11 things you never knew about 'Home Improvement'
Learn how MC Hammer, Oprah, Weird Al and Hillary Clinton all tie into this smash '90s sitcom.
Image: The Everett Collection
Home Improvement was one of the true sitcom juggernauts of the 1990s. For most of the decade, the series was neck and neck with Seinfeld and Friends at the top of the Nielsen ratings. While it might not remain as widely watched today, Home Improvement probably inspired more Americans to do work around their house than any other comedy. It certainly turned Tim Allen into a massive star, and made Jonathan Taylor Thomas the ultimate locker pin-up for middle school girls.
1. The popularity of MC Hammer forced the show to change its name.
The working title of the Tim Allen show was Hammer Time. That name was nixed after the massive success of MC Hammer and his inescapable single "U Can't Touch This," which of course declared, "Stop! Hammer time!" The producers settled on Home Improvement and "Tool Time" as alternates.
Image: Rolling Stone
2. It was the first recurring role for Pamela Anderson.
The future Baywatch star had recently moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles when she landed the gig of the first "Tool Time girl" on Home Improvement. She had a couple appearances on Married… With Children and Charles in Charge on her resume, and had been Playmate of the Month. She played Lisa in this Disney-produced sitcom in a couple dozen episodes over the first two seasons.
Image: The Everett Collection
3. Ashley Judd was meant to be on the show.
Anderson was not the first choice to play the Tool Time girl. Judd was the initial choice. But she was a bit too talented. "When Ashley came in and read for the part I thought, My God, this girl is so talented!” series creator Matt Williams told Entertainment Weekly in 2000. Judd had no previous acting credits at the time. Williams instead created a new role for the actress — the sister of Tim Allen's character. However, Judd passed on the chance, hoping to pursue a movie career instead.
Image: The Everett Collection
4. There was a Super Nintendo Game.
One of the least likely video games of the 1990s, Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! looked a bit like Sonic the Hedgehog, only with Tim Allen running around shooting a nailgun.
Image: Absolute Entertainment
5. The Tool Time audience is the actual 'Home Improvement' studio audience.
If you went to watch a taping of Home Improvement, you got more than laughs. You also had a chance to appear on the sitcom itself, as the real studio audience showed up on camera as the fictional Tool Time audience. Speaking of taping, Home Improvement was reportedly the last American network sitcom to record to videotape.
6. It had one of the most-watched series finales of all time
A whopping 35.5 million viewers tuned in for the last episode, which places this show in the Top 10 of highest rated finales. Yep, it lured even more eyeballs than Frasier, Dallas, Happy Days and Gunsmoke. Of course, nothing can or will ever touch M*A*S*H.
7. Weird Al Yankovic wrote a song about 'Home Improvement,' but 'Friends' kept it off a record.
The spoof songwriter had hoped to include "I'll Repair for You" on his 1996 album Bad Hair Day. The song parodied the Rembrandt's "I'll Be There for You," better known as the theme from Friends, but changed the lyrics to be a theme song for Home Improvement instead. The Rembrandts were okay with the joke, but the producers of Friends were not. They refused permission. Weird Al did perform the song live, though.
Image: Scotti Bros. Records
8. Jonathan Taylor Thomas was actually the oldest kid on the show.
Home Improvement turned Jonathan Taylor Thomas (or just "JTT" to fans) into a Nineties teen idol. His was constantly on the cover of Tiger Beat. JTT played middle child Randy on the series. However, the actor was one month older than Zachery Ty Bryan, who portrayed eldest brother Brad. Bryan was physically bigger.
9. Tim Allen turned down Disney sitcoms based on 'Turner & Hooch' and 'Dead Poets Society'
Disney knew that it wanted Tim Allen starring in an ABC sitcom. Its initial ideas were to adapt hit movies Turner & Hooch and Dead Poets Society as regular sitcoms, with Allen stepping into the Tom Hanks and Robin Williams roles. Allen himself knew this was gross miscasting. "They offered me two sitcoms. And I thought they got the wrong guy. I told them, 'I'm the one you saw on stage doing the men thing, grunting like a pig.'" he told The Los Angeles Times in 1991. So, Disney went back to the drawing board using Allen's stand-up material as inspiration.
10. Dave Chappelle, John Elway, a former President and Oprah were some of the guest stars.
This has to be the only sitcom to have featured a Super Bowl MVP, a four-time Oscar nominee (Michelle Williams), a President and Oprah. Yes, Home Improvement roped in figures like Drew Carey, former Detroit Piston Isiah Thomas, the Beach Boys, Evander Holyfield and Jimmy Carter. Oprah appears as herself in a dream sequence, when Tim dreams that she will have Toni Morrison on her talk show to read from his book.
11. The show tried hard to get Hillary Clinton as a guest.
A few years ago, newly released documents from the Clinton administration revealed that Home Improvement sought First Lady Hillary Clinton as a guest in 1995. As reported by Politico, an internal memo from FLOTUS press secretary Lisa Caputo to Clinton's chief of staff Maggie Williams explained that the sitcom "would very much like to have Hillary." The White House staffer explained, "Although I have some concerns that it diminishes the role of the First Lady by going on a tv sitcom, it is probably worth weighing it against what we believe we might be able to gain by such an appearance politically and image-wise." She did not do the show.
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