Home Improvement: The Drama Behind One Of America’s Biggest Shows
Home Improvement was a television sitcom that aired on ABC from September 1991 to May 1999 that entertained Americans with 204 episodes. It won many awards and was noted to be one of the most watched sitcoms during the eight seasons. The show launched the stand-up comic, Tim Allen’s career, as well as Pamela Anderson, in her reoccurring guest role.
Tim Allen played an accident prone host of a television program about tools with his co-host Al, who was the brunt of Tim’s jokes throughout his program. Tim as the Tool Man was only a short portion of the show, the main story line Tim managing his family. Tim’s wife, Jill (Richardson) and their three boys, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas or JTT), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). The family had a neighbor, Wilson Wilson (Earl Hindman) famous for giving advice like a psychiatrist to the household members with most of his face hidden by props for all episodes outside of the series finale.
The cast was portrayed as one big happy family, but as with most families, they weren’t without their issues and interesting facts behind the scenes and beyond the show’s heyday.
On the show, Tim Allen’s character was portrayed as someone who followed the rules, outside of trying to create more power from power tools. He was ranked #20 on the list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” because his character played such a good father role model. Behind the scenes, Tim Allen’s past was not so clean. In May 1977, he was arrested for drinking and driving and in 1978; he spent 28 months incarcerated for a drug dealing charge.
Initially, Frances Fisher was cast in the role of Jill, but she was found to be too stoic for the audience and was recast at the last minute with Patricia Richardson.
Richardson did not like the one-dimensional character Jill initially, so she went to work on the producers and writers to create a more dynamic character and become a more integral character for the show.
Richardson started her television career with commercial ads for brands like Lipton, Jell-O, and Kraft foods. Home Improvement became her break to make her a household name.
Richard Karn landed the role of Al on the show completely by accident. While on the way to rehearse for a production of Macbeth, he ran a stop sign and ticketed. During traffic school, he met an agent who helped him score an audition for the part.
The Binford Tools brand featured on the show became so popular that people would ask for the brand in hardware stores to buy their tools. Binford Tools was later featured in Toy Story where Tim Allen was cast as Buzz Lightyear.
JTT, Randy from the show, left the show to pursue his education. He did not show for the final episode as promised, and the creator of the show believed this was due to persuasion by “his people,” who brainwashed him into believing it would not be good for his career.
Taran Noah Smith was the son of Tim and Patricia in Home Improvement. His mother wrote a book on how to nurture your child that makes it in the entertainment business. The advice book may have been lost on Smith because later in life he had to deal with his ex-wife and business partner by filing a lawsuit and a temporary injunction against her. He accused her of mishandling funds from their business by moving the money into her own business.
After the show ended, Tim Allen had a stalker scare in 2002. A 34-year-old male stole his custom 1996 Chevy Impala, driving it from LA to Denver, and later claimed to be Allen’s adopted son.
At one point, the producers thought about making the show into a film where Tim and Jill split up, and Tim would dress as a nanny to take care of the children. Sound familiar? The idea wasn’t made into a film for the cast of Home Improvements because Tim Allen rejected the idea. The storyline went on to create the popular movie Mrs. Doubtfire.
The series would have gone for nine seasons, but Tim Allen, who was offered $50 million, and Patricia Richardson, was offered half as much. Richardson wanted to be paid the same amount. Allen reported he loved the show but did not want it to be just about the money, so decided to leave and Home Improvement ended with the eighth season.