Home Improvement
GenreSitcom
Created by
Based onStand-up comedy material
by Tim Allen
Starring
Theme music composerDan Foliart
Opening theme"Iron John's Rock"
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes204 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Gayle S. Maffeo (entire run)
  • Alan Padula (Seasons 4–8)
  • John Pasquin (Seasons 1–2)
Production locations
Cinematography
Editors
  • Marco Zappia (entire run)
  • James Spach (Season 8)
  • Richard Russell (Season 6–7)
  • Roger Ames Berger (Seasons 3–5)
  • Alex Gimenez (Seasons 1–2)
Camera setupVideotape; Multi-camera
Running time22 minutes
Production companies
Original release
NetworkABC
ReleaseSeptember 17, 1991 (1991-09-17) –
May 25, 1999 (1999-05-25)

Home Improvement is an American television sitcom starring Tim Allen that aired on ABC from September 17, 1991, to May 25, 1999, with a total of 204 half-hour episodes spanning eight seasons. The series was created by Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, and David McFadzean, and, despite not being a favorite with critics, it was one of the most watched sitcoms in the United States during the 1990s, winning many awards. The series also launched stand-up comedian Allen's acting career.[1] The show grossed more than $500 million in syndication revenue by 1996.[2]

Show background

Based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen, Home Improvement made its debut on ABC on September 17, 1991,[3] 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, the same year Allen had the No. 1 book (Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man) and film (The Santa Clause).[4]

Beginning in season 2, Home Improvement began each episode with a cold open, which features the show's logo during the teaser. From season 4 until the end of the series in 1999, an anthropomorphic version of the logo was used in different types of animation.[5]

Episodes

See also: List of Home Improvement episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankViewers
(millions)
First airedLast aired
124September 17, 1991 (1991-09-17)May 5, 1992 (1992-05-05)428.9
225September 16, 1992 (1992-09-16)May 19, 1993 (1993-05-19)331.5
325September 15, 1993 (1993-09-15)May 25, 1994 (1994-05-25)235.2
426September 20, 1994 (1994-09-20)May 23, 1995 (1995-05-23)332.9
526September 19, 1995 (1995-09-19)May 21, 1996 (1996-05-21)725.9
625September 17, 1996 (1996-09-17)May 20, 1997 (1997-05-20)923.1
725September 23, 1997 (1997-09-23)May 19, 1998 (1998-05-19)1019.5
828September 22, 1998 (1998-09-22)May 25, 1999 (1999-05-25)1017.7

Plot details and storylines

Taylor family

The series centers on the Taylor family, which consists of Tim (Tim Allen), his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson) and their three sons: Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). The Taylors live in suburban Detroit, and they have a neighbor named Wilson (Earl Hindman) who is often the go-to guy for solving the Taylors' problems.

Tim loves power tools, cars, and sports. An avid fan of the Detroit professional sports teams, Tim wears Lions, Pistons, Red Wings, and Tigers clothing in numerous instances, and many plots revolve around the teams. He is a former salesman for the fictional Binford Tool company, and he is very much a cocky, overambitious, accident-prone know-it-all. Witty but flippant, Tim jokes around a lot, even at inappropriate times, much to the dismay of his wife. However, Tim can sometimes be serious when necessary. Jill, Tim's wife, is loving and sophisticated, but she is not exempt from dumb moves herself. In later seasons, she returns to college to study psychology. Family life is boisterous for the Taylors, with the two oldest children, Brad and Randy, tormenting the much younger Mark, all while continually testing and pestering each other. Such play happened especially throughout the first three seasons, and it 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 became much closer 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. 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.

In early seasons, Wilson was always seen standing on the other side of Tim's backyard fence as the two engaged in conversation, usually with Wilson offering sage advice as Tim grappled with his problems. In later seasons, a running joke developed in which more and more creative means were used to prevent Wilson's face below the eyes from ever being seen by the audience. Also, in later seasons, Wilson's full name was revealed to be Wilson W. Wilson Jr.

Tool Time

Each episode includes Tim's own Binford-sponsored home improvement show, called Tool Time, a show-within-a-show. In hosting this show, Tim is joined by his friend and mild-mannered co-host 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?" In reply, the audience yells, "TOOL TIME!" The Tool Time girl also assists Tim and Al during the show by bringing them tools.

Although revealed to be an excellent salesman and TV personality, Tim 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 unorthodox or overpowered manner, designed to illustrate his mantra "More power!" This popular catchphrase was not uttered after Home Improvement's seventh season[6] until Tim's last line in the series finale—the last two words ever spoken on the show.

Tool Time was conceived as a parody of the PBS home-improvement show This Old House.[7] Tim and Al are caricatures of the two principal cast members of This Old House, host Bob Vila and master carpenter Norm Abram.[8] Al has a beard and always wears plaid shirts when taping an episode, reflecting Norm Abram's appearance on This Old House.[9] Bob Vila appeared as a guest star on several episodes of Home Improvement, while Tim Allen and Pamela Anderson both appeared on Bob Vila's show Home Again.[10][11]

The Tool Time theme music, an early 1960s-style saxophone-dominated instrumental rock tune, was sometimes used as the closing theme music for Home Improvement, especially when behind the credits were running the blooper scenes that took place during the taping of a Tool Time segment.

Characters

Main article: List of Home Improvement characters

Main

Characters Actor/Actress Episodes Seasons
Timothy "Tim" Taylor Tim Allen (204 episodes, 1991–1999) starring seasons 1–8
Jillian "Jill" Taylor Patricia Richardson (204 episodes, 1991–1999) starring seasons 1–8
Wilson W. Wilson Jr. Earl Hindman (202 episodes, 1991–1999) starring seasons 1–8
Marcus Jason "Mark" Taylor Taran Noah Smith (201 episodes, 1991–1999) starring seasons 1–8
Randall William "Randy" Taylor Jonathan Taylor Thomas (177 episodes, 1991–1998) starring seasons 1–8 (until episode 178, guest star thereafter)
Bradley Michael "Brad" Taylor Zachery Ty Bryan (202 episodes, 1991–1999) starring seasons 1–8
Albert "Al" Borland Richard Karn (201 episodes, 1991–1999) recurring season 1; starring seasons 2–8
Heidi Keppert Debbe Dunning (148 episodes, 1993–1999) recurring seasons 3–6; starring seasons 7–8

Recurring

See also: List of Home Improvement characters § Other recurring characters

Characters Actor/Actress Episodes Seasons
Martin "Marty" Taylor William O'Leary (30 episodes, 1994–1999) 4–8
Harry Turner Blake Clark (24 episodes, 1994–1999) 4–8
Lisa Pamela Anderson (23 episodes, 1991–1993, 1997) 1–2 and 6
Benny Baroni Jimmy Labriola (16 episodes, 1994–1999) 3–8
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
Trudy McHale Megan Cavanagh (5 episodes, 1998–1999) 7–8

Production

Casting changes

Pamela Anderson

In the first two years of the show, Pamela Anderson played the part of Tim's Tool Girl, Lisa, on Tool Time, but left the show to focus on her role 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, electrician Heidi Keppert, 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. Dunning had previously appeared (not as Heidi) in the episode "Overactive Glance" from season 2 where she played an obsessive Tool Time fan named Kiki. Anderson did reprise the role of Lisa on the sixth-season finale episode "The Kiss and the Kiss-Off", which aired on May 20, 1997.

Departure of Jonathan Taylor Thomas

In the show's eighth and final season, the middle child Randy left for an environmental study program in 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 his academics. His last appearance on Home Improvement was the eighth season Christmas episode "Home for the Holidays", which aired on December 8, 1998. He did not return to the show for the series finale (as he was busy with his education and filming the movie Speedway Junky, released in 2001), only appearing in archived footage.

End of series

The series ended after eight seasons in 1999. Richardson was offered $25 million to do a ninth season; Allen was offered $50 million. The two declined the offer and the series came to an end as a result.[12]

Michigan college and university apparel

Throughout the show, Tim Taylor would often wear sweatshirts or T-shirts from various Michigan-based colleges and universities. These were usually sent by the schools to the show for him to wear during an episode.[13] Because Allen considered Michigan his home state, the rule was that only Michigan schools would get the free advertising.[14] There were two notable exceptions to the general rule that Tim only supported Michigan educational institutions on the show. First, during the episode "Workshop 'Til You Drop" Tim wears a Wofford College (South Carolina) sweatshirt.[15] Second, during the episode "The Wood, the Bad and the Hungry" Tim wears an Owens Community College (Ohio) sweatshirt.[16]

College or university City (of main campus) Episode Season
Albion College Albion My Dinner with Wilson 4
Alpena Community College Alpena Engine and a Haircut, Two Fights[17] 5
Aquinas College Grand Rapids Crazy For You[18] 3
Baker College Flint Township No Place Like Home[19] 6
Bay College Escanaba Her Cheatin' Mind[20] 5
Calvin College Grand Rapids Eve of Construction[21] 3
Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant Blow-Up[22] 3
Cleary University Howell You're Driving Me Crazy, You're Driving Me Nuts 2
Cornerstone University Grand Rapids Talk to Me[23] 4
Davenport University Grand Rapids Room Without a View[24] 5
Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti To Build or Not to Build[25] 2
Let Them Eat Cake[26] 5
Believe It Or Not[27] 7
Ferris State University Big Rapids Be True to Your Tool[28] 3
Grand Valley State University Allendale What You See is What You Get[29] 3
Henry Ford Community College Dearborn A House Divided 4
Hillsdale College Hillsdale The Naked Truth[30] 4
Hope College Holland Talk to Me 4
Shopping Around[31] 5
Kalamazoo College Kalamazoo When Harry Kept Delores 5
Kellogg Community College Battle Creek Future Shock[32] 6
Jill and Her Sisters[33] 6
Lake Michigan College Benton Township Eye on Tim 5
Lake Superior State University Sault Sainte Marie Brother, Can You Spare A Hot Rod[34] 4
Lawrence Tech Southfield High School Confidential[35] 5
Madonna University Livonia Oh, Brother[36] 5
Marygrove College Detroit The Route of All Evil[37] 4
Michigan State University East Lansing Frozen Moments[38] 3
It Was the Best of Tims, It Was the Worst of Tims[39] 3
Michigan Tech Houghton A Hardware Habit to Break[40] 8
Mott Community College Flint Wilson's World[41] 6
Northwood University Midland A Sew, Sew Evening[42] 3
Northern Michigan University Marquette Swing Time[43] 3
Northwestern Michigan College Traverse City Chicago Hope[44] 5
Oakland University Auburn Hills Slip Slidin' Away[45] 3
Owens Community College Toledo, Ohio The Wood, the Bad and the Hungry[46] 6
Saginaw Valley State University University Center The Eyes Don't Have It[47] 4
University of Michigan Ann Arbor Borland Ambition 4
Super Bowl Fever[48] 4
A Marked Man 4
Advise and Repent[49] 5
The Vasectomy One 5
Family Un-Ties[50] 6
An Older Woman[51] 7
Room at the Top[52] 7
Walsh College Troy Dollars and Sense[53] 3
Wayne State Detroit Olde Shoppe Teacher[54] 4
Burnin' Love[55] 6
Western Michigan University Kalamazoo May the Best Man Win 2
It Was the Best of Tims, It Was the Worst of Tims[56] 3
That's My Momma 5
Future Shock[57] 6
A Night to Dismember[58] 7
Taylor Got Game[59] 8
Wofford College Spartanburg, South Carolina Workshop 'Til You Drop[60] 6

Syndication

In the United States, Home Improvement began airing 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. On cable, the series started airing in 2002 on superstations TBS and WGN America. It later ran on Nick at Nite, and its sister network TV Land, and eventually the Hallmark Channel in 2013.[61] The show's creators brought a lawsuit against Disney around in 2013 alleging that the latter sold the syndication rights for the show at "well below market value" including offering the syndication rights in New York for "no monetary compensation". The lawsuit was settled in 2019. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.[62]

Home media

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released all eight seasons on DVD in Regions 1, 2, and 4. Season 8 has the "Backstage Pass" (which immediately followed "The Long and Winding Road, Part III")

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.

The series will be available to streaming on Netflix on February 1, 2025.[63]

DVD Name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 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 22, 2005 January 12, 2006 January 16, 2006
The Complete Fourth Season 26 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

Reception

Nielsen ratings

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During its eight-season run, the show always finished in the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings during a season, despite never making the #1 slot (its highest finish was a second-place spot in the show's third season; behind 60 Minutes). The series finale became the fifth highest-rated series finale television program of the 1990s and the ninth overall series finale ever presented on a single network in television history, watched by 35.5 percent of the households sampled in America, and 21.6 percent of television viewers.

Awards, nominations, and other reception

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Home Improvement

Though never a hit with critics, Home Improvement received numerous awards and nominations in its eight-season run. Notable awards and nominations include: Golden Globe Awards, Primetime Emmy Awards, Kids' Choice Awards, Young Artist Awards, YoungStar Awards, and ASCAP Award.

On Metacritic, the first season holds a score of 64 out of 100, based on 18 critics and the second season holds a score of 75 out of 100, based on 5 critics, both indicating "generally favorable reviews.”

Post-series events

Tim Allen, Richard Karn, Casey Sander, and Debbe Dunning had a reunion in a television special named Tim Allen Presents: A User's Guide to Home Improvement in 2003 (a terminally ill Earl Hindman did voice-overs, befitting his never-seen persona of Wilson; Hindman died shortly after the special aired).[64] Allen presented his own favorite clips from the show, insider's tips, personal reflections and a question and answer session with the live audience.

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 had not seen since 1998.[65]

Karn guest starred in two episodes of Tim Allen's 2010s ABC/Fox sitcom Last Man Standing in 2013.[66][67] Thomas has also appeared on Last Man Standing,[68] and has directed episodes of the series.[69][70]

In 2015, Patricia Richardson guest starred on Last Man Standing in the episode "Helen Potts", playing the episode's titular character.[71] Thomas made a cameo in the episode, playing Richardson's son.

On May 5, 2015, Hollywood Life reported that Allen and Karn had admitted talking about getting back together as a cast for a Home Improvement reboot or reunion show. Karn was quoted as saying, "There is always a chance, absolutely. Would I be on board? Yeah, I think so! I would love to see what the story lines could be, it could be very funny!"[72]

On February 18, 2020, CinemaBlend reported that Allen wants to bring back Home Improvement for a revival:

I like the idea of doing it as a one-off, like a one-hour movie [versus a full-fledged revival series]. I like the idea of finding out where the boys are now, and where... Tool Time would be in today's world. I just think it's a marvelous idea, and all the actors think it's a great idea.[73]

In January 2021, Allen reprised his role of Tim Taylor in an episode of Last Man Standing titled "Dual Time".[74]

Premiering in February 2021, Tim Allen and Richard Karn, teamed up with YouTuber DIYer April Wilkerson, on History Channel unscripted competition show Assembly Required; where home handymen/makers/DIYers/inventors, compete to build souped up home tools a la Tool Time from Home Improvement, with supplied parts and pieces, and some of their own junk at home.[75][76]

Premiering in June 2022, Allen and Karn again teamed up with Wilkerson on another History Channel documentary series More Power; where the hosts cover the history of tools, again a la Tool Time from Home Improvement.[77]

References

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