The heartwarming eighth and final season of Home Improvement, Tim Allen’s Emmy-nominated sitcom about a Mr. Fix-It television personality and the exasperation that he frequently visits upon his loveable brood, hits DVD this month.
For those unfamiliar with the Detroit-set show, Allen stars
as Tim Taylor, the affable, pun-loving host of Tool Time, a Bob Villa-type, do-it-yourself
(For a brief clip of the show, click here.) His faithful co-host is Al Borland (Richard Karn), and their attractive assistant is the vibrant Heidi (a chipper but surgically enhanced Debbe Dunning). Together with his long-suffering wife Jill (Patricia Richardson), Tim presides over a family comprised of three
rambunctious sons (Zachery Ty
Bryan and Taran Noah Smith are the at-home mainstays, while the older Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who left the series previously, ducks back in for a number of episodes). They live next door to a
never fully glimpsed neighbor, Wilson (Earl Hindman), who dispenses nuggets of
advice from just over a backyard fence that help, when necessary, steer the perpetually mishap-making Tim
toward compromise and apology.
Winding things down, this season finds Tim quitting his job at Tool Time,
his boys setting off to follow their own dreams, and Tim and Jill deciding it’s time for new adventures, and heading off to
Indiana. Al also undergoes big life changes; his mother passes away and he proposes to Trudy (Megan Cavanagh). Guest stars
this year include Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Fairchild and Mario Andretti, and, as Wilson, Hindman finally gets a chance to show his face in the season finale — a just reward for being such a good sport for so many years.
co-creators Matt Williams and Carmen Finestra previously wrote for iconic ’80s
sitcom The Cosby Show, so their work
retains much of that show’s good-heartedness, if not quite the same aplomb with
which the requisite “very special episodes” are handled (witness the two-part “Love’s Labor Lost,” in which Jill grapples with the possibility of a full hysterectomy). Though originally conceived of as a showcase for Allen’s trademark macho-goofy humor, honed by his experience of more than a decade as a stand-up comedian, Home Improvement would eventually evolve into a much more traditional, staid sitcom. That means stories of diluted familial drama, carried along largely by charisma
There’s certainly nothing deeply odious or wrong with Home Improvement. But as this collection of the show’s final go-round
reflects, blue-collar inspiration has a certain shelf life. The type of big screen fare that Allen has gone on to — undemanding, pre-chewed entertainment like Wild Hogs and The Santa Clause franchise — prove that he has a keen grasp of his audience and perhaps inherent limitations, but it also serves as an indication of what one gets here: familiarity, microwaved to accompany a microwave dinner or post-supper couch sprawl.
Presented in a 1:33.1 aspect ratio with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack, the final season of Home Improvement comes housed in a cardboard nice slipcover case. With all 28 of the season’s half-hour episodes, plus exclusive DVD bonus features, this four-disc set is an irreplaceable
addition to the collection of any diehard fan of the series, but obviously more of a Netflix rental for those without either kids who might get replay value out of it or a strong rooting interest in the show themselves. A six-minute, season-specific blooper reel kicks things off, and there’s also a retrospective special from 2003, Tim Allen’s User’s Guide to Home Improvement, that gathers Allen, Karn, Hindman and Dunning in front of a live
studio audience to revisit their favorite moments from the show’s
run. For a glimpse of the final curtain call, click here; to purchase the set via Amazon, meanwhile, click here. C (Show) B (Disc)