The ’90s were full of iconic television shows, but few may be as iconic as Home Improvement. The fact that this show is still around after more than 25 years is a testament to the show’s quality. But, even though it is pretty well known, there may be a few things that even those that are diehard fans don’t know. So, we have pulled together some of the juiciest untold behind-the-scenes secrets from the iconic ’90s sitcom Home Improvement.
Baywatch Should Thank Home Improvement
The role of the ‘Tool Girl’ may not have been a core character, but it was a pretty iconic part of the show. This is especially true for the first Tool Time girl, Pamela Anderson. The actress had built a promising career in the modeling world but looked to branch out into acting.
So, when she was cast in this role, it was the perfect time for her. She played Lisa for two years before jumping ship and heading to the sunny beaches of California as CJ Parker on Baywatch.
With the exit of Pam Anderson’s character, there was a gaping hole left open for a new ‘Tool Girl.’ For this, the casting team found actress Debbe Dunning. She would go on to be the Tool Time girl for the remainder of the show and became a beloved member of the cast.
Like Pam’s character, the role initially started as an almost cameo-like one, but that only lasted two seasons. The fans loved her character, and in season five, her role became more of the main cast addition.
Before the ‘Tool Girl’ role was given to Pam Anderson, there were several other options that were thought of. In fact, the creators of the show really wanted to have Ashley Judd play the part. She came in and read, and everyone loved her audition, but…
They felt she was just too talented for such a small role. Afterward, the casting director called to tell her agent that the writers got together and wrote a part just for Judd, as Tim’s sister. But, unfortunately, Judd turned it down as she wanted to focus on film rather than television.
Disney had wanted to work with Tim Allen for a while before the show had even been created. With several television shows based on popular movies, the execs at Disney pitched Turner & Hooch and Dead Poets Society TV shows to Allen.
The comedian turned actor felt that neither was really going to make it and thus, he turned them down. So, the Disney team got together with the creator of another popular sitcom — Roseanne — and developed a TV show just for Tim.
Was That the Same Actress?
Another character that got a switch was the role of Tim Taylor’s wife, Jill. The pilot, which was filmed in the spring of 1991, was done with Frances Fisher filling the role. However, the test audience didn’t feel she was funny enough.
The actress was a great get, so the producers tried to get her to loosen up and be a bit more fun. It didn’t work, though, and before the show could even hit the air, they were looking for a replacement. They found one when they cast Patricia Richardson.
Though Tim Allen originally hails from Colorado, he moved to Michigan and made it his home. This is why his character on the show sports so many shirts and sweaters form Michigan-based sports teams and colleges.
In fact, there was a rule that he would never wear anything from any other state. The shirts and sweaters that he wore on the show were all sent to him from Michigan schools. With so many episodes, you would think that he might have run out of clothing to wear, but they just kept sending him things. Now, that’s what we call good advertising…
What’s in a Name?
When the pilot was filmed, the show had a whole different name. The show was meant to be called Hammer Time and was intended to be a nod to the very famous rapper MC Hammer’s mega-popular hit.
But, as the creative team and Allen began to work on ironing out all the show’s kinks, they felt the name of the show needed to change. That’s when both Tool Time and Home Improvement were born. They felt that the name resonated with the concept of fixing things both in a handyman way as well as in a family.
Ooops… Wardrobe Mistake!
Remember that rule about exclusively wearing merch from Michigan schools? Well, there was one episode where that didn’t happen. In 1996, during one of the episodes from that season, Tim can actually be spotted wearing a Wofford College sweater.
This college is in South Carolina, but the wardrobe department didn’t catch it in time. So, because no one did a double-check, that lucky South Carolina college got a little free publicity. That mistake never happened again!
Stand Up Inspiration
In Tim’s twenties, he got into a bit of trouble with the law, and while waiting to see what the ramifications were going to be, he began doing stand-up comedy at the Comedy Castle in Detroit. He fell in love, and once he had handled his issues, he would return to the stage again.
This time hitting the stages in LA and playing iconic comedy clubs like The Comedy Store. This is where the Disney Chairmen — Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg — were first exposed to his comedy. Eisner loved it and immediately wanted to figure out how to work with Allen.
Hitting the Books
The last season of the show was one kid short as Randy Taylor, played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, left to do some environmental studies abroad. This was actually the character being written out as the young actor had decided to leave the show to concentrate on school.
This upset Allen as, even though Jonathan did concentrate a bit more on his education, he continued working on films. Allen was very vocal about his thoughts on the subject.
That’s an Interesting Name
One of the most iconic roles on the show was that of Tim’s neighbor, Wilson. The character was a part of every season, but we never got to see more than just the top of his head and his eyes. The actor actually didn’t mind this apparently.
Everyone just called him Wilson, and remarkably his full name was kept hush-hush. But eventually, it all came out — the character’s full name is Wilson W. Wilson. We can only imagine what the W. stands for.
The whole concept of the show focused on a show within a show, so it was inevitable that there would be an audience. But, why cast extras when you can just use the audience that’s already there for the taping?
They would throw extras in with the studio audience and then go from there. The people seemed to love it as Tim would interact with them and even go a little off-script sometimes.
If you were into home improvement shows in the ’90s, then the set up of Tim’s show, Tool Time, may look very similar to one that you’ve already watched. The creative team made no bones about the fact that the show as intended to get a lot of its foundation from This Old House, with the two hosts — Al and Tim — playing parodies of the two hosts of that PBS show.
Eventually, Bob Vila, one of the hosts and maybe the most famous of the two, would go on to guest star a couple of times.
The Great Race
One of those times was in an episode named ‘The Great Race II.’ This was a two-part episode and had Tim challenging Vila to a race with actual hot rods instead of lawnmowers. The episode was hilarious but very expensive to make.
The episode required the team to shut down an airport so they could film the race. They chose the Burbank airport, and because of its traffic, it cost a pretty penny to close it down completely. But, it was worth it, we think!
A Different Face Behind the Fence
John Bedford Lloyd of Ozark fame actually auditioned for several roles for the classic sitcom. He read for both Al and Wilson until he finally landed the role of Wilson. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize the character would be standing behind a fence the whole time.
With his face not visible, the actor decided that he didn’t want the part after all and gave just a day’s notice. The producers quickly replaced him with Earl Hindman, and the rest is history.
Rolling Into the Role
Opportunity knocks in the strangest of places. After receiving a traffic violation, actor Richard Karn had to attend mandatory traffic school. This was actually very fortunate as an agent among his classmates began telling him about this really great sitcom.
Karn rapidly realized that this was a great opportunity for him, and he reached out to people who knew that were working on the show already. He read for the part and played the role of Al for eight years.
Inspiration comes from the strangest of places. Take, for instance, the character of Tim’s helpful yet hard-to-see neighbor. The role of Wilson was actually inspired by Tim’s childhood neighbor.
Tim was a smaller kid, and his yard was surrounded by a tall fence. So, when he would talk to his neighbor, all he would see was the top of his head and eyes. If you put that all together, you get Wilson who — despite not seeing his face — became one of the most popular characters in the show.
That’s What He Looks Like!
The running joke lasted all eight seasons. What running joke? The one where no matter the situation, all you saw was the eyes and head of Wilson, the Taylor Family’s neighbor. That was until the last episode of the last season.
But, it wasn’t actually on the show per se. No, in fact, it was when the cast was taking their final bows. At this time, Earl Hindman — the man who had played this role for eight years — stepped out and took a bow.
Get Your Controllers Ready
You know you have made it when you get a video game, right? But, did you know that Home Improvement had its own Super Nintendo game? That’s right! Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! It was a 2D scrolling game you played Tim as he tried to find his new power tool line, which had gone missing.
The game was a short one consisting of just four levels and sub levels. The game didn’t find much popularity and actually wound up on more than a few of the worst games lists.
Wrong Area Code
Remember when Tim used to say slightly offensive things to women, unknowingly, of course? Typically Al would hold up a sign and begin to give out a phone number and other contact information.
The mailing address was actually in Michigan. In fact, it was the studio’s address, but the phone number was a whole other story. The phone number was completely fake, and it even used the wrong area code. The area code used is one for Illinois, not Michigan.
Finding the Right Name
Tim’s show Tool Time was sponsored by a fictitious tool company named Binford. The character actually was a salesman for them before he started his home improvement show and so, it was a perfect fit for sponsorship. Throughout the entire series, you see the logo everywhere.
The name of the tool company, though, had to come from somewhere, right? It did and it, too, was inspired by someone’s past. One of the writers actually used the last name of their old high school friend for the company.
Tons of Cash
The show ended after eight seasons, but it went out with high ratings and a pretty solid fan base. With that, it isn’t surprising that the producers and people at Disney tried to get the act to return for a ninth season.
They tried everything, including offering the star a pretty sizable paycheck. Allen was offered $50 million while Richardson got half of that offer. In the end, both actors opted not to sign those deals. Richardson because she felt that she deserved a little more, and Allen because he was ready to move on.
The role of Al, Tim’s sidekick, was not set to be played by Richard Karn. The role was originally not even named Al! The original character was supposed to be called Glen, and Stephen Tobolowsky was set to play him.
But, the actor had prior responsibilities, so he had to back out and left the door open for the Al that we have all come to know and love — Richard Karn.
Homage to Disney
Both Tim Allen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas worked for Disney on other projects. There was a bit of a homage to one of the episodes of the show. In a Halloween episode, the family is playing jokes on each other.
As they do this, Randy is also giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. One of the groups has a little Simba and Buzz Lightyear asking for some candy. Jonathan was the voice of Simba in The Lion King, and of course, Tim was the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.
Fan theories have become a pretty prevalent thing, especially in films and television shows. One of the places these theories find a home is on the review and comment oriented platform, Reddit.
One of these theories may be a little out there, though. According to some fans, Wilson is a reincarnation of fictional English adventurer Allan Quatermain. And although reincarnation could make sense for Wilson — as he’s full of endless knowledge of world history and philosophy — we don’t know if we necessarily believe this is true.
There were a lot of familiar faces that got their start on the ’90s sitcoms whether they were part of the cast or just a guest star. One of the faces that found its way onto the screen — thanks to Home Improvement — was future Dawson Creek alum, Michelle Williams.
Michelle Williams played a girl who dates Brad for a four-episode arc. She was only 15 and still really hadn’t had her big break. This was just three years before she became a teen heartthrob along with the rest of the cast of WB’s Dawson Creek.
Age Is Just a Number
The Taylor Family was made up of Tim, his wife, and their sons. Brad was the oldest, with Randy being the middle child, and Mark being the baby. But, in the real world, the actor who played Randy was a month older than the one that played Brad.
The smaller frame of Jonathan Taylor Thomas allowed the writers to portray him as the younger sibling. The actor who played Mark was three years younger than both Bryan and Thomas.
A User’s Guide
Even after the show ended, there was still a pretty fervent fan base. So, four years after the final episode, the cast got together to film a special. This special — called Tim Allen Presents: a User’s Guide to Home Improvement — was a retrospect on the show.
Most of the cast members were present except for the actor who played Wilson as he was bedridden and unable to make an appearance. The show went through clips and reflections, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and stories.
Let’s be real here, people — the ’90s was a great time for both television and films such as the 1993 hit Mrs. Doubtfire. Believe it or not but Mrs. Doubtfire was originally an idea for a Home Improvement movie! Say what?! We know. Although it’s hard to imagine anyone but Robin Williams in the title role, the story would’ve followed a divorced Tim and Jill in which Tim disguises himself as the titular British nanny in order to spend more time with his boys.
The Greatest Dad
Tim Taylor was a pretty laid back, goofy guy who enjoyed the simple things in life. He and his family lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and so, it’s no shock that Tim Allen’s character became one of the most beloved father figures on television.
He was so beloved that in a special edition of TV Guide, he made the list of the greatest TV dads of all time. Where did he come in? He was ranked at #20 out of 50.
Replacing the Missus
After Frances Fisher was let go, the producers and creative team needed to find a new Jill. Luckily their “Al” of the moment, Stephen Tobolowsy, knew someone he thought would be perfect for the role. Though he would not stay, his recommendation turned out to be golden.
He had already left the show when Richardson came in to read for the role. The stage actress had just given birth to twins and was ready to have a more stable schedule. She killed the audition and went on to win several awards for her portrayal as Jill Taylor.
No Season 9?
Few shows go out on top. Many sitcoms from the ’90s stayed on well past their expiration date, but Home Improvement wasn’t one of them. The fan support and ratings were still pretty high by the end of the eighth season when the series wrapped.
Why wasn’t there a ninth season? It seems that it had to do with money. Patricia Richardson had asked for the same as her male co-star, and that just didn’t seem to fit into the budget. On top of the money issues, two of the boys had also decided to leave, and that didn’t seem like the show Tim Allen wanted to continue with.
We have already talked about the change in the show’s name in America, but this is not the only country where the show’s name raised some eyebrows. The name for the sitcom overseas in places like Germany, for instance, was a little less catchy than Home Improvement.
In Germany, the name of the show was translated to Listen Who’s Hammering. Not sure why they chose this name, but it’s definitely not a catchy one!
Don’t Try This At Home
Tim Taylor loved to share his experience and abilities as a handyman in his show, Tool Time, and around the house. He wasn’t actually that great with power tools, however. His need for more power led to some hilarious antics and some funny accidents.
Tim Allen is almost as accident-prone in real life. Allen is a lefty, and this can make using tools tricky. He has managed to fall off a roof and blow things up in real life.
Sometimes a simple guest role can turn into so much more. This is the case when it comes to Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer. They made a little appearance on Home Improvement as audience members.
From this small but very memorable interaction, the folks at ABC saw something and decided to give the duo their own show. The show starred the two as friends and was called Buddies. It didn’t last long, but still, it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Home Improvement.
The Home Improvement cast was full of memorable parts. Still, there was one name that appeared quite often that many forget — Klaus. When Tim wanted some music, he would always ask Klaus to make it happen.
Who was Klaus? He was actually a member of the production team, and the use of his name in this respect soon became one of the many running jokes on the show.
And the Award Goes To…
Without a doubt, this show was one of the most popular of the ’90s. Not only with the fans but with the critics and award committees, too. Tim won several awards and was nominated for many more during the eight-year run of the show.
The show itself and other cast members also saw some success. But, it was Tim that saw the most spotlight. In one week, he had a movie, his television show, and a book all reach #1 on their respective charts.
Binford Will Live on in Infamy
Binford may have been the fictitious tool brand on the show and, even as we have said, made an appearance in Toy Story but that isn’t the only place the brand lives on. Tim loved the name so much that he has carried it over into his new sitcom, Last Man Standing.
The new show focuses on a man who works in a sporting goods store but pays close attention to the tools that are lying around. You may notice a familiar name. That’s right — they’re all Binford.
Supporting the Troops
Both Patricia Richardson and Tim Allen really have a great deal of respect for the armed services and their men. Patricia was a Navy dependent, and Tim was raised to honor the men and women that fight for the country.
That’s why there were often military — especially Navy — members invited to the taping of the shows. This dedication even had the show going to do an episode onboard a Navy vessel and it was called ‘At Sea.’
Toy Story & Home Improvement
There are a lot of fan theories out there when it comes to movies, especially Disney ones. But, there’s one that has to do with Home Improvement. In one of the scenes in Toy Story, a toolbox with the name Binford is seen.
This has left some to suggest that Toy Story and Home Improvement happen in the same universe. Who knows, maybe?! Stranger things have happened, right?