Home Improvement was a 1990s television sitcom that made an enormous impact on the small screen. The family show gave us a peek into Midwestern suburban life that many could relate to at the time. Tim Allen was the hilarious head of household. He was just barely keeping it together for his wife and sons. It all came together fantastically as it played out onscreen every week.
The show’s formula was successful for years. We saw a lot of Tim Allen and his television family on screen. But there were still some well-kept secrets that were left at the rehearsal table. This list is going to highlight those spectacular facts you never knew existed! It is a great look into an equally great show!
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Wilson Was a Neighbor Tim Had When He Was Younger
Wilson is Tim’s backyard neighbor. He appears in every episode as he offers advice to Tim and family. The funny thing about Wilson is we never get to see his full face. He is always covered from the eyes down by a fence, or some other hilarious object.
The idea of Wilson came to Tim when he was recalling childhood memories. As a child, he had a neighbor who talked to him over his fence. Tim was too small at the time to see his face; he only knew the man from his eyes. He thought this was a great way to include a bit of his youth into his show. It ended up becoming a funny part of the show. Audiences loved Wilson!
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Schools Sent Tim Allen Clothing to Wear on the Show
Tim Allen graduated from Western Michigan. He often wore his alumni shirts and sweatshirts on episodes of the show. He is also proud to be from Michigan. He grew up there and knows it as his true home. If there was a way to show his fans his love for the state, he was going to do it!
Different colleges and universities from Michigan knew Tim was a standup guy who boasted about being from the area. They sent him different apparel for him to wear on Home Improvement. The clothing came from huge universities and even smaller community colleges. Tim was more than happy to wear them. If you watch different episodes over the years, there is a long list of schools he displays.
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Tim Allen Was Offered Millions to Extend His Contract
By the time 1999 rolled around, Home Improvement had been on the air for eight years. It was a huge success and one of the most popular sitcoms ever. ABC was not ready to let the show wrap up even though Tim thought it was time.
They offered Tim $50 million to do one more season of the show! The television executives told him that he was a valued part of their network. They wanted to continue the strong working relationship that they had created. When Tim heard the huge offer, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. While it was a very tempting offer, he decided to turn them down. He felt the show had run its course. It was time to bow out gracefully.
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Earl Hindman Was so Much More than Wilson
Earl Hindman is best known for his role as Wilson on Home Improvement. He loved to play the lovable neighbor who never showed his face. He was the only cast member who wasn’t recognized off set! It allowed him a sense of privacy when he was in the public eye.
Before he took the role of Wilson, Earl acted in other large television and film productions. He played Bob Reid in Ryan’s Hope, and he also acted in Silverado among other shows. He definitely was an industry veteran. Unfortunately, a few years after Home Improvement went off the air, Earl was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was a long-time smoker, and he ended up dying from the disease in 2003. It was a sad ending to such a huge acting talent.
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The Studio Audience Also Played a Part on the Show
The audience that we see on Tim Taylor’s show, Tool Time, are not paid extras. Tim had a better idea than that. He knew he had fans from across the country who came to watch a taping of Home Improvement.
He decided that he wanted to show his appreciation by including them in the show! The Tool Time audience is actually the live studio audience. So, the energy that we see from there is real and definitely not an act. The show’s fans can now have a record of themselves watching the show and also being a part of television history! It was a great way for everyone to come together on set. The shows supporters, cast, and crew were all one according to Tim.
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Patricia Richardson Was Not the First Choice for Jill Taylor
Actress Frances Fisher was originally cast as Jill Taylor on Home Improvement. She is best known for her dramatic works in films such as Titanic and Unforgiven. When it came time to shoot the pilot episode, Frances had a hard time connecting with the audience. They saw her as whiny!
The television executives knew they had to re-cast the role. They let Frances go and hired Patricia Richardson. She had just given birth and wasn’t fully ready to start acting again. But, when she heard about the huge opportunity, she couldn’t say no. She had only seen Tim perform in a short stand-up clip the producers sent to her. It was enough for her to take a chance. There was immediate acting chemistry. They re-shot the pilot and it went on air a few weeks later.
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Tim Allen Turned Down Other Big Job Opportunities Before Home Improvement
Executives came to Tim in the early 1990s with different television opportunities. They liked his style of comedy and thought he was going to be a good fit for Disney. They wanted to create a television version of the hit movie Turner and Hooch. Tim was supposed to play Tom Hank’s character.
Tim did not think that idea was going to go far. He didn’t even think twice about it before he turned it down. The Disney bigwigs did not want to lose the rising star, so they came to him with another idea. They asked him if he could consider a leading role in the television version of Dead Poets Society. Tim thought this had to be a joke! Both ideas sounded like failures. Producers went back to the drawing board and suggested a show centered around Tim and his comedy. Thankfully, that idea was a ‘yes’ for Tim!
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Stephen Tobolowsky Was Supposed to Play Al Borland
Stephen Tobolowsky was an actor who auditioned and snagged the role of Al Borland on the sitcom. At the time, producers didn’t know when they were going to start shooting Home Improvement. Stephen was told it could be January or September. Stephen had to think about his family before he could commit.
The contract was exclusive. Stephen couldn’t act in anything else once he signed on the dotted line. However, his wife was pregnant at the time. Stephen needed a steady stream of income to prepare for his growing family. Producers couldn’t believe he was leaving the show. They had to rush to find a replacement. Richard Karn was quickly picked up, and the sitcom began filming in a couple of months. In recent interviews, Stephen has said he has no regrets. He now has a movie career that he is very proud of.
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Ashley Judd Was in the Running for the Tool Time Girl
Executive producer Matt Williams was impressed when he watched actress Ashley Judd audition for the Tool Time girl role. Matt also thought Ashley was too talented to play such a small role on the show.
So, he called her agent and proposed a deal. He wanted to use Ashley, but he felt she needed to be another character. He was going to write in a sister for Tim Taylor which was going to fit the actress perfectly. To his surprise, Ashley and her agent turned him down. Ashley felt that she was not ready to go down the path of television. She knew she had talent and wanted to try movies instead. Pamela Anderson ended up becoming the original Tool Time girl. The idea for Tim’s sister to be a recurring character was scrapped.
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Zachery Ty Bryan Is Younger than Jonathan Taylor Thomas
On the show, Zachery Ty Bryan plays the oldest brother, Brad. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the middle child, Randy. The characters they portray fit them to a tee. It is almost unbelievable to think that in real life, the ages are not as they seem!
Zachery is actually younger than Jonathan. Even though it is only by one month, they don’t look that close in age when you are watching the show! Taran Noah Smith who plays Mark, is indeed the youngest out of the three, however. If we didn’t know any better, the three of them could pass for real life brothers! That was how good they were on the show. The trio looked up to Tim as not only an actor but a father figure as well.
Home Improvement was ahead of its time! Click ‘Next!’
It Was a Big Deal When Bob Vila Filmed
The Bob Vila episodes were some of the funniest ones to watch. It took a lot of time and effort on the crew’s part to get the scenes right for the real life handy man. For example, there was one episode titled The Hot Rod Race. The show had to close a runway at the Burbank Airport just so they could shoot the racing scene!
Another episode, The Great Lawn Mower Race, was also a huge undertaking. Tim’s character and Bob had a fun race on riding lawn mowers to see who was the better tool man. There were plenty of over the top stunts and props that had to be used to get the show looking perfect. The end result was worth it! Those races are some of the stand out story lines that fans still remember to this day. Who knew Bob was such a great actor?
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Hillary Clinton Almost Appeared as Herself on the Show
In 1995, Hillary Clinton was the First Lady of the United States. Hillary’s press secretary loved Home Improvement. She asked the head of casting if it were possible to have Hillary on the show! The producers couldn’t believe they had this opportunity thrown at them.
They wanted to do a show that focused on family issues or any topic that Hillary holds dear to her heart. After a few months of back and forth, the two sides couldn’t seem to get the scheduling right. The idea had to be dropped as it looked like the discussions were going nowhere. It was a missed opportunity that Tim and the rest of the cast and crew wish they had gone through with.
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There Was a Video Game Named After Home Improvement
Super Nintendo decided to create a video game in 1994 called Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit. The show was so popular, the gaming company wanted a piece of that pie. They quickly came up with the video game idea to fill that void. The video game was simple to play.
Some Binford tools went missing. Tim had to try to find where they went. He walked from studio to studio trying to find the tools. During his search, he had to fight off actors and some creatures who were keeping the hardware hidden. He could only use the tools he had on him to fight back. It was a multi-level game for the die-hard Home Improvement fan!
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Jonathan Taylor Thomas Intentionally Left the Show Before the Final Season
By the time the final season rolled around, Jonathan decided he wanted to focus more on school. He wanted to go to college and get his degree. While he was gone, Time Allen was left confused. He didn’t know if he should believe his reasons for leaving.
In college, Jonathan still accepted a couple of movie roles. Tim took offense to that. He started feeling like Jonathan left the show to further a movie career. Jonathan did return to tape the holiday episode. There was friction between the two. Jonathan didn’t appreciate what Tim had to say to the cast and crew. He valued his television family, but he needed a back-up plan once Home Improvement was done. Thankfully, the rift didn’t last too long. They managed to mend their once tight relationship. Jonathan graduated from Columbia University in 2010.
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Richard Karn Got a Traffic Ticket Which Turned into a Role of a Lifetime
The stars aligned for Richard when he got the audition for Al Borland. He was just leaving a rehearsal for the play Macbeth in Los Angeles. He had rolled through a stop sign and a cop watched him as he drove away.
Richard got a ticket for the driving incident. He also had to go to traffic school. This was where he met an agent who knew all about the Home Improvement casting auditions. He soon realized that he had some insider connections. Those relationships opened up a path to get the try out. Richard wowed the producers with his hilarious take on Tim’s sidekick. When the two men met, they instantly formed a friendship. Richard soon became a part of the all-star cast. In an interview Karn gave a few years back, he was quoted saying that in between shots, he used to hang out with the show’s star, Tim Allen, and that Allen is more serious in real life than what he portrays on the show. He added that after the eight season ended, Tim was ready to leave the show, and nothing would have changed his mind, not even the $50 million he was offered by ABC.
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Home Improvement was Originally Called Hammer Time
Before settling on the name Home Improvement, producers wanted to call the show Hammer Time. It was a play on words that seemed fitting for Tim Allen’s handy man role. It was also a popular phrase that was made popular by music artist MC Hammer.
By the time ABC decided to run with the show, Tim wanted a name change. He had come up with Home Improvement. It not only was a mention to Tim’s line of work on the show, but it also referenced the home life. It was a symbol of fixing family problems. The name stuck after the second episode. Once the show looked like a success, the executives were more than happy to change the name to whatever Tim wanted!
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Al’s Girlfriend Had a Stealthy Name Change
When Al finally got a girlfriend on the show, fans were happy. The lovable character needed someone to play his other half. It was long overdue! When we first saw her, she was named Illene Markum.
Illene was an orthodontist who is sisters with a coworker of Jill’s. She was the perfect fit for Al. The only part producers didn’t like about the role? Her name! In one of the following episodes titled Dream On, the credits spell out her name change. She was now known as Ilene Martin. Everything about her was the same. The reason why the show changed her last name is shrouded in mystery. Home Improvement kept the name Martin going forward. Viewers saw their relationship blossom into an engagement and much more.
Home Improvement is a great show and has given us so much! Click ‘Next!’
Tim Taylor Is a Great Television Dad and We All Know It
As we watched the show for many years, it was clear that television dad Tim Taylor was a great husband and father. He used discipline mixed with a sense of humor in every episode. He raised three boys who respected their parents and were well adjusted.
So many viewers appreciated the way Tim held his household together. When a poll was taken by TV Guide about who the greatest TV dad is, Tim ranked near the top! He was the 20th father listed as the ‘Greatest TV Dads of All Time.’ Many people still agree today that Tim Taylor is a wonderful man! If you watch reruns today, his style of parenting still holds true today. We can all understand how tough it is to raise a family and have a successful career!