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STUDIO: Touchstone / Disney
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 621 minutes
Tim Allen Presents: The Home Improvement User’s Guide
The Final Season of Tim Allen blowing shit up.
Tim Allen, Patricia Richardson, Richard Karn, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Taran Noah Smith, Zachery Ty Brian, Debbe Dunning, Earl Hindman.
Tim Allen is Tim Taylor, the host of a cable home improvement show in Detroit called Tool Time. However, he seemingly spends as much time cleaning up his own messes as he does building and improving things. Al (Karn) is his much-put-upon co-host on the show, along with the shapely Heidi (Dunning). At home, Tim is married to Jill, his endlessly-understanding wife, who puts up with Tim’s ridiculous antics and need to fix things that aren’t broken, usually with disastrous results. They have three boys (Bryan, Smith, Thomas) and a sage neighbor, Wilson, who always dispenses advice from behind a fence that always hides half of his face.
“Al, I don’t understand, why do we need life vests and helmets for this episode?”
“Don’t ask questions. By the way, hand me that chloroform over there, will you…?”
I’m coming full circle with this review of the eighth and final season of Home Improvement. I’ve covered Seasons 1, 3, 4 and 6, gaining a bigger appreciation for the show as I’ve gone on. Time and again I’ve railed about everything I hate about sitcoms, the inane situations, the laugh tracks, the bad sets, the life lessons taught, etc. I’d remarked that Home Improvement was guilty of a lot of those things, but I’d also mentioned, despite that, how fun the show was, mostly due to Tim, a character that was tailor-made for Allen’s comic abilities. Tim is a self-absorbed man’s man, fluent in cars, sports, tools and most importantly, destruction. But he’s also a loving husband, father and friend on the show. Now typically, such characters make me gag, but Allen didn’t get caught up in all the normal hoopla of being a father figure. He mixed in a lot of laughs over the eight seasons that he portrayed this character. And with Richardson, Karn and Hindman, found the perfect foils from whom to bounce off his comedic charms.
“Hey Jill, why don’t we take the show from ABC to HBO? That way I get to see you naked…”
Season 8 was the last for the show, and the quality of the laughs didn’t wane one bit. Home Improvement probably could have continued for another three or four seasons if Allen had wanted it to. It finished its run still in the Nielsen Top 10. Season 8 also proved the last for Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who left the show after a couple of episodes into the season. His character of Randy was written out of the show by having him travel to Costa Rica to participate in environmental causes with his girlfriend. The loss of Thomas didn’t slow the show down, though. Hell, I was of the opinion that all three of the boys could have left the show and still would have been good (maybe even better).
Definitely one of the more ill-advised things built on Tool Time was the fecal matter barcalounger…
Along with the departure of Randy, Season 8 also featured Al’s wedding and the changing of the format of Tool Time to a more Jerry Springer-style kind of conflict stalk show. This directly led to Tim quitting the show near the season and contemplating a move to Indiana with Jill and the family so she could pursue a job opportunity. The three-part series finale (“The Long and Winding Road”) featured Al’s wedding, plenty of clips from the eight seasons of the show, and Tim and Jill’s dilemma over moving after Tim is offered an executive producer spot on Tool Time. The series ended with somewhat of a cliffhanger as whether or not the Taylors moved was never fully revealed.
In the meantime, however, the season was chocked full of more of the signature hijinks. “Whitewater” had Tim, Jill Al, Wilson and Heidi embarking on a white water rafting trip for Tim’s birthday, even though Tim had planned to spin the day at a NASCAR event. Their river guide was a veteran with some conspiracy issues. “Adios” featured the last episode by Thomas as Randy.” “All In The Family” has Tim’s and Jill’s sister and brother respectively getting to know each other a bit too well, which messes up Tim and Jill’s quality time. “Al’s Fair Lady” has the Tool Time gang on the road and later Tim and Jill meeting Al’s new, rich girlfriend. “Neighbors” finds Tim and Wilson’s frienship tested when Wilson builds a greenhouse in his backyard, which blocks the Taylor’s view. However, the show wasn’t all laughs this season, as Jill had to have an emergency hysterectomy (“Love’s Labors Lost, Parts 1 & 2″) and Al’s mother dies “Dead Weight.”
“So Richard, what have you got planned after Home Improvement goes off the air?”
“Oh, lots of things, Tim. I’m mulling over some offers, might get into directing and producing. You know me.”
“You could only get Family Feud, huh?”
“Yeah, pretty much…”
Home Improvement went out still at the top of its game and was a good, fun watch right up to the end. Tim was still destroying things, Wilson was still giving advice and hiding his face, and Al was still being the butt of Tim’s jokes. You could tell from the bloopers at the end of every episode that this cast had a great time working with each other and that translated into a funny and entertaining show.
The episodes look about as good as taped TV sitcom episodes can. There’s only English Dolby Digital available for a language track, and English subtitles. There are two special features: Tim Allen Presents: The Home Improvement User’s Guide, a 42-minute retrospective of the show filmed live at the Wadsworth Theatre in LA, featuring Debbe Dunning and Richard Karn from the show. There’s also a six-minute blooper reel.
Hey, and it’s not even my birthday…