Home Improvement: What Was Really Happening Off Set



Tim Allen became a common face on our screens during the ’90s and it was the ABC sitcom that lead to posters of one particular cast member up on the walls of our homes. But as much as we loved the show, there was a lot more happening behind the cameras of Home Improvement.

Patricia didn’t want to be famous


Jill Taylor played the lovable mother and wife on the show and despite her character building up its own fanbase, this actually contributed to the show’s downfall. With most actors wanting their screen time to increase, Patricia Richardson struggled with the limelight and admitted that it made her feel very uncomfortable, so she hid away from the press and any celeb events.

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Taran Noah Smith ran away


Believe it or not, but young and sweet Mark Taylor ended up running away from his family home when he was just 17 years old. Throughout his time on Home Improvement, he was always too young to have access to his earnings from the show and it was in 2001, that he had a disagreement with his parents and sued them after claiming they were spending all of his money.

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Trying to keep his normal life


When Richard Karn landed his role as Al Borland on the show, he had no idea where it would lead to. The first episode aired in 1991 and Karn actually continued to maintain his day job with his wife. As the show blew up, he realized it would be difficult for him to maintain his old life. During an interview, he said, “My wife and I managed an apartment building for our day jobs and it got to the point where we had someone call up and say, ‘Hey we’ve got a leak in our sink. Can you please come and take a look?’”

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There’s somethings money can’t buy


With everything happening behind the scenes it seems that even money couldn’t make another series happen. After the show ended following its 203rd episode, Allen was offered a whopping $50 million to work on another season and Richardson was offered $25 million – both turned the offer down and walked away.

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Not all good things


The young boys of the show had a huge amount of fans and as many celebrities have come forward and said this, sometimes fame can cause some unease. Candy Bennici, who was the mother of Taran Noah Smith writes in her book, “a man grabbed my arm and said – listen, I need to talk to you. I work for the FBI, and the three boys from Home Improvement are the top target in the world. You can’t just leave him alone. Don’t ever let him out of your sight.” Yikes!

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Allen got into trouble


Before Tim Allen rose to stardom on the sitcom, he had experienced a troubled past. It was in the late ’70s that he spent time in a federal prison. After being arrested at Michigan airport for possession offenses, he spent two and a half years inside. It was at this time he realized that he needed to regain control of his life, but it wasn’t long before his past came back around.

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How Allen and Taylor clashed


Although they were father and son on Home Improvement, it became apparent that the relationship between Tim Allen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas became distorted off-screen. In the middle of the eighth season of the show, Thomas announced he wanted to leave to focus on his education. Allen was angry with him when he discovered Thomas actually left so he could work on some movie opportunities.

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Stepping into the movie industry


At the time, we’re sure Thomas didn’t realize that his step away from the show would resort in the whole thing coming down amongst the rest of the cast and it wasn’t long before some of them wanted to attempt the movie world themselves. His Home Improvement brother, Zachery Ty Bryan appeared in Thor: Hammer of the Gods, however, the movie received terrible reviews.

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Allen in trouble again


After pulling himself together after his prison stint, Allen managed to avoid trouble for a while and enjoyed his new-found fame from the show, but it wasn’t long until he was back on the wrong side of the law again. In 1997, he got busted for a DUI after driving 70 miles per hour in a 40 zone. Following that, he entered himself into rehab.

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What time is it?


It’s Tool Time. Allen, being one of the most popular people on TV at the time, received multiple offers for a TV series of Turner And Hooch in which he turned down with a bid to get his own show. Thanks to his confidence, a producer was hired to create a show around Allen’s personality and so Tool Time was born.

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The episode they didn’t want to air


One of the most upsetting and tensest episodes was when Randy had a cancer scare and the ABC network was reluctant to even air the episode. Worried some viewers may switch the channel when watching such a heavy topic, they even moved the episode to a later time – in the end, it turned out to be one of their highest-rated episodes.

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Ty Bryan chose an odd name for his bar


After his acting role in the Thor movie forced him out of the acting world, Bryan decided to open his own sports bar which he called Big Wangs. He also had problems managing to find his feet in that role as he went on to sue his business partners for stealing money. He claimed in court they “used the restaurant as a piggy bank”.

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They changed the name


During discussions about what the show was going to be called, a decision was made to call it, Hammer Time. It seems as though someone was a big fan of MC Hammer. Luckily, producers later decided against the name and went back to the drawing board.

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Tool time girl


Debbie Dunning played the Tool Time girl and looked beautiful as ever and very 90’s in her uniform. And although she enjoyed the role, apparently it was a problem that she was too talented of an actress to even play the role! She did follow in Pamela Anderson’s footsteps but we’re not sure there are many people who leave a role for being too good!

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Who is Klaus?


When the show had visitors on set, many people began asking who a person named ‘Klaus’ was, as Tim always spoke with him and asked him to play music as they recorded the Tool Time segments. The mystery person was Klaus Landsberg who was a sound engineer. Since then, Allen has worked with him on many occasions including Toy Story.

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It was a paraody


Now they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Tool Time was exactly that. With many of us thinking the characters were fictional, they were actually based on other characters – a pair of carpenters, called Bob Vila and Norm Abram from the PBS show, This Old House. Funnily enough, Vila then went on to make an appearance on the show.

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The first Al


As much as we all love Richard Karn’s character Al, he could have been portrayed in a very different way. Originally, Stephen Tobolowsky had secured the part as Allen’s trusty co-worker. Once the show was ready to go ahead, they waited for ABC to give them the ok to start filming and it was during this time that Tobolowsky dropped out to pursue a film career.

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Who was the oldest


The boys in the family were some of the most loved characters but everything wasn’t as it seemed. Zachary Ty Bryan who played the oldest sibling Brad wasn’t actually the oldest at all. Jonathan Taylor Thomas who played the middle brother was indeed the oldest out of the three child actors.

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An odd coincidence


Before the show, cast members were often getting into trouble with the law – and unlike most situations, this misdemeanor helped Richard Karn get the part as Al. When driving one afternoon Karn skipped a stop sign and got caught. He then had to attend traffic school and coincidently this was where he met an agent for the show.

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Another person scooped the role


Before the show began recording, many members of the cast were changed and swapped around. Even though Richardson ended up having a problem with the fame, she only got put into the show at a later date. Originally, Titanic’s Frances Fisher was cast as wife and mother Jill. Fisher left after failing to wow audiences during the pilot.

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Shut down a runway


On the majority of shows, as they get bigger, there eventually ends up being some big demands and at one point the show shut down an entire airport runway. One of the most exciting episodes saw a drag race between Allen and Vila’s characters, and it was when recording The Great Race Part II, that the producers managed to get Burbank Airport runway shut down for the scene.

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Free marketing for Michigan


A good way to get some freebies and some amazing free marketing for your company is by doing a swap and that’s what happened on set. Most of Tim’s wardrobe came as donations from Michigan University and other colleges. They happily handed over the goods and then watched them appear on screen.

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There was a video game


Oddly enough, the show managed to inspire a video game. Knowing that there probably wouldn’t be too much interest in the game, they added in mummies and dinosaurs and called it Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit. It’s safe to say, after its release in 1994 the Super Nintendo game didn’t do too well – in fact, it was kind of a flop.

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Clinton’s cameo


Surprisingly, as the show became a big success, it turns out that The White House wanted to get in on the action. Hilary Clinton must have been a fan of the show, as in some memoirs from 1995, it says that her secretary approached the producers about Clinton making a guest appearance on the show. For some reason, it never ended up happening.

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And then Mrs. Doubtfire happened


With the viewing figures growing dramatically for Home Improvement, producers wanted to develop the storyline into a movie. When asked about it, Allen told producers he wasn’t interested as he didn’t like the idea of posing as a nanny after he split up with Jill. It seems he lost out as Mrs. Doubtfire was then created and it is still a much-loved family flick all these years later.

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But Where Are They Now?


So, what’s he been up to since Home Improvement ended in 1998? Well, for one thing, he turns 35 this year and now looks like this. Career-wise, Thomas has acted on and off since his prime child-star days, voicing roles in the The Wild Thornberrys and The Simpsons during the early ’00s, and appearing on shows including 8 Simple Rules and Last Man Standing. In the latter, which stars his former TV father Tim Allen, Thomas took his cameo as an opportunity to make a few fun inside jokes about Home Improvement.

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Zachery Ty Bryan Now


These days Zachery Ty Bryan is married and is a father of three. After the show ended, he had small roles in several TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, and Smallville. His last on-screen appearance was in 2009 with the fantasy thriller film Thor: Hammer of the Gods. He decided to step out of the spotlight and has been working as a producer.

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Taran Noah Smith Now


Since the show, Taran decided that fame was not for him. He said “I started Home Improvement when I was 7, and the show ended when I was 16. I never had the chance to decide what I wanted to do with my life. When I was 16, I knew that I didn’t want to act anymore.” When the star was 17 years old, he married Heidi van Pelt who was 16 years older than him. However, six years later the two divorced.

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Richard Karn Now


After the show, Karn became a game show host. He was the fourth host of the hugely popular American show Family Feud between 2002 and 2006. After this, he was also the host of the game show Bingo America. He also had guest appearances in several TV series including Last Man Standing and The Bold and the Beautiful.

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Patricia Richardson Now


After Home Improvement ended, Patricia continued her career, appearing on television shows, such as the medical drama Strong Medicine, the political drama The West Wing, and the crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The actress also went on to have cameos in a few TV movies including Smart Cookies and most recently Snow Bride.

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Debbe Dunning Now


It has been 27 years since the show came to a close, and now the actress is now a mom to three children and is married to volleyball player Steve Timmons. Since Home Improvement she did star in Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Wicked Wicked Games. In 2017, Dunning started hosting Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Round-Up where she tours America and interviews farmers, ranchers, and fisherman. She also loves golf and often takes part in celebrity golf matches. Funnily enough, one of these matches included Zachery Ty Bryan; her Home Improvement co-star.

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Will There Be A Reunion?


We aren’t sure about other cast members, but Debbe is open to the possibility of a Home Improvement reboot: “It’s one of those shows where you go to work [and] couldn’t wait to get there. And when you leave, you’re driving home, laughing the whole time, make your dinner, you go to bed and you get excited.”