Home Improvement (TV series)

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Home Improvement
Home improvment logo.jpg
Format Sitcom
Created by Carmen Finestra
David McFadzean
Matt Williams
Starring Tim Allen
Patricia Richardson
Earl Hindman
Zachery Ty Bryan
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Taran Noah Smith
Richard Karn
Debbe Dunning
Theme music composer Dan Foliart
Opening theme "Iron John's Rock"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 204 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Carmen Finestra
David McFadzean
Matt Williams (entire run)
Bob Bendetson
(seasons 3–5)
Elliot Shoenman
(seasons 3–8)
Bruce Ferber
(mid-season 4–season 8)
Charlie Hauck (seasons 6–7)
Tim Allen (seasons 6–8)
Laurie Gelman (season 8)
Producer(s) Gayle S. Maffeo (entire run)
Alan Padula (seasons 4-8)
John Pasquin (seasons 1–2)
Editor(s) Marco Zappia (entire run)
James Spach (season 8)
Richard Russell (season 6-7)
Roger Ames Berger (seasons 3-5)
Alex Gimenez (seasons 1–2)
Location(s) Walt Disney Studios
Burbank, California
Camera setup Videotape; Multi-camera
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Wind Dancer Productions
Touchstone Television
Distributor Disney–ABC Domestic Television (as Buena Vista Television)
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original run September 17, 1991 (1991-09-17) – May 25, 1999 (1999-05-25)

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.[1]

Show background[edit]

Based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen, Home Improvement made its debut on ABC on September 17, 1991,[2] and was one of the highest-rated sitcoms for almost the entire decade. It went to No. 1 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 movie (The Santa Clause).[3]

Beginning in season two, each episode started with a cold open that used the show's title logo during the teaser. From season 4 to the end of the show's run in 1999, an anthropomorphic version of the logo was used in different types of animation.[4]

Syndication[edit]

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. It has previously aired on cable television via TBS from 2002 to 2013, and WGN America from 2002 to 2007. It also aired on Nick at Nite from September 3, 2007 to October 2009[5] and again on Monday mornings only starting on September 27, 2010, and aired on TV Land from January 4, 2010 to 2013. The show aired on the The Hallmark Channel from September 3, 2013 until January 2014.

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 January 31, 2011, and no announcement has been made regarding which channel the show will be moved to.

In Canada, it previously aired on CTV from beginning to the ending (1991-1999), 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 previously 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[edit]

Taylor family[edit]

The series centers on the Taylor family, which consists of Tim (Tim Allen), his wife 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 inappropriate 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 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 (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.

Tool Time[edit]

Each episode includes Tim's own Binford-sponsored 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,[6] until Tim's last line in the series finale.

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 the blooper scenes ran behind the credits took place during the taping of a Tool Time segment. The musical piece, written and performed by the show's regular composer Dan Foliart, was first used in a TV series six years before the premiere of Home Improvement.[citation needed] Foliart had been one of the main composers on the Showtime sitcom Brothers; in the second season premiere of that series in 1985, his future "Tool Time" theme, in roughly the same arrangement, was used in a scene where Joe Waters (Robert Walden) and Kelly Hall (Robin Riker) were dancing to it as it played on Kelly's home stereo. Riker would later co-star in the second season of Home Improvement sister series Thunder Alley, which Foliart's co-composer on Brothers, Howard Pearl, scored for.

Awards and nominations[edit]

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.

Production[edit]

Development and early recasts[edit]

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.

Casting changes[edit]

Pamela Anderson[edit]

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, 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 on the sixth season finale episode "The Kiss and the Kiss-Off," which aired on May 20, 1997.

Departure of Jonathan Taylor Thomas[edit]

In the show's eighth 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 academics. His last appearance on Home Improvement was the eighth and final 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.

Post-series events[edit]

Tim Allen, Richard Karn, 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).[7] Allen 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.[8]

Richard Karn guest starred in two episodes of Tim Allen's current ABC sitcom Last Man Standing in 2013.[9][10] Jonathan Taylor Thomas also guest starred in two episodes of Last Man Standing in 2013.[11][12]

Cast[edit]

Main cast[edit]

Character Actor/Actress Episodes Season
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
Bradley Michael "Brad" Taylor Zachery Ty Bryan (202 episodes, 1991–1999) starring seasons 1-8
Randall William "Randy" Taylor Jonathan Taylor Thomas (177 episodes, 1991–1998) starring seasons 1-7; recurring season 8
Marcus Jason "Mark" Taylor Taran Noah Smith (201 episodes, 1991–1999) starring seasons 1-8
Wilson W Wilson, Jr. Earl Hindman (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 characters[edit]

Character Actor/Actress Episodes Season
Lisa Pamela Anderson (48 episodes, 1991–93, 97) 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) 3-8
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[edit]

  • 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", 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.

Episodes[edit]

Nielsen ratings[edit]

Seasonal Nielsen Rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Home Improvement on ABC.[13] 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.

Season Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
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 #2[14] 20.64
4 September 20, 1994 May 23, 1995 1994–1995 #3[15] 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

DVD releases[edit]

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.[16]

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 22, 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

DVD notes[edit]

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,[17] 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 someone at Disney ordered the three commentaries available on the Season 1 DVDs is unknown.

In other media[edit]

  • A 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cerone, Daniel (September 17, 1991). "Tim Allen's Power Tools : Television: The comic who had Disney and cable executives abuzz parlayed his luck to develop 'Home Improvement.' - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Home Improvement Season 1 episodes". TVGuide.com. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Tim Allen". Inside the Actors Studio. Season 12. Episode 15. 2006-05-28.
  4. ^ Petrozzello, Donna (May 27, 1999). "POWER RATINGS FOR 'HOME'". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved February 24, 2010. 
  5. ^ Coming to Nick At Nite in 2007 – Sitcoms Online Message Boards
  6. ^ "Home Improvement" The Complete Third Season DVD Review - Page 1 of 2
  7. ^ Tim Allen Presents: A User's Guide to 'Home Improvement' (2003) (TV)
  8. ^ Barrett, Annie. "'Home Improvement' cast reunites for photo - EXCLUSIVE | Inside TV | EW.com". Insidetv.ew.com. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Listings - LAST MAN STANDING on ABC (#209) "Attractive Architect"". TheFutonCritic.com. Retrieved December 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Listings - LAST MAN STANDING on ABC (#217) "The Fight"". The Futon Critic. Retrieved March 6, 2013. 
  11. ^ Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Tim Allen Reunite on Last Man Standing Retrieved March 20, 2013
  12. ^ "Listings - LAST MAN STANDING on ABC (#304) "Ryan v. John Baker"". TheFutonCritic.com. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  13. ^ Nielsen Ratings 1990-1995
  14. ^ "1993-1994 Television Season Top Rated Shows". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 31, 2006. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  15. ^ "ABC Hits a 'Home' Run". Entertainment Weekly. April 28, 1995. Retrieved April 3, 2012. 
  16. ^ Lambert, David (February 4, 2011). "Home Improvement - '20th Anniversary Complete Collection' 25-DVD Set with 'Toolbox' Package". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  17. ^ Tim Allen Interview – Christmas with the Kranks, Toy Story 3

External links[edit]