When Tim “The Toolman” Taylor was introduced on the hit sitcom “Home Improvement,” he immediately endeared himself — as well as his quirky family and friends — to audiences across America. His manic obsession with power tools and car engines coupled with his brusque but loving relationship with his wife and sons made him wildly appealing to men, women and children of all ages. Plots centered on Taylor’s home improvement TV show, family ties and social issues, included a degree of the political and cultural opinions of the family, and featured memorable supporting characters including Tim’s assistant Al and his ubiquitous neighbor, Wilson.
The show’s 8-year run resulted in a lot of behind-the-scenes secrets only producers knew — secrets that have been kept tightly under wraps until now!
12. Kids Remember The Darnedest Things
Tim Allen (Tim Taylor) fondly recalls a neighbor from his childhood he could hear but not see. The neighbor always talked to him through a shared fence but Allen was too short to see him. This memory spawned the character of Wilson, whose full face was never seen until the series finale.
11. Money Talks…Sometimes
Although many critics doubted “Home Improvement” would be a megahit, citing the show’s limited focus (“Tool Time” and car repairs) and small cast (guest stars were few and far between), the show was a smash hit. Tim Allen was reportedly offered $50 million to do a 9th season of the show and Patricia Richardson (who played wife Jill) was offered $25 million. Both declined the offers.
10. Cheap Advertising
“Home Improvement” was set in Michigan, which somewhat tied Taylor’s love for cars to “Motor City” Detroit. But no car companies offered promotional items to be featured on the show. Michigan colleges and universities jumped on the opportunity to promote their schools. They showered Allen with logo T-shirts and sweaters, which he regularly wore on the show.
9. Wonderful Wilson
Earl Hindman played the role of Wilson (see #12) to the hilt. When he couldn’t use the fence to obscure his face, he (and the prop department) resorted to hiding behind other actors’ movements or on-set props. He once hid the top of his face with papier-mache and even carried around a piece of picket fence he used to hide behind in case of emergency.
8. Fish Out Of Water
Veteran actor Frances Fisher was the producers’ first choice for the role of Tim’s wife, Jill Taylor. But after test audiences found her character anxious and annoying during taping of the pilot, producers quickly rounded up a new round of actors to replace her. Patricia Richardson was hired to play the part just four days before the final pilot episode was shot.
7. Faking It
Tim frequently introduced new products on his show-within-the-show called “Tool Time” and always promoted the show’s sponsor, Binford Tools. Keen-eyed viewers quickly noticed most of the “new” products had the same model number, 6100. As for the name of the sponsor, Binford was named after a friend of the family of one of the producers.
6. What Do We Call This?
Seems such a simple show would be easy to name but that wasn’t the case. “Hammer Time” was the first choice but axed because the then-famous hip-hop artist M.C. Hammer might confuse the issue. Then the name “Tool Time” was suggested for both the real and non-real show but again rejected as too confusing. “Home Improvement” emerged the winner.
5. The Ultimate Compliment
You know you’ve made it when a Super Nintendo video game is based on your TV show, although very loosely. As an attention-grabber, most of the instruction manual was blanked out with the words “REAL MEN DON’T NEED INSTRUCTIONS.” The game showed Tim fighting through TV sets in his show’s studio, fighting men dressed as dinosaurs.
4. Better Late Than Never
Tim’s sidekick on his show, Al, was nearly as popular as Tim. Lucky break for Richard Karn who landed the role after renowned actor Stephen Tobolowsky had to bow out at the last minute due to a movie commitment. Karn got the recurring part after filming the first four episodes.
3. Beauty Follows Beauty
Ashley Judd had the part of Lisa the Tool Girl nailed down. But her agent insisted going for movie roles rather than TV parts would be better for her. She quit just days before taping of the original pilot. Pam Anderson got the part, which she played for most of the show’s run.
2. Little Screen, Big Screen
In 1995, right at the height of success for “Home Improvement,” Tim Allen was a big hit as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Disney/Pixar film “Toy Story.” Never missing a chance to promote the show, producers managed to slip in a Binford Tools decal on a toolbox in one scene of the film.
1. Director’s Dream
Producers and directors often try to work on many projects with actors they get along with well. Producer/director John Pasquin, at the helm of “Home Improvement,” got along well with Tim Allen and went on to direct him in the movies “The Santa Clause,” “Jungle 2 Jungle,” and “Joe Somebody.”
Sitcoms, good and awful, come and go, year after year. A select few go down in TV history as unique, consistently funny week after week, and guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. “Home Improvement” was such a megahit that when the show went into syndication in 1995, after only four years on the air, the producers decide to film a new episode to kick-off the syndicated episodes, a first for a network series. Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson shot portions of the episode at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, California, where their characters had a raced tanks on a mapped out course, were invited to the episode’s live filming in Los Angeles.