Does everyone know what time it is? IT’S TOOL TIME! Home Improvement was a beloved sitcom from the 90’s and the show that made Tim Allen’s name known. It will definitely make you feel old to know that it aired for the first time 25 years ago! The show kept Americans entertained for 8 years with the silliness of Tim “the toolman” Taylor, his sarcastic wife Jill, his laidback co-worker Al, and his mysterious neighbor, Wilson. There is a lot you might not know about this ABC sitcom, especially about the teenage heartthrob, Jonathan Taylor Thomas! Find out more after the jump.
1. The show launched Pamela Anderson’s career
The model launched her acting career after she was cast as the Tool Time girl, Lisa on Home Improvement. This was after Pamela Anderson was quite known for her modeling, especially after she appeared on the cover of Playboy and was the Playmate of the Month. Guess that is why she made the perfect eye candy for Tim Taylor’s Tool Time show!
The actress only stayed for two seasons before she was cast in Baywatch as C. J. Parker and on the show, it stated that Lisa went to go train to be a paramedic. Anderson did come back to Home Improvement to reprise her role for the 6th season finale, The Kiss and the Kiss-off in 1997.
2. Debbe Dunning replaced Pamela Anderson
After Pamela Anderson left, the actress Debbe Dunning was cast as the new Tool Time girl named Heidi Keppert. She introduced the show and was Tim and Al’s assistant for 6 seasons. Dunning’s first episode was Maybe Baby in season 3 and audiences loved her the second Tool Time girl.
In the beginning, her character was a minor role but in the last two seasons, she was considered part of the main cast. Dunning appeared on Home Improvement from 1993 to 1999, in 148 of the show’s 204 episodes. Impressive!
3. Ashley Judd didn’t get the role as Tool Time girl because she was too talented
Before the role went to Pamela Anderson, the creators wanted the actress Ashley Judd to play the Tool Time girl and one of the creators, Matt Williams loved her audition. Yet, she didn’t cast because they actually felt that she was too talented to play such a minor role.
Williams stated, “I called her agent and told him that she was so good, we would find a way to incorporate her into the series, period.” They ended up writing up the role of Tim’s sister for her but Judd declined. Her agent said that she was “not ready to go into television right now. She thinks she has a feature career.”
4. Tim Allen sacrificed starring in Turner and Hooch and Dead Poets Society to get his own sitcom
Before Home Improvement was even created, Disney executives gave Tim Allen the opportunity to star in two TV versions of Turner and Hooch and Dead Poets Society. The actor, however, turned down both roles because he felt that the shows were “preparing for failure.”
Instead, the actor got his own sitcom TV show produced by Disney on the ABC network. The creator of Roseanne, Matt Williams was hired for the job, and the rest is silver screen history. Oh, and those Turner and Hooch and Dead Poets Society TV remakes? They never happened.
5. Frances Fisher was the original Jill
The first pilot episode was filmed in April 1991 and Patricia Richardson was not the actress playing Jill. Frances Fisher was originally cast as Tim’s wife, Jill Taylor but the audience didn’t seem to like her in the test run because she wasn’t comedic enough.
Fisher was already known for playing serious roles such as Ruth DeWitt Bukater in Titanic or Strawberry Alice in Unforgiven. The producers tried to get Fisher to be less serious with her lines but in the end, the role of Jill was recast.
6. Allen was only allowed to wear clothes from schools in Michigan
Actor Tim Allen was born in Colorado but eventually moved to Michigan, which he considers his home state. That is why on the show, Tim’s character is always wearing shirts from schools in that state. There was a rule that only those colleges and universities would get the free advertising.
All of Allen’s clothes on the show came from colleges and universities who sent the studio shirts and sweatshirts. Considering Home Improvement had 204 episodes, Allen could have opened his own clothing store! That’s a whole lot of shirts and sweatshirts.
7. The show was originally called Hammer Time
When Fisher filmed that first pilot episode, the show was actually called Hammer Time. It was supposed to be an ode to MC Hammer’s catchphrase and it was also going to be the name of Tim’s show on Home Improvement.
Tim Allen, Carmen Finestra, David McFadzean and Matt Williams started collaborating on the show in the summer of 1990 until they eventually changed the name a year later. The name was to symbolize fixing problems at home with the family and also, the house itself.
8. There was only one exception to Allen’s Michigan jersey rule and it was an accident
In an episode in 1996 titled “Al’s Video,” Tim is seen wearing a Wofford College sweatshirt. Wofford is a college in Spartanburg, South Carolina and yet, the costume department supervisor made the mistake of allowing the clothing to be worn.
The costume supervisor, Valerie Levin-Cooper later said, “Someone is supposed to double-check and verify the school is in Michigan. Obviously, someone didn’t do their job. Wofford got lucky.” They never let such mistakes happen again after that! Talk about drama.
9. Home Improvement was based on Tim Allen’s stand-up comedy
When Tim Allen was 25-years-old, he was arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover cop. It took 8 months before he was sentenced to two years in federal prison and during that time, he started doing stand-up comedy in a Detroit club, the Comedy Castle.
After the comedian got it, he continued to do stand-up comedy, becoming a regular performer at The Comedy Store in LA. Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner and Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg saw one of his acts and loved it, and the rest is history!
10. Jonathan Taylor Thomas quit the show in the final season and Allen wasn’t happy
In the 8th season, we saw Randy Taylor leave for Costa Rica to do an environment study in the 1998 episode, Adios. The real reason, however, was that Jonathan Taylor quit the show so he could focus more on his studies and Allen wasn’t all that happy about it.
He told TV Guide in an interview, “He said it was about going to school, but then he did some films,” so obviously Allen thought he left for other reasons. Thomas didn’t appear in the series finale, but he did come back for the final season’s holiday episode, “Home for the holidays.”
11. Wilson’s full name was Wilson W. Wilson
The running joke on the show is that we never get to see Tim’s neighbor, Wilson’s face. All we usually see is the top of his head and eyes. Actually, actor Earl Hindman didn’t mind playing a role that would never show his face!
We knew him as Wilson, the neighbor that would give his wisdom to each family member when they needed it, and they sure needed it. Fun fact: while he is always referred to as Wilson, his real name is actually Wilson W. Wilson.
12. The Tool Time audience was the same studio audience used for Home Improvement
Home Improvement had a show-within-a-show and Tim Allen, AKA Tim Taylor was the host of the show, Tool Time. In each episode, we could see Tool Time’s studio audience and Tim often interacted with them throughout the show. But that audience wasn’t made out of mere extras.
Tool Time’s audience was actually the studio audience that came to see the tapings of Home Improvement! People loved to be part of the studio audience because Allen was known to use some “off-color language” and improv. It must have been hilarious.
13. Tool Time was based on the PBS home-improvement show This Old House
If you were a fan of home improvement shows, you might have noticed that Tool Time was vaguely familiar. It was actually supposed to be a parody of the PBS home-improvement show This Old House, that aired for an incredible 39 seasons.
Tim and Al are supposed to versions of Bob Vila, the host and Norm Abram, the master carpenter. Al even wore plaid shirts and sported a beard, which was definitely inspired by Abram. Bob Vila was a guest on Home Improvement several times and Allen and Anderson were guests on his show!
14. The Great Race episode took a lot of work to make
One of the episodes that legendary This Old House host Bob Vila appeared in was “The Great Race II” in season three, which was part two of “The Great Race” from season two. This time, Tim challenges Vila to a hot rod race, rather than a lawn mowing one.
To film this episode, the producers had to shut down a Burbank Airport runway to film that iconic scene. Considering Burbank Airport serves over 2 million people a year, just imagine what it takes to shut down one of the runways!
15. John Bedford Lloyd dropped out because he didn’t want to hide his face
When John Bedford Lloyd auditioned for Home Improvement, he was considered for both the role of playing Tim’s Tool Time assistant and his neighbor, Wilson. Eventually, he was given the latter but the actor didn’t realize what kind of character he would be playing.
When he found out that Wilson stays hidden behind a fence the whole time, he dropped the role. Lloyd only gave a day’s notice, right before the pilot was supposed to be filmed, so the producers quickly cast Earl Hindman to play Wilson.
16. Richard Karn got involved after he had to go to Traffic School
Richard Karn got the opportunity to audition to be on the show after he got a ticket for rolling a stop sign. It happened after his Macbeth rehearsal in LA and was required to go to traffic school. There he met an agent who told him about the new show, Home Improvement.
That was when Karn realized he has to snag an audition since he knew a lot of people working on the show. The actor got the role that was supposed to be temporary and ended up staying for all 8 seasons!
17. Wilson’s character was based on Allen’s childhood neighbor
The character of Wilson was actually based on Tim Allen’s own childhood. His childhood home’s yard had a fence around it and because he was too short, he couldn’t see his neighbor’s face when he talked to him. Sounds familiar?
Allen managed to incorporate his old neighbor into the show by having one whose face was never seen! Having a character whose face is hidden is used in a lot of shows but usually animated. But a fence hiding half of his face didn’t stop Wilson from becoming a fan favorite.
18. Wilson’s face was revealed in the final episode
After 8 seasons and a whopping 204 episodes, Wilson’s face was finally revealed to the audience. In the series finale on May 25th, 1999, actor Earl Hindman stepped out during the final curtain call, revealing his face to the world.
The good neighbor Wilson eventually became the character with the most honors and ranked as the #4 unseen TV character on IMDB, among other titles. Home Improvement’s series finale became the fifth highest-rated series finale of the 1990s and 9th overall!
19. There’s a Home Improvement video game
In November 1994, Super Nintendo Entertainment came out with a 2D action platformer video game called Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!. The game’s plot is Tim’s new Binford ultra power tool line goes missing and it is up to you to get them back.
The game consisted of 4 worlds with 4 levels each and you would fight your way through soundstages. The video game was ranked as the #5 worst game based on a TV series. You know what? It probably needed more power.
20. Tim’s phone number on the show has an Illinois area code
A lot of times during Tool Time, Tim would say something offensive and a lot of times it was towards women. When this happened, Al would hold up a cue card with either Tim’s mailing address or phone number, while also reciting where the audience could send him hate mail.
The mailing address was simply the location of the studio in Detroit, Michigan, and the phone number was the oh-so-fitting (815) 555-TOOL. However, it turns out that area code of that number is actually for Northern Illinois, not Michigan. Crafty!
21. The fictional Binford company was named after a screenwriter’s high school friend
In the show, Tim used to be a salesman for the fictional tool company, Binford. This company would eventually be the sponsor for Tool Time and the logo is seen throughout the show as that is where Tim gets his tools from.
The name for the logo was created by one of the screenwriters and it was the name of his old high school friend. WatchMojo.com actually ranked Binford as the #10 fictional brand on TV, and even made an unexpected cameo on Toy Story!
22. Jonathan Taylor Thomas reunited with Tim Allen in Last Man Standing in 2013
The last time Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Tim Allen were seen together on screen was on December 8, 1998. The two had a bit of a falling out after Thomas left and Allen didn’t like that he kept making movies during his “time off.”
15 years later, the two made up and Thomas appeared on his old TV dad’s show, Last Man Standing. On the show, Thomas’ character is a middle child and he says, “A lot of times, that middle child ends up being the funny one becomes he wants the attention.” Sound familiar?
23. Allen and Richardson were offered a lot of money to do a 9th season
When the 8th season of Home Improvement ended, the show still had good ratings so the producers thought about making a 9th season. Tim Allen was offered $50 million to do another season and his co-star, Patricia Richardson was offered just half of that.
Both actors, however, declined the paycheck and understandably, Richardson wasn’t too happy about the suggested half payment. More recently, Richardson made a guest appearance on Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing so fans were able to get a much anticipated reunion.
24. Mrs. Doubtfire was based on an idea for a Home Improvement movie
Since Home Improvement was doing so well, the studio executives thought maybe they should make a move based on it. The storyline was going to be that Jill and Tim got a divorce and the only way he could see his kids is if he disguised himself as a woman nanny.
Hey wait a minute, doesn’t that sound really familiar? Well, Tim Allen didn’t like the idea so it was eventually dropped, but the executives still wanted to use the idea. That is how Robin William’s movie, Mrs. Doubtfire came about!
25. Stephen Tobolowsky was the first Al
Stephen Tobolowsky was the original actor that was set to play the co-host of Tool Time and his character’s name was Glen. At the time when the first pilot was supposed to be filmed, the actor was in the middle of production for a movie he was in but the producers decided to just find someone to fill his shoes while he was gone.
Richard Karn was cast to play Al until Tobolowsky was available but in the end, the original actor dropped out, saying his schedule was too busy. He has no regrets on deciding not to be on Home Improvement, saying, “It turned out to be a very good choice for me.”
26. There’s a joke about Allen’s and Taylor’s Disney characters
In the episode, “I was a teenage Taylor,” it is Halloween and the family pranks each other throughout the episode. In one memorable scene, Randy is giving out candy to two trick or treaters dressed as Simba and Buzz Lightyear.
In the scene, Randy says, “One for the space man, and seven for the cute little lion.” Actually, Tim Allen did the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and Jonathan Taylor Thomas was the voice of Simba in The Lion King!
27. There’s a theory that Toy’s Story and Home Improvement take place in the same universe
Speaking of Toy Story, there is a fan theory that both that movie and Home Improvement take place in the same universe. People concluded this because in one scene where Woody is trapped underneath of a crate, there is a Binford toolbox sitting on top of it.
Also, you may recall that during an episode of Home Improvement, Tim literally states, “I am Buzz Lightyear,” which is true considering he voiced the character. So maybe Tim retired from being a Tool Time host to being a spaceman!
28. There’s a fan theory that Tim Taylor is Jesus
There is also another theory about Home Improvement, where people think that Tim is actually Jesus Christ. The whole thing started after a Reddit user speculated it. According to the Redditor, Tim is very much like Christ as he is a carpender and receives wisdom from a myserious neighbor.
Not only does Tim learn many lessons from his neighbor, but he also teaches them to others and since Wilson is God-like, that would make Tim Jesus. You know what, it would make sense if Tim wasn’t such a goof!
29. A young Michelle Williams appears in an episode
One of Michelle Williams first appearances on TV was on an episode of Home Improvement in 1995. A pre-Brokeback Mountain Williams was on the season 4 episode, “Wilson’s girlfriend” and played Jessica Lutz, a girl Brad goes on a date with.
The actress was 15 at the time and was pretty much unknown. It was also around that that when Williams took on a small role in Step By Step. 3 years later, she would rise to fame as Jen Lindley on the series Dawson’s Creek, and the rest is history.
30. In reality, Randy was older than Brad
On the show, Jill and Tim had three boys, Brad, Randy, and Mark, where Brad was the oldest. In reality, though, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy) was older than Zachery Ty Bryan, who played Brad. He was born on September 8, 1981, a month before Bryan’s birthday, meaning they would have been in the same grade!
Taran Noah Smith, who plays the youngest Taylor, was 3 years younger than his on-set brothers. After Home Improvement, Zachery Ty Bryan took on small roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars. He even had a guest appearance on Reading Rainbow!
31. There was a TV special, Tim Allen Presents: A User’s Guide to Home Improvement in 2003
4 years after the cast said their goodbyes, they reunited in a TV special, Tim Allen Presents: A User’s Guide to Home Improvement. Tim Allen, Richard Karn, Casey Sander (Rock Flanagan), and Debbe Dunning all appeared on the special and it was included on the season 8 DVD set.
Earl Hindman was terminally ill with lung cancer at the time but did do voice-overs, which makes sense since he was never seen anyway.! In the special, we saw some of Allen’s favorite clips, insider’s tips, personal reflections, and a question and answer session with the live audience.
32. At one point, Hilary Clinton was going to be on the show
In 1995, the potential future Presidential candidate was given the idea to appear on the popular sitcom as a guest role. At the time, Hilary Clinton was the first lady and it was thought that appearing on Home Improvement would make her more likable.
Clinton’s press secretary Lisa Caputo contacted then chief-of-staff Maggie Williams saying, “I know this may sound like a wild idea, but I think it is an interesting one to discuss. Rick Kaplan brought to my attention that Home Improvement would very much like to have Hillary make a guest appearance on its show.” In the end, the cameo never happened but the producers were totally “willing to do a show on women, children, and family issues or a show on whatever issues Hillary would like.”
33. Daddy Dearest
Tool Man Tim Taylor was a simple, easy going guy. He lived in the suburbs with his loving wife, Jill, and their three boys. Taylor loved all things boyish–loud power tools, sports and of course, cars. Played by funnyman Tim Allen, Taylor quickly became a fan favorite.
Tim Allen’s performance as Taylor grew increasingly popular in the realm of ’90s sitcoms. So much so that he was ranked #20 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time,” alongside The Cosby Show‘s Cliff Huxtable and Full House‘s Danny Tanner.
34. Last Minute Replacement
Though Patricia Richardson played Jill Allen to perfection, her path to Home Improvement fame wasn’t an easy one. Originally a stage actress, Richardson was suggested to Home Improvement execs by a friend of hers, actor Stephen Tobolowsky, shortly before filming started.
In true Jill Taylor fashion, Richardson’s audition for Home Improvement was held merely three months after she gave birth to twins. Producers thought she was perfect for the role, and so did everybody else–Richardson recieved four Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for her work on the show.
35. Why We Never Got to See Season 9
Home Improvement was hugely popular among fans and still had pretty good ratings when season 8 ended. However, a ninth season was never produced. The reason? Financial issues, of course. As one of the show’s two main characters, Patricia Richardson wanted her paycheck to match co-star Tim Allen’s.
The show’s producers disagreed, and though Tim Allen loved the show that brought him fame, he didn’t want it all to be about the money. The fact that two of the Taylor boys, actors Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Taran Smith, quit the show, didn’t help either.
36. What’s in a Name?
The show had a number of optional titles before Home Improvement was eventually chosen, including Hammer Time and Tool Time. You have to admit, though, that these two titles sound a lot better than “Listen Who’s Hammering.” Yeah, we’re not feeling it either.
The unfortunate moniker, or “Hör mal wer da hämmert,” is the German title given to the show, an allusion to the title of the movie Look Who’s Talking, another ’90s staple starring John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. The connection between the two? We’re not sure either.
37. Not So Handy
Tim Taylor was the ultimate TV presenter–he was funny, loveable and an excellent salesman. When it came to operating power tools, however, the Tool Time host’s desire to always use “more power” as well as his being so accident prone meant things on set got pretty hectic.
But it wasn’t only on set that Tim Taylor’s left-handedness caused him trouble–among his many accidents at home, he managed to fall off the roof, fall through the roof, blow up parts of the house and electrocute himself several times.
38. Surprise Guest
What do Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and Home Improvement all have in common? Dave Chappelle of course! The stand-up comedian’s first official acting gig was in Mel Brooks’ 1993 classic, after which he embarked on a successful acting career.
Chappelle and his real-life friend, comedian Jim Breuer, had a short guest appearance on episode 20, season 4 of Home Improvement, as Tool Time audience members who ask Tim for some relationship advice. Their short stint was so memorable, that ABC decided to give them their own TV show, entitled Buddies.
39. The Mysterious Klaus
When you think about Tool Time, the two main characters that usually come to mind are Tim and Al (and who can forget Lisa and Heidi, the Tool Time girls). But do you remember a Klaus? He was a frequently used name on the Tool Time set.
Whenever Tim asked Klaus to play some music on Tool Time, he was actually talking to Klaus Landberg, an actual person who worked in the Home Improvement production team. Allen’s calling of Klaus eventually became a running gag on set.
40. A Winning Streak
There’s no question Tim Allen was hugely successful during the 1990s. Among his many award nominations, Allen won three People’s Choice Awards and a Golden Globe, and was even nominated for an Emmy. Allen’s success reached its peak during one lucky week in November 1994.
That week, Home Improvement was the #1 rated series on television, his film The Santa Clause was #1 at the box office, and his book, “Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man,” was #1 on the best seller’s list. What a week!
41. The Brand Lives On
We’ve all seen the fictional Binford brand logo strategically placed on both Home Improvement and Toy Story, but actually, that’s not all there was to it. Tim Allen must have liked the fake brand advertised on his show – so much so that he made sure it continued to live on after Home Improvement.
Apparently, Allen liked Binford so much so that he decided to revive it for his next sitcom, Last Man Standing. Although Allen plays a sporting goods store employee that has nothing to do with power tools, many tools seen in Last Man Standing feature the Binford brand. Talk about brand loyalty.
42. The Navy Connection
As daughter of a Navy Veteran, Patricia Richardson was always a huge US military supporter. Co-star Tim Allen is also a great fan of the armed forces. For this reason, Navy troops were invited to sit in a Home Improvement rehearsal, and cast member Jimmy Labriola kept them entertained in between takes.
Tim Allen’s connection with the US Navy didn’t end there. Years later, while filming Last Man Standing, Allen invited a mother and her two young sons onto the set for the Christmas episode, where a special surprise awaited them. The suprise? Petty Officer 1st Class Raymond McKnigh, the family father, was there, hiding inside a christmas present.
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