Join Date: Aug 05, 2013
Disney Shows: "Home Improvement"
For my next several posts, yours truly is going to present Showographies of some of my personal favorite all-time Disney TV Shows from the last 65 years, since Walt Disney made his TV debut on Christmas Day, 1950, with the special "One Hour in Wonderland" promoting his then-new film "Alice in Wonderland," 4 years before going into Series TV with "The Wonderful World of Disney."
The first Disney Showography is a Showography of my all-time favorite Disney TV Shows: "Home Improvement."
The year is 1990. George H.W. Bush, age 66, is U.S. President; the Persian Gulf Crisis is in full effect; and Timothy Allen Dick, known professionally as Tim Allen, is the hottest Stand-Up Comedy Ticket all over the United States.
During the Summer of 1990, veteran TV producers Matt Williams, David McFadzean & Carmen Finestra conceived a situation comedy pilot titled "Hammer Time," a spoof of Bob Vila's "This Old House" on steroids.
Upon the recommendation of Disney Chairman and CEO Mike Eisner, the trio was persuaded to re-tool their pilot as a vehicle for Tim after Eisner saw Tim's Showtime Television Network comedy special "Men Are Pigs," eventually re-christening the pilot to "Home Improvement."
Joining Tim in the cast by January 1991 were a slew of veteran actors including Pat Richardson as Tim's wife of 12 years, Jill Taylor; 9-year-old Zachery Bryan as eldest son Brad; 9-year-old Jonathan Weiss (known professionally as Jonathan Taylor Thomas) as middle son Randy; and 6-year-old Taran Smith as youngest son Mark, along with struggling actor Rick Karn (real name: Richard Karn Wilson) as Tim's "Tool Time" sidekick, Al Borland, the late character actor Earl Hindman as Taylor family neighbor Wilson Wilson, Jr. and Pam Anderson as Binford Tool Girl, Lisa, later succeeded by Debbe Dunning as Binford Tool Girl Heidi (after Pam left for "Baywatch").
The pilot episode of "Home Improvement" was videotaped on April 19, 1991 at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California and was immediately picked up by execs at the ABC Television Network for the Fall 1991 TV Season.
On September 17, 1991, "Home Improvement" made its debut on the ABC Television Network, airing in its rookie season on Tuesday nights at 8 P.M. ET/PT (right after "Full House" on its then-new night of Tuesdays), and immediately entered the Top of the Nielsen Ratings; by the end of its rookie season, "Home Improvement" was tied with "Cheers" at #4 in the Nielsens.
During its first season, in a Blink-and-You'll-Miss-It-Moment, in the episode "What About Bob?" (guest-starring Bob Vila as himself), you'll notice 2 uncredited cameos: first by Rick Karn's real-life wife, Tudi Roche (later a recurring guest star as Tim's sister-in-law Carrie), as well as Kirk Cameron (then an actor on "Growing Pains" and today an Evangelical Preacher).
In both cases, Tudi & Kirk were sitting in the "Tool Time" audience played by the real-life "Home Improvement" Studio Audience each week.
Despite the success, ABC execs moved "Home Improvement" to Wednesday nights at 9 P.M. ET/PT opposite the then-struggling sitcom "Seinfeld." By mid-season, "Home Improvement" was such a huge hit that NBC moved "Seinfeld" to Thursday nights at 9 P.M. ET/PT, a move making "Seinfeld" the eternal classic it is today.
In September 1994, ABC moved "Home Improvement" to Tuesday nights at 9 P.M. ET/PT to continued success; in August 1995, The Walt Disney Company announced it had bought the ABC Television Network and related subsidiaries, including ABC Productions, from its previous owner, Capital Cities, Inc.
On September 11, 1995, a new episode of "Home Improvement," titled "Tanks for the Memories," was telecast in first-run syndication and later included the following February on the ABC Television Network lineup.
In September 1998, after 7 years on "Home Improvement," Jonathan Taylor Thomas, by this time a bona-fide teen heartthrob, announced he was leaving to focus on his real-life impending college studies, eventually graduating from Harvard in 2004; Jonathan's last regular episode was telecast on September 29, 1998, where his character Randy became an exchange student for a year in Costa Rica.
4 months later, after jointly turning down an offer to do a 9th and final season, Tim Allen and Pat Richardson decided Season 8 of "Home Improvement" would be its last, with the final episode taped at The Walt Disney Studios on April 9, 1999.
ABC celebrated the 8-year success of "Home Improvement" by airing a 2-hour Series Finale telecast on May 25, 1999 at 8 P.M. ET/PT (several ABC stations aired the Season 3 "Spin City" finale at 9:30 P.M. ET/PT that night), including a 90-Minute Series Finale and a 30-minute Retrospective.
The Series Finale, including 10 Minutes of NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN Bonus Bloopers, was released on VHS by Walt Disney Home Video in September 1999.
Since then, reruns of "Home Improvement" have continued to flourish in syndication, as well as on U.S. Cable Networks such as Nickelodeon, TBS, TV Land, WGN and The Hallmark Channel (as well as international airings on The Disney Channel and ABC1).
Stay tuned for the next Disney Showography: "Sports Night."
"Home Improvement" was produced by Wind Dancer Productions, Inc. in association with Walt Disney Television.