Created by Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra (who both produced The Cosby Show) and David MacFadzean, Home Improvement was based on the standup comedy routine of Tim Allen. The show debuted on September 1, 1991 on ABC and became an instant hit, ranking 5th in the Nielsen ratings during the series’ first season, and never leaving the top ten during the show’s entire eight year run.
Tim “The Toolman” Taylor (Tim Allen) is the accident-prone host of Tool Time, based in Detroit Michigan. He spends most of his time teasing his co-host, Al Borland (Richard Karn), unmercifully. Tim is married to Jill (Patricia Richardson) and they are raising three boys, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who left the series at the beginning of the eighth season by going off on an environmental research study in Costa Rica, and Mark (Taran Noah Smith), the youngest son, who grew into an outcast dressed in dark clothing and was prone to sulky behavior.
With its fairly typical husband/wife dynamics and teenage problems to solve, Home Improvement got into a nice, typical comedy groove. There wasn’t one big thing that set Home Improvement apart from the myriad of other comedies on the air in the late nineties. It is the little things that make the series a pleasant memory almost ten years after its final original broadcast – like the Taylor’s next door neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman), whose face was never completely shown, not even in the eighth season opener when he joins Tim on a whitewater rafting trip (Wilson wore a specially designed helmet that hid the same part of his face, as always) or Pamela Anderson and later, Debbie Dunning (as Heidi), who brought unmistakable sex appeal to the show as the Tool Time girls.
In the final season, the perennially single and much maligned Al finally found the woman of his dreams, the very wealthy Trudy. Tim gets jealous when Al gets to star in a TV movie alongside Morgan Fairchild, Brad has to decide whether to play professional soccer in Europe, Jill has surgery, and the fence between Tim and Wilson finally comes down.
I don’t know if I would call Home Improvement a comedy classic the way I would The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Cosby Show or The Dick Van Dyke Show classics, but it’s very easy to see why the series was a fan favorite right out of the gate. Tim Allen is a master at playing the lovable, bumbling idiot and his ability to relate to his wife and kids is an exercise in humor. Al is the perfect straight man for his shtick. Mixed in with all that, there were still touching moments that everyone could relate to.
Season eight of Home Improvement offers 27 episodes:
1.) “Whitewater.” Part Deliverance and part City Slickers, the season opener follows the gang on a whitewater rafting adventure when Jill plans a surprise birthday party for Tim, who’d rather be watching NASCAR in his new recliner.
2.) “Adios.” Randy bids adieu after being accepted into a yearlong environmental study program in Costa Rica. Meanwhile, Tool Time holds auditions for a group to write lyrics to the Tool Time theme music.
3.) “All in the Family.” Jill’s sister and Tim’s brother get a little too friendly – and interrupt Tim and Jill’s plans to spend some intimate time together.
4.) “Taylor Got Game.” Brad must decide whether or not to accept an opportunity to play pro soccer in Europe.
5.) “Al’s Fair Lady.” Tim comes up with a new community fix-up van and takes Tool Time on the road. Meanwhile, Tim and Jill argue over how appropriate it is for Al to accept a gift from his new girlfriend – a new car.
6.) “Bewitched.” It’s Halloween, and at Tim’s insistence, Wilson dumps his girlfriend, who had claimed to be a witch. When Wilson disappears, guess whom the police suspect?
7.) “Not-So-Great Scott.” Jill tells Tim she thinks one of her patients is seeing Heidi’s husband, Scott. Unfortunately, Tim accidentally spills this little tidbit of confidential information to Heidi.
8.) “Tim’s First Car.” While the boys are checking out colleges, Jill decides to try and buy Tim a replica of his first car that finally had to be junked.
9.) “Mr. Likeable.” Tim gets jealous when Al gets to star opposite Morgan Fairchild in a TV movie.
10.) “Thanks, But No Thanks.” Tim invites his brother Marty and his twins to live with him temporarily when he discovers that Marty and his wife Nancy are separated.
11.) “Home for the Holidays.” Randy comes home for the holidays and realizes how much things have changed. Meanwhile, Tim gets into a Christmas light showdown with Al.
12.) “Ploys for Tots.” Tim and Jill try to teach Marty the best way to parent when one of the twins keeps throwing tantrums to get her own way.
13.) “Chop Shop ‘Til You Drop.” When Brad’s first car is stolen, Tim and Al go undercover to try to find out who took it and stripped it for parts.
14.) “Home Alone.” Tim is alone for the weekend so he can write a book for Binford. However, he is distracted by dreams of fame and fortune. Oprah, Jay Leno, Leeza Gibbons, and Michael Eisner guest star.
15.) “Knee Deep.” When Brad messes up his knee tripping over a carpet while Tool Time is filming at the house, Mark blames his dad. Magicians Penn & Teller guest star.
16.) “Mark’s Big Break.” Tim commissions Mark to make a video to celebrate the completion of his hot rod. When Tim is disappointed with the result, Mark films a new version – with a dance number set to “Greased Lightning.”
17.) “Young at Heart.” The plans for Tim and Jill’s 19th wedding anniversary go awry when Tim is caught in a compromising position with his new female mechanic.
18.-19.) “Love’s Labour Lost,” Parts 1 & 2. Jill needs an emergency hysterectomy, but things turn much more serious than expected.
20.) “Neighbors.” When Wilson wins a bunch of money and decides to build a greenhouse, Tim gets angry because it blocks his view.
21.) “A Hardware Habit to Break.” Harry announces that he is retiring and selling the hardware store. Tim organizes a fundraising party for the store, but ends up buying it himself. Tim turns out to be a failure at retail.
22.) “Loose Lips and Freudian Slips.” When Jill criticizes her psychology professor, it could come back to haunt her.
23.) “Trouble-a-Bruin.” Bud mandates that no non-Binford products are to be used on the show. Brad has to decide whether or not to play soccer earlier than he is scheduled to when he has an opportunity to play in front of a UCLA scout.
24.) “Dead Weight.” Al deals with the death of his mother.
25. – 26.) “The Long and Winding Road,” Parts 1 & 2. The show’s new producer decides it’s Jerry Springer time rather than just plain old Tool Time, and Tim hangs it up. Meanwhile, Jill is offered a job — in another state — and Wilson and Tim decide to take down the fence to make room for Al’s wedding.
27.) “Backstage Pass.” A clip show features interviews, bloopers, and Wilson’s facial unveiling.
Home Improvement: The Complete Eighth Season is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
The DVD set includes Tim Allen Presents: A User’s Guide to Home Improvement, which originally aired in May of 2003, where the comedian co-hosts the show with Richard Karn and brings Debbie Dunning along for the ride as well. Allen tries out some standup material and takes questions from the live audience. The set also includes a blooper reel.
Home Improvement fans will definitely want to add season eight to their DVD collections.Powered by Sidelines