Lots of trends in TV come and go, but one type of show that never goes away is the sitcom. For decades, simple, entertaining comedies have been some of the most popular shows on TV, and it’s not a coincidence. Audiences love the more stripped-down characters, and there’s something very appealing about a problem that can be easily solved in less than 30 minutes. Why isn’t real life like that?
Today we’re throwing it back to the ’90s, and one of the best sitcoms ever: Home Improvement. This show had all the tools (pun intended) for success, and it thrived for eight seasons, often being the highest-rated show in the country. It had beloved child stars, a knockout lead performance from Tim Allen, and a cast of supporting characters that everyone grew to love. Let’s take a look at some behind-the-scenes facts you might now know about Tim and the Tool Time gang.
18. The Show Was Developed Around Tim Allen’s Stand-up Comedy Persona
Tim Allen began his career as a comedian way back in 1975, but he didn’t become famous overnight. In fact, he didn’t truly have his big moment until Home Improvement began in 1991. This was partially due to the fact that Allen really didn’t consider himself much of an actor. He once said that his acting range is “strictly limited.” He continued, “I can only play a part if I can draw on personal experience, and that well can go dry pretty quickly.” The creators of the show were perfectly fine with this, and they crafted Tim Taylor around Allen’s comedic persona.
17. Allen Turned Down Some High Profile Roles In Order To Do The Show
Tim Allen wasn’t a huge celebrity before Home Improvement, but he was definitely on the radar of those in the industry. Around the same time that the show was in the works, Disney executives had approached him about starring in two potential TV adaptations of movies. The first was Turner & Hooch, the 1989 comedy detective movie starring Tom Hanks. The other was Dead Poets Society, which had been a major hit for Robin Williams a couple years before. Understandably, Tim Allen was more intrigued by the idea of doing something original, and thus Home Improvement was born.
16. Tim’s Wife Was Played By A Different Actress In The Original Pilot
Tim’s wife Jill was an integral part of the show, with their relationship being at the core of pretty much every episode. Patricia Richardson was great in this role, but she almost wasn’t even on the show. The original pilot, which was actually called Hammer Time, starred Frances Fisher, an actress mainly known for her dramatic work in films like Titanic. Fisher’s performance didn’t play well with test audiences, so she was recast and the pilot was reshot. It’s crazy to think that it was almost a completely different show!
15. The Show Launched The Career Of Pamela Anderson
When you think of Pamela Anderson and ’90s TV, Baywatch is obviously the first thing that comes to mind. But before she was saving lives in her red swimsuit, she was hanging out on the set of Tool Time. For the first two seasons, she appeared as the Tool Time girl, whose job was mainly to introduce the show and look pretty. After season two, she left to go star on Baywatch, which was definitely a smart decision. They replaced her with Debbe Dunning, who continued to play the Tool Time girl until the show’s conclusion.
14. Dozens Of Colleges In Michigan Sent In T-shirts That Tim Allen Wore On The Show
The show takes place in suburban Detroit, and you can definitely tell from the wardrobe choices. Tim Allen’s character had a habit of wearing college t-shirts and sweatshirts on the show, and it became a huge part of the show’s identity. Colleges in Michigan began sending clothing to the set, and Tim would wear it, giving valuable free advertising. Over the course of eight seasons, at least 30 different schools were represented, some big and some small. This definitely made the costume designer’s job a little easier!
13. Tool Time Was Meant To Be A Parody Of Pbs’ This Old House
You might think the show-within-a-show is funny, but there are plenty of people who live for home improvement. When the idea was first conceived, Tool Time was meant to be a parody of the long-running PBS program This Old House. The show has been running consistently since 1979, with a rotating list of guests, all of whom are home improvement experts. This might sound boring, but the comedic version is definitely fun to watch. We have a feeling the real guys are probably a little less clumsy than Tim Taylor though…
12. Richard Karn Heard About The Show Because He Got A Ticket And Met An Agent At Traffic School
Richard Karn, who played Al, was an important part of the show for all eight seasons. The way he got on Home Improvement, however, was completely random. Before production had begun, Richard got a traffic ticket, and as part of his punishment, he had to attend traffic school. While there, he happened to meet an agent who told him about the upcoming project. He did a little digging, and decided he knew enough people involved with the show to try and get an audition. It worked, and that’s probably the most lucrative traffic ticket anyone has ever gotten.
11. Ashley Judd Auditioned To Be The Tool Time Girl, But They Decided She Had Too Much Talent
Ashley Judd has been in the news a lot recently, being one of the primary accusers of Harvey Weinstein and a prominent member of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. But way back when Home Improvement was starting, she was just an unknown actress getting her start. She auditioned to be the Tool Time girl, but the casting crew decided that she had too much acting talent to play the minor role. They tried to write a bigger character for her, but Ashley decided that she wanted to do movies instead. Too bad, she probably would’ve been hilarious on the show!
10. The Studio Audience For Tool Time Was Part Of The Real Taping Audience For The Show
It’s easy to forget that most classic sitcoms are actually taped in front of a real studio audience. Going to a taping sounds like a lot of fun, but for Home Improvement, there was an added bonus. During the Tool Time segment of the show, part of the real audience would appear on camera as Tim’s audience for the show. Everybody secretly loves being on camera, so it was exciting to see who would be chosen for Tool Time. Do they even do live tapings anymore? And if so, does anyone know how to get tickets?
9. Wilson’s Full Face Wasn’t Revealed To The Audience Until The Series Finale
Tim’s neighbor Wilson was one of the most important characters for all eight seasons of the show, but the audience didn’t really even know what he looked like. The bottom half of his face was always obscured, and usually, Tim spoke to him over the top of their tall fence. Later in the show, other objects were used to hide his face, like a large beard or paint. This was a hilarious gag for the audience, and they kept it up until the very last episode. In the final curtain call for the show, Earl Hindman finally came out and took a bow, with his full face in view.
8. There Was A Home Improvement Video Game Called Power Tool Pursuit
Video games were a lot different back in the ’90s, but they could still be important promotional tools. In 1994, Super Nintendo published Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit, and it sounds like a lot of fun. In the game, someone stole a set of power tools from Tim, and he had to go from soundstage to soundstage, fighting villains to get them back, using the tools he has on him. We’re not sure how this stacks up against Halo or Call of Duty, but it was a different time. If you have a copy of this game still, you can probably sell it on eBay for a nice chunk of change.
7. Hillary Clinton Almost Appeared On The Show While She Was First Lady
Celebrity cameos are an important part of any sitcom, and Home Improvement almost landed one of the biggest. Back in 1995, the White House Press Secretary floated the idea of First Lady Hillary Clinton making an appearance on the most popular show in the country. The show’s producer’s loved the idea, and said they would do an episode on whatever issue Hillary wanted to highlight. We’re not sure what went wrong, but it obviously wasn’t meant to be. Now Hillary’s done a few TV cameos, like when she went on Broad City.
6. Tim Allen Turned Down $50 Million To Do A Ninth Season
Sometimes, you’re just ready to be done no matter how sweet the deal is. After eight seasons, the show was still extremely popular, and ABC didn’t let go easily. By the final season, Tim Allen was making an unprecedented $1.25 million per episode, but ABC was willing to do even better. They reportedly offered him a whopping $50 million to do a ninth season, but Allen had no interest. Patricia Richardson was offered a hefty $25 million as well, and we’d love to know how she felt. Season nine just wasn’t in the cards, even with a record-breaking amount of money.
5. The Unused Idea For A Home Improvement Movie Was Eventually Turned Into Mrs. Doubtfire
If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. At the height of Home Improvement’s popularity, studio executives were excited by the idea of making a spinoff movie. The story would go like this: Tim and Jill get divorced, so Tim decides to dress up as a woman in order to spend more time with his kids. Sound familiar? Tim Allen had no interest in doing the movie, so it was revamped and turned into Mrs. Doubtfire. The 1993 movie became an instant classic, and Robin Williams won a Golden Globe for his performance. Sometimes when one door closes, an even better one opens.
4. All Of The Tools On The Show Were A Fictional Brand Called Binford
If you try to buy the tools that are used on the show, you’ll end up pretty disappointed. For the entire show, all the tools used were a fictional brand called Binford, but the name wasn’t just random. One of the writers on the show came up with the name, which was inspired by one of his friends from high school. That means that somewhere, there’s a guy named Binford who always has a great story to tell when he meets someone new. If they were making this show now, the network probably would’ve used the tools as a major product placement opportunity.
3. Tim Allen’s Recent Show Last Man Standing Also Featured Many Binford Tools
The legend of Binford tools lives on! More recently, Tim Allen starred on another sitcom called Last Man Standing, which ran for six seasons from 2011-2017. On the show, Tim plays Mike Baxter, a senior employee at a sporting goods store in Denver. Tools are regularly used on the show, and you guessed it, they’re always Binford brand. I wonder if somewhere, someone kept a box of the tools safe for all those years. We love this little tie-in from the ’90s, and not many actors can say they’ve starred on two hit sitcoms.
2. Jonathan Taylor Thomas Became A Huge Teen Heartthrob While On The Show
The Taylors had three sons, but one of them was the clear breakout star of the show. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who played the middle child Randy, became one of the biggest child stars of his generation. He began the show when he was just nine years old, but soon he had lots of other opportunities. In 1994, he voiced Young Simba in The Lion King, which is basically the coolest IMDb credit of all time. JTT starred in a handful of other movies over the next few years, and was famously the object of many preteens’ first crush.
1. Tim Allen Had A Falling Out With Jtt After He Left The Show
Not everything was perfect in Tool Time-land. Jonathan Taylor Thomas left the show mid-way through the eighth season, claiming that he needed to focus more on school. That’s a reason everyone can understand, but then he spent all of 1998 and 1999 appearing in movies. Hmm, something doesn’t seem right here. When Jonathan came back to appear on the Christmas episode, Tim Allen said on air that he was “confused” about why Jonathan left. Tim later said that JTT didn’t like that, and he ended up skipping the series finale. Everything seems fine now, because JTT later appeared on an episode of Tim Allen’s show Last Man Standing.