Home Improvement (1991 - 1999): Why it is the Most Popular Reality TV show in the ‘90s.

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Last week I was doing a real-life home improvement in my apartment. And it did hit me that there was this 90s show called Home Improvement that really packed a punch back then. Yes, I loved the show, but now I wish it was showing now. Since I have a real home that needs improvement!

I was hit by the nostalgia of the good old days watching the show that I had to do a quick search online for any streaming service for the show. But to my surprise, there is no major platform streaming the show now. This is not fair! Considering how Home Improvement was extremely popular in its prime. I still think it is still popular among those who lived the good old days. This would be a perfect fit for Disney+ and its long list of classic ABC sitcoms.

There have been some rumors that say the star Tim Allen is planning for a reunion show. This is not only awesome but will also include an answer to the question of what the rest of the cast has been up to recently.

Home Improvement is a TV show created by Carmen Finestra, David McFadzean, and Matt Williams that follows a home renovation TV show host who discovers that dealing with basic household repairs is sometimes easier than dealing with family issues (besides experiencing a mishap or two with both).

The highly-rated sitcom lasted for eight seasons in the 1990s, making Tim Alen a big star. He won a Golden Globe for his lead role in 1995 and launched a few other notable careers. The show came at an opportune time when the USA was in recession. This time, people preferred fixing their houses to trading them. It was the right time for such a show.

It is at this critical time that Disney got a tip on a hot new comedian out of Detroit Michigan called Tim Allen. The high school class clown, Tim had cut his comedic chops in college TV projects. He had done his first stand-up gigs at Detroit comedy castle. Tim took what he had seen around the family dinner table and turned it into an act.

Let us dig into the history of Home Improvement and how it came to be one of the leading TV sitcoms in the ‘90s.

The Story Behind Home improvement
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Image Courtesy: Tigerstrypes
Home improvement was one of those shows that you couldn’t afford to miss. Even if I understood half the content. I never thought of owning a house. All I enjoyed was the jokes and comedy part of it.

But what is the story behind the show?

Home Improvement is an American television sitcom starring Tim Allen that aired on ABC from September 17, 1991, to May 25, 1999, spanning eight seasons and 204 half-hour episodes. Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, and David McFadzean created the show. It was one of the most successful sitcoms in the United States in the 1990s, receiving numerous awards. Tim Allen's acting career was launched by the series, as was Pamela Anderson's, who was a regular cast member for the first two seasons.

Home improvement, based on Tim Allen’s stand-up comedy, premiered on ABC in September 1991 and remained one of the most popular and top-rated sitcoms for a whole decade. It peaked at number 2 in rating during the mid-90s (1993 – 1994) season, the same year that Allen had the Number one book “Don’t Sand Close to a Naked Man” and the movie called The Santa Clause.

Right from season 2, each episode of Home Improvement opened with a cold open, which included the show's logo during the teaser. An anthropomorphic version of the logo was used in various forms of animation from season 4 until the end of the series in 1999.

Home Improvement Episodes.
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Source: Wikipedia


Here is a list of Home Improvement seasons and the number of episodes they each had:

  • Season 1 – Had 24 episodes (Sept 1991 – May 1992)
  • Season 2 – Had 25 episodes (Sept 1992 – May 1993)
  • Season 3 – Had 25 episodes (Sept 1993 – May 1994)
  • Season 4 – Comprised of 26 episodes (Sept 1994 – May 1995)
  • Season 5 – Had 26 episodes (Set 1995 – May 1996)
  • Season 6 – Was made up of 25 episodes (Sept 1996 - May 1997)
  • Season 7 – Had 25 episodes (Sept 1997 – May 19)
  • Season 8 - Had 28 episodes (Sept 1998 – May 25th)
Home improvement Storyline
The Taylor family is centered on Tim (Tim Allen), his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson), and their three children: Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) (Taran Noah Smith). The Taylors live in suburban Detroit and have a friend named Wilson (Earl Hindman) who is often called upon to solve the Taylors' problems.
Tim is a stereotypical American man who enjoys power tools, automobiles, and sports. Tim, an ardent fan of the Detroit professional sports teams, often wears Lions, Pistons, Red Wings, and Tigers clothes, and many plots revolve around the teams. He is a former salesman for the fictitious Binford Tool company, and he is a cocky, overconfident, accident-prone know-it-all.
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Image source: DirectTV
Tim, who is witty but flippant, cracks a lot of jokes, even at inappropriate times, much to his wife's chagrin. Tim, on the other hand, can be serious when necessary. Jill, Tim's mom, is caring and sophisticated, but she, too, makes mistakes. Later in the series, she returns to college to study psychology.

The Taylors' family life is raucous, with the two oldest brothers, Brad and Randy, tormenting the much younger Mark, all while constantly testing and pestering each other. Such play was particularly prevalent in the first three seasons and was only rarely repeated until Jonathan Taylor Thomas left at the start of the eighth season. Due to Randy's absence during the show's final season, Brad and Mark grew closer.

Brad, who was successful and athletic, was often the moving factor, engaging before thought, a habit that frequently got him into trouble. Randy, a year younger, was the pack's comic, known for his quick wit, wisecracks, and sharp tongue. He was more level-headed than Brad, but he wasn't prone to misfortune. Mark was a mama's boy who developed into a teenage outcast who dressed in black clothing later in the series (in the seventh season). Meanwhile, Brad, like his father, became interested in cars and began playing soccer. Randy entered the school drama club and later the school newspaper before leaving for Costa Rica in the eighth season.

Wilson was often seen standing on the other side of Tim's backyard fence as the two conversed, usually with Wilson providing wise advice as Tim struggled with his problems in the early seasons. Later seasons saw the creation of a running gag in which increasingly inventive methods were used to keep Wilson's face below the eyes from ever being seen by the viewer. Wilson's full name was revealed to be Wilson W. Wilson, Jr. in later seasons.

Home Improvement: Tool Time.
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Tim's own Binford-sponsored home improvement show, Tool Time, is featured in each episode as a show-within-a-show. Tim is joined in hosting this show by his friend and mild-mannered co-host Al Borland (Richard Karn), as well as a "Tool Time girl"—first Lisa (Pamela Anderson) and later Heidi (Debbe Dunning)—whose main job is to introduce the pair at the start of the show with the line "Does everyone know what time it is?" "TOOL TIME!" shouts the crowd in response. Tim and Al are also helped by the Tool Time kid, who brings them tools during the show.

Tim, despite being discovered to be an outstanding salesman and TV personality, is a spectacularly accident-prone handyman, often causing major disasters on and off the stage, much to the chagrin of his coworkers and family. Many Tool Time audiences believe that the incidents on the show are staged on purpose to highlight the effects of inappropriate tool use. Many of Tim's mishaps are the result of his instruments being used in an unconventional or overpowered manner, in order to demonstrate his motto "More strength!" This famous catchphrase will not be spoken again after the seventh season of Home Improvement until Tim's final line in the series finale, which is the last two words ever spoken.

The show Tool Time was created as a spoof of the PBS home-improvement show This Old House. Tim and Al are caricatures of This Old House's two main cast members, host Bob Vila and master carpenter Norm Abram. Al Borland has a beard and often wears plaid shirts when taping an episode, as Norm Abram did on This Old House. Bob Vila appeared on several episodes of Home Improvement as a guest star, and Tim Allen and Pamela Anderson also appeared on Bob Vila's show Home Again.

Tool Time theme song
The Tool Time theme song, an early 1960s-style saxophone-dominated instrumental rock tune, was sometimes used as the closing theme music for Home Improvement, particularly when the blooper scenes that took place during the taping of a Tool Time segment were seen behind the credits.
The only thing I wonder about the series now (aside from the possibility of an official revival) is who from Home Improvement had the best career advancements since it ended in 1999. So, do you have any idea what it is? No, it's not Tool Time, but it is time to look back at the cast members of the hit show to see what has been on their to-do list since, beginning with "The Tool Guy."

Home Improvement TV Sitcom Cast and Characters.

Have you ever wondered what these characters are up to right now? I had to do some digging recently. Here is what I found out:

Tim Taylor (Tim Allen)
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The transformation of the acclaimed stand-up comic from convicted drug trafficker to beloved comedy star is one of Hollywood's most interesting redemption tales. He would not only become sitcom royalty on Home Improvement, but he would also voice Buzz Lightyear in four Toy Story films, play Jason “Commander Taggart” Nesmith in Galaxy Quest, and play Old Saint Nick himself in The Santa Clause trilogy.

Even though his most-recent sitcom, Last Man Standing (which recently had a surreal Home Improvement crossover episode), will end after nine seasons in 2021, the 67-year-career old's is far from over. Following that, he is bringing his Tool Time roots to life as the producer of the History Channel's new game show, Assembly Required, which he co-hosts with a familiar face I will mention shortly.

He is left-handed, but he does most of his work with his right hand. Taylor's "arch-rival," as it were, is real-life home improvement expert Bob Vila. Tim competed against Bob Vila in a lawnmower race for charity in one episode.
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Tim mounted a jet engine on his rig, which resulted in unintended confusion and devastation. Tim co-hosts the home improvement show Tool Time with his friend and co-host Al Borland. Tim's co-host, Al, is regularly reminded of safety regulations and procedures.

Tim often disregards Al's guidance, which often results in an accident. Although it is often stated that Tool Time is a small local home improvement show that is transmitted at a high frequency on the channel dial, Tool Time appears to have a very large audience in the state of Michigan and is gradually being broadcast to more outlets across the Midwest (A season 5 episode has Tim, Al, and Bud brainstorming for ideas on how to bring the show into the Chicago markets).
Tim always brags about his success as the show's host, despite the fact that many viewers prefer Al. A running joke includes people running into Tim in public and saying, "Oh, we still watch Tool Time...we love Al," to which an irritated Tim would sarcastically respond, "Oh yeah, we all love Al." In later seasons, it is revealed that Tim actually has a larger fan base than Al (except in a Season 8 episode, where Al scores higher than Tim on a popularity poll).

Jill Taylor (Patricia Richardson)
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Photo Courtesy: Fandom
Patricia Richardson, a four-time Emmy nominee, was a guest star on Last Man Standing before Tim Allen returned as Tim Taylor. The early Scream Queen nominee known for cult horror classics such as C.H.U.D. and Christmas Evil was originally the second option to play Jill Taylor after an unaired pilot starring Frances Fisher tested poorly.

Since the end of Home Improvement, the now 70-year-old actress has played a doctor on Lifetime Network's Strong Medicine, Alan Alda's campaign manager on The West Wing's final season, and has often appeared in guest spots on TV or straight-to-video and low-budget movies. She can next be seen in the drama Barely Afloat alongside Henry Thomas and Corbin Bernsen, and she is currently working on a documentary called Appropriate Limits about health and environmental issues surrounding a Tennessee nuclear fuel plant.

Jill comes from a powerful military family and also uses her upbringing to settle family disputes. Her father served as a Colonel in the United States Army and is referred to as such. Jill has four sisters, Robin, Carrie, Tracy, and Linda, all of whom have appeared. (A fifth child, Katie, was mentioned briefly by Jill's mother in the season 2 episode "Much Ado About Nana" and again in the season 4 episode "Quibbling Siblings," but she was never mentioned again.) She always seems to be distressed by the fact that she is the only female in a family of three sons and no daughter.

She seems to be closest to her youngest son, Mark, as she mentions many times that Mark is the only one who is still open-minded enough to consider Jill's preferences rather than being the stereotypical "child." Jill begins the series with a temporary job at a magazine, and later in the series, she is a psychology student. She also does a lot of volunteer work, especially for the local library.

Jill is a passionate feminist who loves opera, theater, and ballet. She attempts to be involved in sports and tools on occasion, but she still ends up relating to her husband because of his buried sensitivity. Jill sees it as her duty to persuade Tim, Brad, Randy, and Mark to do the right thing. When Jill is upset, she refers to any or all of her sons, as well as Tim, by their full names.
Jill enjoys "match-making," with varying degrees of success, as she did set up Al and Ilene, who were together for a few seasons, and Wilson and one of her professors in another fruitful relationship. She also has a thing for cars, driving an Austin-Healey 3000 (which Tim despises because he doesn't understand British wiring) and a cherry red Chevy Bel-Air Nomad at various times; in two unforgettable episodes, Jill is angry with Tim for driving her Healey without permission and wrecking her Nomad. In other unforgettable scenes, Jill is furious at Tim as he refers to her as a "old Hen" on TV and when she discovers he purchased $4,000 worth of Detroit Pistons game tickets.

Brad Taylor (Zachery Ty Bryan)
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Since allegedly walking away from acting after playing Thor in a SyFy original film based on the Norse legend in 2009, Zachary Ty Bryan, who played the eldest brother of the Taylor clan, has been focusing on producing. Between that and the 1999 finale of Home Improvement, he appeared in a few notable films (including the notorious sequels The Rage: Carrie 2 and The Quick and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) and made strong guest appearances on shows such as Touched By an Angel, Veronica Mars, and Burn Notice, to name a few.

Now 39, the actor has a few projects in the works, including the comic crime series Pistol Whipped and Finding 52, a whale documentary partially funded by Leonardo DiCaprio that has been in the works for several years. Unfortunately, Zachery Ty Bryan was most recently in the headlines after his arrest in October 2020 for reportedly strangling his mother.

He is the only one who has had a run-in with the cops (after throwing bricks at windows in an abandoned greenhouse) and was once caught with marijuana in his possession, which he confessed to smoking. Brad, on the other hand, was the only Taylor son to co-host an episode of Tool Time, as well as the one seen doing the most extensive work on Tim's Hot Rod, and is the son with whom Tim most easily connects.

Despite his struggles with schoolwork, he has exceptional athletic ability, especially in soccer. Throughout the series, he was presented with various opportunities to pursue a soccer career, including an invitation to play for a professional team in England (the fictitious Birmingham Chubbs). When his parents declined to encourage him to forego college to play professional soccer, this was denied. Despite a knee injury that threatened to end his athletic career later in the series, he received a college scholarship to UCLA. Brad has a strong attraction to women, including a minor crush on Heidi Keppert from Tool Time. Brad and Tim enjoy restoring vintage automobiles.

Brad and Randy got along well, particularly early on in the show. They are often seen working together to tease Mark, trying to cover up Brad's acts to keep him out of trouble, or just hanging out. Brad and Mark don't have much in common until they're older, especially in the eighth season when they form a strong bond while Randy is away in Costa Rica.

Randy Taylor (Jonathan Taylor Thomas)
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Unfortunately, we haven't read much about Jonathan Taylor Thomas in the news in a long time. But I can assure you that it is not for any contentious purposes.

As he explained to People in 2013, Home Improvement's breakout child actor (best known as the voice of Young Simba in 1993's The Lion King) just wanted a break from fame after making it big so young. That same year, JTT made his first of four guest appearances on Last Man Standing, the last of which also starred Patricia Richardson, and has even directed a few episodes of the sitcom.

Randy is the most level-headed member of the family, but since he is intelligent, he is often susceptible to greed, envy, cynicism, and, on occasion, prejudice. Randy inherited his father's disdain and mockery of something he has no interest in, such as ballet and opera, which ironically puts him at odds with Tim, because Randy has no interest in cars and tools. Randy is the Taylor son who has the least regard for his father.
He once referred to his father's display as "Fool Time," and likened him to an ape. Randy immediately called Tool Time a dumb show and acted hostile toward Tim and Brad when Tim brought Brad on. During high school, he wrote a school article that turned many adults against Tim for Binford's pollution record, endangering his father's reputation, and he was vehemently opposed to Brad's jockish article winning the front page, which was normally occupied by Randy's papers. He does, however, mend his relationships with them after realizing his mistake. Randy, unlike Tim and Brad, is not good with his hands and dislikes working on crafts or the Hot Rod. Instead, he often communicates with his mother, with whom he shares his intellect and love of acting.

Randy departs for Costa Rica (along with Lauren, who stayed in a nearby town) during the show's eighth season, reappearing in just one episode when he returns for Christmas. Randy felt that so much had changed in his absence that he no longer fit in with the family on that occasion, though confiding in Wilson helped.

Brad and Randy were introduced as "partners in crime" early in the season. Though they argued like any other sibling, they bonded over their shared enjoyment of teasing Mark. Randy became more focused on school and social problems, while Brad became more focused on sports and girls as they grew older.

Randy and Mark initially only got along when they were together against Brad, but things changed somewhat as they grew older.

Mark Taylor (Taran Noah Smith)
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Photo Courtesy: mirror.co.uk
Taran Noah Smith's story is somewhat similar to that of his onscreen older brother, with the exception of landing a job starring in or directing an episode of Last Man Standing. Despite receiving a Young Artist Award for his work on Home Improvement, he realized at the age of 16 that acting was not for him, and walked away from the industry with just six credits to his name.

Taran Noah Smith, on the other hand, would quickly regain media attention after marrying 33-year-old vegan chef Heidi van Pelt when he was 17, only to divorce and leave their food manufacturing business six years later. His new work as a submarine pilot instructor was revealed in July 2019 when the sight of his own sub sparked doubt in Monterey Bay.

AI Borland (Richard Karn)
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Al Borland, Tim Taylor's Tool Time assistant, was obviously more capable and worthy of becoming the show's true host, and I still felt bad for him. As a result, it was fun to see Richard Karn (sort of) live out the dream by succeeding Louie Anderson as the face of Family Feud from 2002 to 2006.

As an actor, the 65-year-old has most recently and notably appeared on the Hulu original comedy PEN15 as Maya Erskine's onscreen father, Fred Peters, and he has also appeared on Last Man Standing a few times with his friend and Home Improvement co-star Tim Allen. The former Tool Time co-hosts, on the other hand, are gearing up for the ultimate reunion soon for the similarly themed upcoming History Channel game show, Assembly Needed.

Heidi Keppert (Debbe Dunning)
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When it comes to Assembly Needed, I'm curious if the show would include Debbe Dunning, also known as Tool Time's female assistant and announcer Heidi Keppert. The actress (whose most well-known role outside of the sitcom is arguably the fourth installment of the Leprechaun franchise, set in space) shares several similarities with her Home Improvement character, including becoming a successful model, a corporate spokesperson, and becoming a mother during the sixth season.

After Home Improvement, she took on less acting parts, including a recurring appearance on the Fox drama Wicked Wicked Games in the mid-to-late 2000s. She was most recently the host and creator of the reality show Debbe Dunning's Dude Ranch Roundup, in which she traveled the country in search of the best dude ranches.

Lisa (Pamela Anderson)
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It's easy to forget that Heidi, played by Debbe Dunning, wasn't the only Tool Girl on Tool Time. Lisa, Pamela Anderson's breakout TV spot, previously held that position for the first two seasons of Home Improvement.

Of course, she would quit the sitcom after finding success as Los Angeles lifeguard C.J. Parker on Baywatch, a role she would also reprise in the iconic series' 2017 film reboot. These days, the Candian-American former Playboy model and actress is best known for her activism with various causes, such as animal rights, AIDS awareness, and the freedom of her friend Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

Wilson W. Wilson (Earl Hindman)
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No family sitcom is complete without a quirky, but always helpful and welcoming, next-door neighbor and no one played that role better than Wilson on Home Improvement. Earl Hindman, who previously appeared in films such as the 1985 western Silverado and TV dramas such as Ryan's Hope, played the smart, ancient, and enigmatic supporting character.

In 2004, the actor's iconic Home Improvement role won him the TV Land Award for Favorite Heard-But-Not-Seen Character. Unfortunately, it would have been approved posthumously because Earl Hindman died the previous year of lung cancer at the age of 61.

As much as the thought of a true Home Improvement reunion with the rest of the central cast appeals to me, I can't imagine it ever feeling the same without Earl Hindman as Wilson W. Wilson. However, the recent crossover with Last Man Standing, as well as Tim Allen and Richard Karn's forthcoming competition season, maybe all that fans of the long-running sitcom need in terms of a revival.

Final Thoughts.

Honestly, I don’t know about you, but personally, am really waiting for the reunion shoe for Home Improvement. It will be a great trip back memory lane to see the awesome cast and characters come together.

What about you? Do you still have memories of the show?

Would you wish to see the reunion show for Home improvement?
 

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