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Home Improvement on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6 Season 7 Season 8

"Home Improvement" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy Home Improvement: The Complete First Season from Amazon.com Home Improvement: Season One (1991-92)
Show & DVD Details

Director: John Pasquin

Regular Cast: Tim Allen (Tim Taylor), Patricia Richardson (Jill Taylor), Earl Hindman (Wilson), Taran Noah Smith (Mark Taylor), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy Taylor), Zachery Ty Bryan (Brad Taylor)

Recurring Characters: Richard Karn (Al Borland), Pamela Denise Anderson (Lisa), Betsy Randle (Karen), Jessica Wesson (Jennifer Sudarsky), Mickey Jones (Pete), Gary McGurk (Dwayne), Casey Sander (Rock), Jennifer Nash (Greta Post), Noble Willingham (Mr. Binford)

Notable Guest Stars: Eric Christmas (Sir Larry Houdini), John Marshall Jones (Rick), Sam McMurray (Rondall), Stephen Root (Exterminator), Adam Wylie (Jimmy Wagner), Art LaFleur (Jim), Ron Taylor (Kyle), Christopher McDonald (Stu Cutler), Patrick Thomas O'Brien ("Ink" Ingram), Bob Vila (Himself), Aaron Freeman (Curtis), George Foreman (Himself), Jack Elam (Hick Peterson), Ernest Borgnine (Eddie Phillips), Amy Ryan (Robin), Janeen Rae Heller (Herself)

Running Time: 566 Minutes (24 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 23, 2004; Suggested Retail Price: $23.99 (Was $49.99)
Season 1 Airdates: September 17, 1991 - May 5, 1992
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with two-piece cardboard slipcover

Buy Season 1 from Amazon.com / Buy The Complete Series Collection

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Since the launch of television and the birth of half-hour situation comedies shortly after, different generations of sitcom families have defined and reflected the decades of life in America. From "Leave it to Beaver" in the '50s to "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s, television families have changed to keep up with the unstationary American Dream of viewers.

By the fall of 1991, when "Home Improvement" first aired, the days of three networks were long gone. There were now four strongly defined networks, hundreds of viewing options through widely-owned cable services, and even greater choice emerging in satellite television.
Nonetheless, "Home Improvement" would not only become the Walt Disney Company's first hugely profitable network television show, it would soon define the sitcom family of the 1990s as well.

Like sitcom families of the past, the Taylors of "Home Improvement" are highly identifiable and easy to relate to. This middle class, middle America family of five were taking the '90s in stride as they resolved issues of parenting, marriage, and work, with plenty of laughs and good times.

Tim Taylor, the protagonist of the show played by star/executive consultant/inspiration Tim Allen, offers a new definition of Man. Knowledgeable but inept at work and often befuddled by his wife and kids, Tim is nonetheless easy to label as a successful father and husband. In fact, surveys from the decade would show his character as the most positive role model among television fathers.

The title graphic as it appears in the opening credits sequence. Tim Allen stars as Tim Taylor, husband, father, and host of cable's "Tool Time."

There are two unique characteristics that define "The Toolman"
(as Tim's known on the cable home improvement show he hosts). First and maybe foremost is his celebration of masculinity, with which is tied a passion for tools, cars, and sports. For a relatively hip father, Tim is in touch with a primal side that harks back to caveman days. To best sum up his outlook on life, there wasn't a sentence or even a word as much as there was Tim's trademark grunt. From early on, this was a staple of the show, a sound which could imply confusion (usually at wife Jill), revelation, trouble, or simply joy. Appreciating Tim's grunt and his "more power" mantra were essential to understanding what he believes in and to enjoying "Home Improvement" as a show.

The second important element of Tim is the frequency with which he fouls up. The running joke on "Home Improvement" (as well as the fictional "Tool Time" program he hosts) was that while Tim may love tools and know everything about them, every time he tried to "soup up" something, disaster would ensue. Accident-prone is a mild way of putting it. Tim's attempts at repairs usually left things in even greater disarray and in spite of this, he's still the host of a home improvement show and a darn likable guy, too. Whether Tim was really clueless to things or it was just running sarcasm (Season 1's shows tend to lean towards the latter) was never particularly clarified nor did it ever seem to matter. As a kind of live action equivalent to Homer Simpson, Tim was easy to embrace as a new comedic hero.

Taylor is the postmodern dad, a role which has not strayed too far from the traditional television father. He financially supports his family and everyone seems to likes him fairly well. Beyond the sarcasm that Tim frequently utilizes, there is love.

On "Tool Time", Tim's trusty assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn, fantastic as the straight man to Tim's antics) often keeps things in order. Always clad in flannel shirts, Al values sensibility over Tim's jokes, which actually leads to an always-amusing atmosphere on the show where personalities clash. A bachelor, and frequently the butt of Tim's wit, Al takes it in stride and gets the job done. And everyone who watches the show seems to be crazy about Al Borland. Rounding out the work gang is "Tool Time Girl" Lisa (pre-"Baywatch" Pamela Anderson), whose minor role entails introducing the show and bringing various items from backstage.

Right-hand man Al Borland and Tim on "Tool Time." Jill and Tim share a moment together in the Taylor's backyard.

More central to the show than Tim's job as "Tool Time" host was his marriage to Jill (Patricia Richardson). As seasons passed, the character of Jill would be given more depth and more important storylines. In this debut season, Jill is pretty much a wife and mother, and that's it. Still, she figures largely throughout each show as the lone female in the Taylor house and the loving counterweight to Tim. Jill's perspective often greatly differs from Tim's; her appreciation for opera is as foreign to Tim as his devotion to professional sports is to her. Yet, while they don't always see eye-to-eye,
their relationship of compromises seems not perfect, but very happy. Of course, in a half-hour sitcom, comedy is instrumental and Patricia Richardson's keen ability to hold her own alongside a stand-up comedian in humorous situations proved very crucial to the show's success.

Making up the majority of the Taylor family are the three sons. The Taylor boys would come to play a more substantial role in future seasons. Here, most of the time they're seen, oldest son Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan) and middle child Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) are coming up with new ways to tease and torment Mark, the baby of the family (Taran Noah Smith). Brimming with energy (and their Dad's flair for sarcasm), the boys (especially Brad and Randy) are kept in line by Jill. Their mother's parental wisdom often conflicts with Tim's penchant for adventure, but he usually goes along with what she says, anyway. Much of the comedy (and many of the show's best episodes) flowed from situations involving the Taylor kids.

When Tim is confounded by Jill (and that is often), he turns to the Taylors' odd neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman) for advice. Wilson, with no shortage of relevant resources (from the academic to the mystical), provides wise words or apt analogies to help Tim through confusing times. While the guidance almost always gets muddled in Tim's interpretation, Wilson's assistance usually comes through and makes things right. Seen only in part over the Taylor's backyard fence, Wilson is always engaging in some kind of unusual activity. He certainly made a lasting impression on the show as an imparter of moral values and an assortment of wisdom.

Perhaps this reading of the show is overanalytical or overserious. After all, it's a sitcom. Those are supposed to be low on the scale of social importance and artistic value, right? That may be so, but there's nothing quite like a good sitcom. What could be more familiar and easier to enjoy than various comedic adventures featuring characters you know and like?

Rather than ponder that, let me get back to the subject at hand. "Home Improvement" is a very good sitcom. Revisiting the show several years later (and the idea of these episodes being 13 years old boggles my perception of time), one can see its formulas more clearly. Nonetheless, it is just as enjoyable now as it was then to get involved in the life of Tim Taylor and his family and co-workers. It's a very funny show, and one which is appropriately in touch with middle class American life with its depiction of family and an enduring marriage.

The Taylor kids. Left to right: Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Mark (Taran Noah Smith), and Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas). Tim looks over the fence for advice from Wilson (Earl Hindman).

The first season of "Home Improvement" is pretty strong as far as debut years of TV series go. The show would improve for several years as it found a more comfortable groove, but the successful heart and tone are already in place here. As are features that would become trademarks of the show, such as the animated scene transitions and the end credits outtakes.

"Home Improvement" also proved to be a much-imitated and oft-successful model for sitcoms of the '90s: adapting a half-hour series directly from the material of a stand-up comic. "Seinfeld" began earlier, but it was "Home Improvement" that was the breakthrough (in fact, the show's domination of Wednesday nights forced "Seinfeld" to move to Thursday where it would become more successful). "Grace Under Fire", "Mad About You", "Everybody Loves Raymond" would follow.

About 16 million viewers tuned in to the show Tuesday nights on ABC, where it was appropriately situated between two other family sitcoms: the cuter "Full House" and the more cynical "Roseanne." It was easily the top-rated new show of the 1991-92 season, and the 4th most-watched entertainment program overall.

At long last, Disney releases this ratings giant and worldwide success to DVD. In 2003, the studio had plans for a 10-episode "Best Of" set to be released the same week that Tim Allen's popular sequel The Santa Clause 2 came to disc. Fortunately for us, the show is presented here, as most shows are on DVD these days, in a complete, unedited season set, containing the 24 episodes from the debut 1991-92 season. This DVD set restores the entire 70-second opening credits, which are always drastically compressed for syndicated airings. Each episode contains between 5 and 10 chapter stops for quick scene access.

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A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season.

The dishwasher goes bad in the "Pilot." Tim has fun on the souped-up lawnmower in "Mow Better Blues" With the game in his ear, Tim tries to make the best out of dining with Jill in "Off Sides."

Disc 1

1. Pilot (23:53) (Originally aired September 17, 1991)
With Jill out at her job interview, Tim can't resist the urge to soup up the dishwasher with a new compressor from Sears. The pilot's central conflict aptly sets up the heart of the show; Tim seeks to reclaim the "male spirit", while Jill just doesn't want the house in disrepair.

2. Mow Better Blues (23:40) (Originally aired September 26, 1991)
Tim works on revving up the lawnmower, with youngest son Mark again acting as assistant. When Mark breaks a wrench, rather than tell Tim, he hides it and then hides himself.
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Meanwhile, Jill and the boys get rid of some stuff for a rummage sale.

3. Off Sides (23:40) (Originally aired October 1, 1991)
Tim's Sunday of football viewing is interrupted by a dinner date with Jill. In need of a last minute babysitter, Jill hires Sir Larry Houdini, a birthday party magician. At the restaurant, Tim improvises with a transistor radio to keep tabs on the Lions game. Back at home, a trick goes wrong and the boys are worried to find Sir Larry trapped in his trunk.

4. Satellite on a Hot Tim's Roof (23:36) (Originally aired October 8, 1991)
It's Saturday, and Tim's excited to get the satellite dish delivered, but installing the thing poses difficulties. Jill gets a visit from her teacher Rondall, who Tim suspects has more in mind than helping her prepare for her job interview. Jill insists he's wrong, but Tim keeps interrupting anyway. The interactions between the insecure Tim and the pompous Rondall are extremely funny.

There's a snake in Tim's shirt in "Wild Kingdom." Teaching the boys manners in "Adventures in Fine Dining." Brad and Randy get a taste of their own medicine in "Flying Sauces."

5. Wild Kingdom (23:42) (Originally aired October 15, 1991)
Mark's cub scout troop is over at the Taylor house, and so is some kind of creature. Wilson thinks it could be a snake, and Randy finds shed skin to confirm. When the exterminator can't find anything, Tim must face his great fear of snakes in front of the kids.

6. Adventures in Fine Dining (23:40) (Originally aired October 22, 1991)
After the boys' behavior gets the family kicked out of Wacky Jack's Pizza Pagoda, Tim bets Jill tell he can teach them some table manners. If he can't give the family one peaceful dinner, it's season tickets to the opera. Wilson suggests that Tim reinstill in the boys a respect for food that the hunting man once had. Tim's efforts to teach the boys are quite entertaining.

7. Nothing More Than Feelings (23:36) (Originally aired October 29, 1991)
Caught up in a male bonding moment with some audience guests on "Tool Time", Tim lets out some embarrassing details about Jill. Jill is really upset at him, and he tries to make things right by bringing those same guests to talk about feelings.

8. Flying Sauces (23:40) (Originally aired November 5, 1991)
Brad and Randy have been picking on Mark a lot, and Jill's talk with them doesn't seem to do much. They turn right around and convince Mark that everyone in the family is an alien except for him. So Tim decides to get back at them at their own game. Meanwhile, the boys of K & B Construction make the first of their many appearances on "Tool Time", demonstrating their skills at making lunch on the job. This is one of the show's most memorable episodes, and I don't think Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" has been put to better use than here.

No, Tim's not seeing double. Wilson's just made a scarecrow in his own likeness. Al lets disgruntled viewers know where they can send complaints. On "Tool Time" revolving Christmas tree spins out of control.

Disc 2

9. Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble (23:37) (Originally aired November 19, 1991)
Tim's finally going to give Jill the bathroom that she's wanted and he's making a "Tool Time" project out of it to get a great deal. Unfortunately, the on-location remodeling is a disaster; days are passing with little progress, the whirlpool Tim's promised can't get inside, and a water main breaks. A flabbergasted Jill takes the kids to a hotel, but some over-the-fence advice from Wilson and time away from Tim help set things straight. Meanwhile, Brad tries a new spiked hair look to impress Jennifer Sudarsky.

10. Reach Out and Teach Someone (23:37) (Originally aired November 26, 1991)
Tim tries to give Jill a plumbing lesson, but they just end up arguing. On "Tool Time", the audience for "Cooking with Irma" is brought in to see a special episode to teach women (including Jill) to do common household repairs.

11. Look Who's Not Talking (23:39) (Originally aired December 10, 1991)
In order to let Jill work on the library fundraising speech she's been putting off, Tim volunteers to clean the house with the boys. While Jill's worrying about having to speak in front of a crowd, Tim's souping up the vacuum cleaner with a new "power suck" mode. To help Jill overcome her fears, Tim and Mark dress up as library women and listen.

12. Yule Better Watch Out (23:37) (Originally aired December 17, 1991)
It's our first Christmas with the Taylors. Jill makes sure that Randy looks great as the innkeeper in the Christmas play, while Tim is excited to compete in the annual lighting contest against Doc Johnson. Brad and Randy tell Mark that Santa Claus is dead, which leads the youngest Taylor boy to ask his parents whether Santa really exists. The Christmas episodes were always among the finest "Home Improvement" shows, and this one's no different. Definitely a highlight among the first season.

Tim and Jill get competitive over bowling in "Up Your Alley." Brad and Randy stand up to a bully at the arcade. Shooter McGavin pays Tim a visit in "For Whom the Belchs Tolls."

13. Up Your Alley (23:36) (Originally aired January 7, 1992)
For family night, the Taylors head to the bowling alley. Jill's against keeping score with Tim...until she starts throwing nothing but strikes. When the boys of K & B Construction show up, it only adds to Tim's embarrassment. Meanwhile, the boys deal with a bully in the arcade section. A highly entertaining effort, in one of the first episodes mostly away from home.

14. For Whom the Belch Tolls (23:37) (Originally aired January 14, 1992)
Tim's old friend and former college roommate Stu Cutler (Christopher McDonald) is back in town and he's as crude and crass as ever. Against Jill's wishes, Stu manages to invite himself over the Taylor house and invades Family Night.
Though Stu's obnoxiousness and inability to grow up rubs him the wrong way, Tim has trouble cutting his old friend loose.

15. Forever Jung (23:36) (Originally aired February 4, 1992)
Jill's friend Karen is over the Taylor house and the two of them are having a grand time making fun of Tim and men in general. On "Tool Time", Tim gets his head stuck on a glue-covered table, making him the butt of more jokes at home. Brad has his first date with Jennifer, for which Jill teaches him to dance.

16. Jill's Birthday (23:37) (Originally aired February 4, 1992)
The boys remind Tim that this Friday is Jill's birthday. Jill, hoping for a better present than past years, tells Tim she wants something from his heart. Tim tries to do this, but when that goes wrong, he looks to a lingerie department and Wilson for additional guidance.

The Taylors, the '90s TV family. Jill helps Tim following a mishap on "Tool Time."

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Home Improvement on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6 Season 7 Season 8

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Reviewed November 20, 2004.