Tim Allen built a very successful career as a stand-up comedian at the outset of the 1990’s, largely through a routine devoted to exploring the average man’s need to be ‘macho’ through acting tough and becoming an expert on home repairs. His humor had great appeal with the audience (the great, power-drill-wielding masses), making him an ideal candidate for television stardom. In fact, ABC had such confidence in Allen, they made him the star of a show that made him the star of a show.
Home Improvement cast Allen as Tim Taylor, the host of a very popular local cable show called Tool Time in his native Detroit. On the show, “The Toolman” dispensed fix-it tips and proposed ideas for home-improving projects. More often than not, his suggestion for any problem was to give the tool/device in question “more power!” Tim also added spice to the show with a “Tool Time Girl,” a role initially played by future Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.
However, Tim didn’t seem so invincible when he was home. In fact, it was revealed that the repair skills he displayed on the show were a television creation, and he was more than a bit clumsy when trying to do repairs around the house. Usually, he destroyed tools by trying to rewire them or boost their power. For instance, he tried to soup up the lawnmower in “Mow Better Blues,” but the “fixes” accidentally made it run in reverse and ended up crashing it.
He had a similar amount of trouble in dealing with the outside world, especially the subjects of women and children. Thus, his smart and ever patient wife Jill had to keep him out of trouble and be the one in charge. Also in the mix were Tim and Jill’s three sons: Brad (the eldest), Randy (the middle), and Mark (the youngest). All experienced plenty of growing pains, forcing Tim to “act mature” long enough to give them the advice they needed—even a very uncomfortable “birds and bees” talk with Brad in one episode.
Other regulars included Al Borland, Tim’s assistant on Tool Time, and Wilson, Tim’s wise next-door neighbor. Al often found his role on Tim’s show frustrating, because he actually knew how to do repairs but was always overshadowed on camera by Tim. Wilson was always on hand to dispense advice to Tim when he needed it. This was always done from behind Wilson’s backyard fence, which obscured the lower portion of his face. Wilson’s full face was never shown until the final episode of the show, forcing the show’s makers to find clever ways to obscure Wilson’s face.
The show’s plotlines usually had Tim trying to learn how to be a better husband and father while keeping up the success of Tool Time. Allen’s comedy skills were the glue that held the show together, and the episodes offered him plenty of room to act out his famous faux-macho schtick. Things were usually kept on a light, comedic level, but every now and then the show used a dramatic storyline for variety. One of the most memorable was “The Longest Day,” in which the family thought Randy might have cancer and spent an agonizing day waiting for the results of a medical test.
Home Improvement drew a big audience from the very beginning. In fact, it was the most popular new show of the 1991-92 season and continued to draw high ratings for many years. The show also went into syndication in the middle of its network run, thus becoming popular as both a first-run and a second-run attraction. It ended its network run in May of 1999 after eight successful seasons but continues to be seen in syndication. Allen has moved on to a cinematic career, acting in features like The Santa Clause and Galaxy Quest, but he will always be remembered for creating the ultimate macho-man parody through his character on Home Improvement.
USA / ABC – Wind Dancer Prod – Touchstone / 160+x25 minute episode 1×50 minute episode / Broadcast 17 September 1991 – 25 May 1999
Creator: Carmen Finestra, David McFadzean, Matt Williams / Producers: Gayle S. Maffeo, John Pasquin, Billy Riback, Maxine Lopiduss,
TIM ALLEN as Tim Taylor
PATRICIA RICHARDSON as Jill Taylor
EARL HINDMAN as Wilson Wilson
ZACHERY TY BRYAN as Bradley Taylor
JONATHAN TAYLOR THOMAS as Randy Taylor
TARAN NOAH SMITH as Mark Taylor
RICHARD KARN as Al Borland
PAMELA ANDERSON as Lisa (1991-92)
DEBBIE DUNNING as Heidi (from 1993-)
JESSICA WESSON as Jennifer (1991-93)