy Labriola||(16 episodes, 1994–1999)||4–8|
|Dr. Ilene Markham||Sherry Hursey||(16 episodes, 1993–1997)||3–6|
|Pete Bilker||Mickey Jones||(13 episodes, 1991–1999)||1-8|
|Dwayne Hoover||Gary McGurk||(11 episodes, 1991–1999)||1-8|
|Rock Flanagan||Casey Sander||(10 episodes, 1991–1999)||1-8|
Special guests and cameos
- Many special guests made cameo appearances on Tool Time. These guests included race car drivers Johnny Rutherford, Robby Gordon, Mario and Michael Andretti, Al Unser, Sr./Jr./III, actress and model Jenny McCarthy (the season 8 episode "Young at Heart"), country artist Alan Jackson (the season 5 episode "When Harry Kept Delores"), golfer Payne Stewart (the season 7 episode "Futile Attraction"), and comedian Drew Carey (the season 6 episode "Totally Tool Time", although not playing himself).
- Numerous NASA astronauts appeared on the series, the most notable being Ken Bowersox, who made three separate appearances.
- Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, then Detroit Pistons star Grant Hill (the season 7 episode "Believe It or Not"), former boxers Evander Holyfield (the season 3 episode "Eve of Construction") and George Foreman (the season 1 episode "Unchained Malady"), and former President Jimmy Carter all appeared on the series. Carter made an appearance during season three episode "Eve of Construction", which focused on Habitat for Humanity.
- Isiah Thomas appears as himself at the end of the season three episode (Aisle See You In My Dreams).
- Jay Leno appears with his car collection in the fourth season episode "Brother, Can You Spare a Hot Rod?" He also appeared four years later in the episode "Home Alone" in a dream sequence about Tim's book, saying "Instead of getting a literary genius like Tim Taylor, we're stuck with Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando." Leeza Gibbons and Oprah Winfrey also guest-starred in the episode playing themselves on their respective talk shows talking about Tim's book (and how he has not written it).
- Bob Vila also appeared on several episodes, with Tim seeing him as a rival (he appears in Season One's "What About Bob?" Season Two's "The Great Race", Season Three's "The Great Race II", Season Four's "Tool Time After Dark", with recycled Tool Time footage from earlier episodes, and Season Six's "Insult to Injury" in a dream sequence about Vila winning the consecutive home renovation show appearance record; Vila wasn't played by himself, and instead played by a stunt-double for a one-shot cameo.)
- The Beach Boys appeared in the Season 6 episode "The Karate Kid Returns" as Wilson's cousins. (Then-Beach Boys Carl Wilson and Mike Love were real-life cousins.)
- Tom Wopat, best known as Luke Duke from the TV Series The Dukes of Hazzard, appears early on in Season 7 as Ian, to whom Jill feels romantically attracted after meeting him in a gym.
- A then-unknown Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer guest-starred in the Season 4 episode "Talk to Me". This episode set the stage for the Home Improvement spin-off Buddies, which was Chappelle's first television series.
- Other famous guests include Drake Bell in the third season episode "Swing Time", and Jack Elam and Ernest Borgnine, who both appeared in the first season episode "Birds of a Feather Flock to Taylor".
- Dan Aykroyd makes a guest appearance as a blues-loving minister, the character he was currently playing at the time in the series Soul Man, a series that was also created by the creators of Home Improvement.
- Robert Picardo, best known as The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager, made two appearances on the show as Tim's neighbor, Joe "The Meat Man" Morton. He appeared in "A Sew, Sew Evening", and "Blow-Up", both early on in the third season. It was explained by his wife Marie (Mariangela Pino) in the fifth season episode "Jill's Surprise Party" that he had left her for a younger woman who worked at his plant.
- Rodney Dangerfield and Alex Rocco appeared together in the 1997 Thanksgiving episode in which they both appeared in a luxury box at the Pontiac Silverdome.
- Magicians Penn and Teller also appeared in one of the episodes of the final season, opening for Tool Time by performing tricks with Tim.
- Actress Michelle Williams played Jessica Lutz, a girl that Brad was going on a date with in Season 4, 3 years before she became famous as Jen Lindley on the series Dawson's Creek.
Seasonal Nielsen Rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Home Improvement on ABC.
|Season||Season Premiere||Season Finale||TV Season||Rank|| Viewers|
|1||September 17, 1991||May 5, 1992||1991–1992||#5||18.0|
|2||September 16, 1992||May 19, 1993||1992–1993||#3||19.45|
|3||September 15, 1993||May 25, 1994||1993–1994||#1||20.64|
|4||September 20, 1994||May 23, 1995||1994–1995||#2||19.9|
|5||September 19, 1995||May 21, 1996||1995–1996||#7||16.2|
|6||September 17, 1996||May 20, 1997||1996–1997||#9||14.0|
|7||September 23, 1997||May 19, 1998||1997–1998||#10||18.4|
|8||September 22, 1998||May 25, 1999||1998–1999||#10||16.5|
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has released all eight seasons on DVD in Region 1, 2, and 4. Season 8 has the "Backstage Pass" (which immediately followed "The Long and Winding Road, Part III") and the reunion show on the fourth disc of the set.
On May 10, 2011, Walt Disney Studios released a complete series box set entitled Home Improvement: 20th Anniversary Complete Collection on DVD in Region 1. The 25-disc collection features all 204 episodes of the series as well as all special features contained on the previously released season sets; it is encased in special collectible packaging, a Home Improvement toolbox with a Binford "All-In-One Tool" tape measure.
|DVD Name||Ep#||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2 (Germany)||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season||24||November 23, 2004||July 14, 2005||June 28, 2005|
|The Complete Second Season||25||June 7, 2005||October 13, 2005||July 20, 2005|
|The Complete Third Season||25||November 23, 2005||January 12, 2006||January 16, 2006|
|The Complete Fourth Season||25||June 6, 2006||December 6, 2007||December 5, 2007|
|The Complete Fifth Season||26||November 14, 2006||March 6, 2008||April 2, 2008|
|The Complete Sixth Season||25||May 15, 2007||November 13, 2008||December 3, 2008|
|The Complete Seventh Season||25||August 7, 2007||April 2, 2009||March 18, 2009|
|The Complete Eighth Season||28||June 10, 2008||August 13, 2009||December 2, 2009|
|20th Anniversary Complete Collection||204||May 10, 2011||N/A||N/A|
The Region 1 DVDs are on three discs (with the exception of the final season set, which has four discs), whereas the Region 2 DVDs are presented across four discs, but in Germany the fourth to seventh seasons are also three disc sets. The Region 2 packaging and programme menus for Season 1 vary compared to the Region 1 releases. The Season 3 menus in Region 1 are in widescreen, but 4:3 in Region 2. The Region 1 releases of Seasons 2 and 3 consist of (deliberate) "holes" in the outer packaging—these do not exist in the Region 2 releases; in fact, the Season 3 outer packaging is physically printed where the hole would be in the Region 1 packaging.
It has been mentioned on review sites about the lack of episode commentaries and bonus features on the DVDs (except unaired blooper reels). In an interview on about.com, Tim Allen stated that it was a done deal that the DVDs would not contain interviews or episode commentaries. Whether this was before or after somebody at Disney ordered the three commentaries available on the Season 1 DVDs is unknown.
In Other Media
- An SNES game of the same name was based on the series.
- After the airing of the season 5 episode "Games, Flames, and Automobiles", in which Al created a game based on Tool Time, Northern Games released The Home Improvement Board Game.
- The Binford Tool brand makes a cameo appearance in Toy Story (featuring Tim Allen, who voices Buzz Lightyear).
- Ryobi released a line of tools titled "Tim Allen Signature Tools", which were available for a limited time.
- In 1996, Mattel's Hot Wheels brand released a two-car pack entitled Home Improvement based on the show which featured Tim's 1933 Ford Convertible, and the Dixie Chopper racing mower (with a mini-figure Tim as the rider) as well as a mini-figure of Al and a Binford tool box.
- The Home Improvement Archive
- UltimateDisney.com – Seasons 1–8 DVD Reviews
- Home Improvement Seasons 1–8 on DVD
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