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Series / Home Improvement

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Note that Wilson's still not visible.
Jill: [regarding souping up the dishwasher] You will not screw it up like you did the blender. End of discussion.
Tim: What's wrong with the blender? It's the only blender on the block that can puree a brick.

MOAR POWER! *grunt*

Home Improvement is an American sitcom starring Tim Allen as Tim Taylor and his family, consisting of his wife Jill and their three sons Brad, Randy, and Mark. Tim tried to balance his home life raising three rambunctious, growing sons and a wife whose aims and goal in life seemed to change every other season with his responsibilities as host of his mildly successful home improvement show Tool Time with his sardonic sidekick Al (often implied to be the real star of Tool Time, at least in the fans' eyes). Of course, as the archetypal Bumbling Dad, it could be said the show was mostly about Tim's (usually fruitless) search for respect in the world.

Episodes would typically feature some problem of Tim's, either as the A Plot or B Plot, and him trying to deal with it in his own stereotypically macho way, and then have to seek out the help of his extremely well-spoken, well-traveled, well-read neighbor Wilson Wilson, whose face was never seen in full. Tim would then try to relate Wilson's advice, mangle it badly, and finally put the advice and his viewpoint into understandable words of his own.

This made the show notable in that, while it typically used the Double Standard of a better grounded wife always winding up right with the husband having to be the one to apologize regardless of who was actually at fault, it realistically showed that Tim (and by association men like him) don't mean to be self-centered idiots, they just have trouble understanding women and really do try to be good husbands. It also occasionally showed Jill in the wrong, and with her own visit to Wilson (or her own epiphany) she would realize she needs to make the effort to understand and empathize with Tim, too. By nature of featuring a nuclear family and the trials and tribulations of its growth (and of being produced by Disney), it also had more than a few Very Special Episodes. All of these themes ended up Anvilicious at times, although a bit more subdued than other shows of its type.

Arguably one of THE sitcoms of The '90s, and still popular in syndication. The series ran for eight seasons, from September 17, 1991 to May 25, 1999.

Also the Trope Namer for Tim Taylor Technology. In 1994, a SNES game based on the series, Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!, was released.

Kind of related to D.I.Y. Disaster, Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Project, and Doom It Yourself, as though Tim and his friends are actually incredibly competent at conventional repairs and projects, when they seek "More Power!", Hilarity Ensues.

"We'll be right back after these messages from Binford Tropes!":

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  • 555: Tool Time's call-in number. One season 4 episode includes the full version of the number, with area code 810, which was the actual area code for Royal Oak, Michigan, at the time of said episode's writing. 810 is still used as the area code for Flint and parts of Livingston County and the Thumb, but Royal Oak is now in area code 248, which came into existence around the time season 7 premiered.
  • 21-Gun Salute: Tim sets up a 21-nail-gun salute to the late Binford. As is to be expected from the show, the last row of nail guns doesn't exactly work correctly, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Absurd Phobia: One episode ended with Tim stating that, as a cool manly man, he's not afraid of anything. Jill teasingly retorted with "Oh, please. You were scared of The Sound of Music, to which Tim replied "The hills were alive!"
  • Absurdly Bright Light: Tim's Christmas lights. In one episode, they blot out the Sun; in another, they're bright enough to help out planes that previously couldn't land in Detroit due to low visibility.
  • Acquainted with Emergency Services:
    • Tim. One episode has his son get injured. When Tim takes him to the hospital, it turns out he's on a first name basis with the staff. He even has his own coffee mug there.
    • In "Room Without A View", Tim wants to build a bedroom in the basement and Jill complains that every time he renovates, there's "a big hole in the wall and two paramedics." Tim retorts that he won't make any holes in the wall and that it "might be kinda cool to see Dave and Biff again."
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Brad and Randy were big practical jokers in the early seasons. Jill would usually take a very disciplinary stance on said pranks, but it would often be undercut by Tim, who could barely conceal the fact that he found their pranks hilarious. That's because, Like Father, Like Son, Tim was an infamous prankster, as shown on Halloween episodes.
    Jill: Tim, come on. Our son took a dissected frog and placed it on a lettuce leaf.
    Tim: (cracks up laughing)
    Jill: It's not funny!! It's serious! The principal ate it!
    Tim: Well it's a step up from those fish sticks!
  • Achilles' Heel: Tim's carelessness and compulsion to overpower things. When those are in check, he can do some fairly incredible things (the reason his Hotrods were successful is likely because he had too much respect for them to rewire them or fail to take great care with them). But even his crazy Tim Taylor Technology belies his skill. His using a jet engine to power a leafblower wasn't sensible, but it implies that he was able to obtain and rewire a jet engine. Alternatively, he built it himself out of commercially available products. Either way, he's not stupid, just crazy.
    • He actually got the engine from the 'lawn mower racing association', but they still loaned it to him. Really, anything with an engine he will do fine with, and most of his skills with building are still always solid. His Achilles Heel is more like operation — that's where things always seem to go south.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Happens to Brad after he co-hosts Tool Time with Tim in the episode "Quibbling Siblings".
  • Adam Westing: Early seasons depicted Tim and Bob Vila being rivals, with Vila making occasional guest appearances to compete with Tim in different challenges, such as a lawnmower race. In a memorable moment, Tim accidentally knocks Vila unconscious with a door beam.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Very few characters on the show learned their lessons outright, though many of them (very) gradually softened the behaviors that got them in trouble repeatedly.
  • Alliterative Name: Tim "The Toolman" Taylor. Don't forget Wilson W. Wilson.
  • All Part of the Show: Most Tool Time viewers believe that all of Tim's mishaps on the show are staged and serve as an example of what not to do. One episode even has a safety organization give Tim an award under this assumption. Tim, not wanting to risk his reputation, lets them.
  • All There in the Manual: Ultimate aversion: the SNES game only had a slip of paper insisting that real men didn't need manuals.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: Al's brother is named Cal and his mother is named Alma. Also, Wilson Wilson's niece is named Willow Wilson and it is once mentioned that his relatives include Wilbur, Wilhemina, Wilford, Willard, Wilma, and Brian.
  • Always Someone Better: For Tim, Bob Vila, which is the root cause for Tim to treat the latter as an Unknown Rival. Not only is Vila a more capable handyman than Tim (probably because Vila doesn't produce Tim Taylor Technology), Vila is also a much more successful show host.
  • Amateur Sleuth: One episodes sees Tim and Al in this role when they set out to find and get Brad's stolen car's stripped parts back.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The series ends on this note, were not sure if Jill took the job in Indiana, with her considering passing it to stay in town. Granted it does end with Tim apparently taking the whole house down to Indiana but that could've been a Imagine Spot. Either way, it just leaves it up to the audience to decide.
  • Amusing Injuries: Tim suffered these almost Once an Episode — if not considerably more. His medical record at the local hospital is the size of a phone book (and that's just this year's). They also keep a coffee mug for him.
  • An Aesop: Usually delivered by Wilson, although they were frequently more directed at the characters than at the audience.
  • And Starring:
    • "Starring Tim Allen" for the entire run.
    • "And Jonathan Taylor Thomas" in season 7, his final as a regular, and the first year for the "And" in the series.
    • In season 8 Zachary Ty Bryan and Richard Karn had worked up to a "With... And..." respectively.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Discussed at length. When Wilson confided to Tim that he once saw a UFO, Tim relayed the information to his hardware store group who proceeded to mock Wilson extensively for it. With one of his best friends peeved at him, Tim took the opportunity to do some research and found a lot of information regarding the paranormal and extraterrestrial, leading into a dream sequence that was a spoof on The X-Files. He later discussed it with Wilson and confessed that while he may not be a believer, he has a new respect for it if a guy as smart and well-traveled as Wilson is a believer.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Brad is told in "Taylor Got Game" that he's good enough to play soccer professionally. He considers skipping college to make a go of it, which doesn't please Jill. During the arguing, Brad asks Tim if he would've skipped college to do Tool Time if that was an option. Tim freezes up and later admits to Wilson he probably would've.
    • Tim has a fantastic one in "Twas the Night Before Chaos" when Jill's parents come to visit for Christmas, and her father, The Colonel, has recently retired and copes by spending all his time in the den watching Patton.
    Tim: How many scenes in the film do you see Patton in his den sitting on his butt looking for his remote?
    • It works, as it's the impetus for the Colonel to get off of his butt and come to terms with his retirement, something meddling Psychology student Jill failed to do.
    • Karen poses one to Tim, asking whether the family would move to another city for Jill's dream job or his dream job if offered both at the same time. In the finale we get the answer: Jill's dream job.
  • Artistic License – University Admissions: Played with. One episode has Brad put together a highlight video for college soccer coaches so he could earn a scholarship. Thankfully, a heavily-edited version made by Mark gets sent instead.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Tool Girl Heidi, at first solely used to introduce Tim and Al and provide Fanservice (the reason Pam Anderson, who played original Tool Girl Lisa, left the show for a full-time gig on Baywatch), eventually got a bigger role on Tool Time and a few storylines herself (about her pregnancy and her husband cheating on her, for example), as well as a Promotion to Opening Titles in season 7.
    • Al. Originally, another character (Glen) was to be Tim's assistant, but actor Stephen Tobolowsky was busy with another project. To give him time to finish, producers hired Richard Karn for the pilot. When the series was picked up, Karn stayed on as a recurring guest star as Tobolowsky was still busy elsewhere. Soon enough, all parties agreed that between Tobolowsky's busy workload and Karn and Tim Allen's playing off each other so well, it was best to simply retain Al. Karn was added to the main cast by Season 2.
  • As Himself: Bob Vila, George Foreman, Michael and Mario Andretti, and others.
  • Back to School: Jill, after she was laid off from her journalistic employment. Her education lasted till the series' end.
  • Back for the Finale: Pointed aversion; Randy did not return for the Grand Finale due to some behind-the-scenes politics. Jonathan Taylor Thomas asked to be Demoted to Recurring Character for the eighth season ostensibly to focus on his schooling, but immediately took the free time in his schedule to film a movie. He returns for a Christmas Episode but the bad blood (possibly between him, the producers and his agent) put a strain on negotiations for the finale, and he simply doesn't show up.
  • Badass Boast: "I put a BBQ grill into geosynchronous orbit! So don't tell me what I can't do!"
  • Bag of Holding: In "Bell Bottom Blues", Al's toolbox apparently has room enough for a pair of crutches and an IV unit.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Tim and Al try to catch the thieves responsible for stealing a car engine (that Al had dripped with some jam by accident to use as proof it's theirs). Tim then suggests disguising themselves. Gilligan Cut to showing two women showing their backs to the audience and Al complaining the disguises aren't going to work...only for the women to walk away and reveal the two guys on the back only wearing some beards, mustaches, and glasses for disguises.
  • Banister Slide: When Tim's mother moves out of the house Tim grew up in, Tim reminisces about sliding down the Bannister. His brothers comment that Tim was the only one brave enough to go down facing forward, to which Tim replies that he was able to have kids anyway. Later, he takes a "slide down memory lane", and answers the door with a falsetto voice.
  • Bested at Bowling: In the episode "Up Your Alley".
  • Big Brother Bully: Brad and Randy, especially the latter, to Mark in the earlier episodes.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In one episode Al invests his entire life savings into a Tool Time board game that is manufactured with bad wiring. Since Al can't afford to have the games repaired or completely redone, it appears that he's going to lose everything. Tim is able to figure how the fastest way to fix the game, and recruits Jill, Wilson, Heidi, Ilene and Al's brother Cal to pitch in and stay up all night in Al's apartment fixing each and every single game.
  • Born in an Elevator: A variation. In "The Tool Man Delivers", Heidi goes into labor while she, Tim and Jill are driving to an awards dinner and she gives birth in a roadside gas station. Tim becomes the Delivery Guy.
  • Break the Comedian: In "This Joke's For You", Tim overhears Randy calling him a "Goofball" to his friends while trying to install a intercom for the house. He confronts him about it which leads into an argument with Randy, somewhat rightly offended Tim was eavesdropping on him, hurtfully stating he couldn't take him seriously with all the accidents he causes. Tim grounds him in a knee-jerk reaction and loses his jokey demeanor for most of the episode, even on Tool Time, which even Al finds off-putting. Eventually after talking with Wilson that Randy's just going through adolescence and entering his rebellious phases. He hashes things out with Randy and manages to regain his spark.
  • Brick Joke: Tim and Al set a world record for the fastest time prepping a charcoal grill for cooking (3.2 seconds). But it gets too hot, and Tim puts the lid on it, thinking it'll smother the flames. The grill takes off into orbit. At the very end of the episode, Tim and Jill, who are standing on a lake shore, watch as the grill splashes down into the lake.
    • Wilson provides a few of these:
      • In one episode, Tim receives a chain letter from Al which tells the story of a naval officer in Borneo who didn't respond to the letter and was later abducted and beheaded by natives. Wilson then tells Tim that he once had a friend who didn't respond to a chain letter who happened to be a naval Borneo.
      • In another episode, Tim and Al are stuck at an airport in Alpena along with a rather contrary clerk. When Jill tells Wilson about this, he mentions that he has a friend who works at an airport in Alpena.
    • Often happens with the tools and gags introduced on Tool Time, where you'd see the tool, then see Tim using it later.
    • In the Season 3 Christmas episode, Tim says that a mini-propane lighter would be a perfect stocking stuffer for a tool guy. Much later, at church when they hand around the candles, the pastor refuses to give one to Tim. Tim pulls out and lights his lighter instead.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: In "Room Without A View", Tim and Wilson are outside at night having a discussion about fears, and they're startled by an owl swooping down very close to them:
    Tim: Whoo. That scared me.
    Wilson: Oh boy, that scared me too.
    Tim: And I'm not ashamed to admit it. Although I do have to change my pants!
  • Broken Aesop:
    • Basically any time Tim was supposed to learn a lesson about respecting other peoples' feelings/how mockery can be hurtful/etc. considering that about 60-70% of the humor on the show was his wife and children mocking him, insulting him, and dismissing his thoughts and feelings.
    • The Unwanted Glasses Plot with Mark is about how he doesn't want to look like a dork and Jill says it'll be okay even if he has glasses. Pretty quickly he changed to contact lenses, so those who don't want glasses for fear of looking nerdy got very little out of it before the character is not a dork again. There's also the issue that Mark gets picked on and called a dork all the time anyway, glasses or no glasses, so even if he'd kept them, it wouldn't really change anything.
  • Bumbling Dad: One guess.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: As mentioned above, Tim may be insane, but he's an awesome mechanic when it comes down to it.
    • Heidi and Lisa as well. They may be Best Known for the Fanservice, but both were in-universe expert mechanics, welders and The Medic. Lisa in fact went on to become a Paramedic (in fact, when she got a job at the local Hospital in season 6, they said 3 years working for Tim was like 10 years in the emergency room).
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Both of the Tool Time Girls, Lisa and Heidi, are quite busty.
  • Call-Back: After Jill decides to go back to school, one of the suggestions Tim offers as an alternative to Jill to become a turret lathe operator, stating they make good money. Years later, while Jill is on a local talk show telling the host about Tim, she tells her that Tim said she should've become a turret lathe operator, while Tim is watching from the hardware store. He yells at the TV that they make good money.
    • This happens throughout the series. Every so often someone will make a reference to something that happened in a previous episode, though most of the time it's done to refer back to something notorious Tim did in the past (the time he dropped a beam on Jill's car and the time he fell into the port-a-potty get brought up a lot).
    • In the first season, one of Jill's friends asks Tim whether he or Jill would be the one to take a dream job and move the family to a new location if it meant the other had to sacrifice their matching opportunity. In the series finale we found out: Jill gets her dream job.
  • Call-Forward: A flashback in "The Longest Day" shows Tim and Wilson first met during one of baby Randy's constant crying fits. Wilson provides a solution and says Tim can stop by any time to chat. Tim remarks he's a private guy and doesn't like to share his problems with others.
  • The Cameo: Leeza Gibbons, Jay Leno, and Oprah Winfrey as themselves in season 8 episode "Home Alone"; Tim envisions himself as a successful author who is invited to all their talk shows.
  • Camping Episode: In "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (s1e18), Tim is coerced by Mr. Binford into taking his family camping on Valentine's weekend, when he had planned a romantic getaway with Jill.
  • Can-Crushing Cranium: From "Wilson's World":
    Wilson: Well I decided that being a little bit more like you wouldn't hurt.
    (Wilson takes off his hat and crushes a beer can against his forehead)
    Tim: How do you feel now?
    Wilson: ...I hurt.
  • Captain Obvious: At one point when Tim does an Enforced Plug on Tool Time, he says: "If it doesn't say Binford on it... someone else makes it."
  • Car Meets House: In "Jill's Birthday", Tim backs a pickup truck into a house that's being renovated, breaking the supports for the porch roof (which was due to be dismantled anyway). It's implied that his engine modifications had something to do with this.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Tim's "More Power", familiar grunt and "Oh no!" with the grunt — usually after some kind of accident.
      • "How do you spell that?" whenever Wilson (or sometimes someone else) says a word that Tim is not familiar with.
      • "Al is my assistant! He assists me!"
      • Various random people often tell Tim that they like Tool Time and that they really love Al. Tim's usual response is, "We all love Al."
      • "Back the x truck up" whenever someone says something to which Tim takes serious exception.
    • Al's "I don't think so, Tim" whenever Tim Taylor Technology is invoked. Also "You can address those complaint letters to Tim Taylor, care of Tool Time, at-"
      • Al even keeps a sign with the address ready at all time, making the sign itself part of this catch phrase.
    • Wilson: "Well hidey-ho good neighbor!", "Mm-hm mm-hm mm-hm." "Well, Tim, I'm reminded of..." "Oh no no no no..."
    • Jill: "Oh really?"
      • Jill also had "You are so pathetic", which she would utter whenever she was particularly exasperated with someone's behavior (usually Tim's).
    • Lisa and then Heidi, oh and Mrs. Binford: "Does everybody know what time it is?"
      • TOOL TIME!
      • Heidi: "That's right! Binford Tools is proud to present...Tim the Tool Maaaaaan Taylor!! Woohoo!!" Said the exact same way every single time.
    • Tim often uses his confused, Scooby-Doo-style grunt from the opening credits. (Note, the grunt is from Tim Allen's standup and is supposed to be the sound of a baboon).
  • Celebrity Paradox: Drew Carey appeared as a weird animal control officer in one episode. Two years before, Tim Allen appeared as himself on an early episode of The Drew Carey Show.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While the series never abandoned its comedy roots, the later seasons saw more serious plotlines, such as complications from Jill's hysterectomy surgery, or Randy leaving for Costa Rica for a year and the effect that has on the family.
  • Chain Letter: The episode "Unchained Malady" has Tim receiving one and decide to break the chain, which seemingly kicks off him having a string of accidents.
  • Chainsaw Good: In "The Wood The Bad And The Hungry", Tim and Al hold a turkey carving competition on Tool Time, and when Tim starts lagging behind he brings out a chainsaw to finish the job.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Tim is a bit too familiar with death, but this makes him very uncomfortable talking with others when someone dies. When his mentor and surrogate father John Binford dies in season 3, he tries to brush it off before finally figuring out how to mourn.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the earlier episodes Al was a more aloof, sarcastic guy with the show emphasizing him as a Beleaguered Assistant. It makes sense knowing that Al, and by extension Richard Karn, was a placeholder for a different character named Glenn to be played by character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. By the second season Al was modified to have more of an Odd Couple rapport with Tim, being more of direct Foil to all of his personality traits.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "Chop Shop Til' You Drop", Brad's newly purchased car from Tim's show is ransacked of all its parts, but Tim and Al manage to track down the thieves by recognizing Al's donut's residue having fallen on top of the motor by accident.
  • Chickenpox Episode: In "Roomie For Improvement", Mark develops chickenpox and Tim is forced to move in with Al for a few days because he's never had it. This becomes the main story as Al's lifestyle drives Tim up the wall, culminating in him accidentally convincing a woman Al wants to date that he's Al's lover.
  • Children Are Innocent: Mark, in the early seasons. And especially gullible.
  • Christmas Episode: One every year, with most of them centering around Tim trying to win the annual neighborhood light contest with his outlandish displays, challenging a local retired proctologist. He even gets his father-in-law, an army veteran, in on it one year by pointing out that Doc Johnson used to be in the Navy.
  • Clapper Gag: In "The Route of All Evil", Tim and Al are repairing a gas leak. Just after Al is told all the electrics in the house have been turned off save one light that runs on a clapper, Tim comes up and claps. The house promptly goes boom.
  • Clip Show: Two key ones.
    • The season 4 two-parter "Tool Time After Dark" has Tim's upset stomach (from eating too much Polish food) lead him to stay up all night watching tapes of Tool Time.
    • The three-part series finale "The Long and Winding Road" has a clip show for its second episode — Tim, Brad and Mark reminisce about their life in Detroit while Tim's driving the boys to school and then himself to work for his last episode of Tool Time, all while the family is preparing to move.
  • Clothes for Christmas Cringe: In one Christmas Episode, the Taylor boys decide to try to figure out what gifts Jill's parents got them and begin shaking the packages under the tree:
    Mark: Hear anything good?
    Brad: No, I don't hear anything.
    All: (Beat) Clothes. (drop the presents in disgust)
  • Continuity Nod: To demonstrate a power washer he souped up, Tim writes "Al's a gal" into a wall on the outside of the studio building. However, the power washer is so powerful that it carves the words into the side of the wall instead of washing them away. It's there every time they shoot outside at that location from then on.
  • Contractual Gag: Wilson's un-shown lower face became this. Originally, he just stood behind a fence on stage. As the show progressed, Wilson was shown out of the house more and set designers went to town finding ways to keep the portion of his face hidden with props. In all these cases, he was never shown, being obscured by at least three props in the scene as he moved around the set. When the cast would take their bows at the end of filming, Earl Hindman would hold a miniature section of fence made of tongue depressors in front of the lower part of his face. One time the lower half of his face was shown, only for the upper half to be covered by a mask Mark was making. There was one time Wilson appeared without any props in front of his face...but it was a Halloween episode and his face was covered in skeleton makeup, to the point where Tim didn't realize it was him until he'd already walked out of the scene.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Tim gets himself and Jill lost on the highway and still refuses to ask for directions, Jill threatens him with: "Stop and ask for directions, or I'll get up every morning and burn yournote  sports section." Tim caves in soon afterward.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Tim in a cook-off against Al in one episode. Notable in that Tim was usually depicted as a perfectly acceptable cook, something even Jill couldn't claim (see Lethal Chef below).
  • Cousin Oliver Syndrome: In the final season of the show, there was a story arc where Tim's brother had gotten divorced and was forced to move in with Tim and Jill. Oh, and did I mention he had two twin girls? The girls were pretty much just set dressing (and the worst actors ever), so while they didn't kill the show they didn't exactly help it.
  • Creature of Habit: According to the episode "Future Shock", Tim is one of these, and it really interferes with Jill's life after she goes back to school.
  • Creepy Basement: On the first night in his new basement bedroom, Randy is frightened by strange noises and sneaks back upstairs to sleep on the couch. Fortunately, Tim explains to him that these are normal household sounds like the operation of the gas furnace and air in the pipes, and so he's able to get over his fears.
  • Crossover: With the short-lived sitcom Soul Man starring Dan Aykroyd.
  • Curse Cut Short: Several characters take turns at this in one episode:
    Randy: Yeah, well it really doesn't matter what he thinks because he's a big piece of —
    Tim: Randy!
    Brad: Hey! Don't give me any more of your —
    Tim: Brad! You guys are becoming a major pain in the —
    Al: Tim. Okay, we'll be right back after these messages from- (Brad throws a football at Randy, but hits Al) ah! Would you just cut it out, you little —
    Tim: Al!
  • Curtain Call: The show ended on a similar note as Mary Tyler Moore with the cast breaking character and taking a bow.
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: In "The Old College Try", one of the students from Tim's shop class does this with Jill's cake when Tim has them over for dinner.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Tim has one of these with Bob Vila's face on it, at which he shoots nails with a nail gun. Tim being Tim, they all miss. Not at all surprising, since nail guns are meant to be used in contact with the target surface, not from several feet away.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • The Season 6 episode "Totally Tool Time" is this for Tool Time. Nearly the entire episode takes place both behind the scenes and on the set of the fictional show.
    • The Season 8 episode "Home Alone", for Tim. For most of the episode, he's the only character on camera.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jill and Randy most prominently. Tim's sense of humor alternates between goofy and snarky depending on the situation, and Al starts out as one but becomes less of one over time. Mark becomes one in the last few seasons, especially after Randy leaves in season eight.
    (Tim has just walked out of the house wearing a kilt)
    Randy: Hey mom, where's dad?
  • Dead Pet Sketch: In the episode "Howard's End".
  • Death Glare: The episode "The Look" revolves around the evil glare that wives give their husbands whenever they screw up big time. Or, in Al's case, mothers to their sons.
  • A Degree in Useless: In talking about getting an education, Wilson, who has led an extremely vivid life anyway, admitted that he worried that all his studies of great writers, philosophers and leaders would be useless in the real world. Then Tim moved in next door, letting him call on that knowledge and wisdom Once an Episode.
    • The book Wilson wrotenote  is called "The Psycho-Physiological Indices of Amorous Connections Among Termites of the Southwest". He mentions in a few episodes that it sold only four copies, and one was to himself.
  • Denser and Wackier: The Slapstick and Doom It Yourself accidents go from being at best a little outrageous to outright defying physics. The first episode Tim souped up the dishwasher that blew a plate out the back, after the fourth season or so Tim would do stunts like using rocket fuel to light a BBQ grill and put it into orbit.
  • Depending on the Writer: Whether or not Al was more popular than Tim with the Tool Time audience wasn't totally consistent. Generally there were jokes or references to Al having more fans, or receiving more fan letters than Tim, however occasionally, there were moments implying that Al wasn't popular, and was considered The Scrappy of Tool Time. In Season 4's "The First Temptation of Tim", Al's lack of a fanbase is even a plot point, when Tim's boss orders him to fire Al due to lack of popularity.
  • Destructive Savior: Tim and Jill. Both try to fix things and then they blow up in their faces. Tim, its literal. Jill, its metaphorical.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Al and Heidi in the episode "Futile Attraction". They didn't.
  • Directionless Driver:
    • In one episode, Tim and Jill have to drive to their friend's wedding in North Adams, Michigannote . Even though Jill has directions, Tim refuses to use them, and they end up in Ohio instead.
    • Subverted in an episode where Tim invites one of Jill's former coworkers to her birthday, but finds out later that the two weren't exactly friends anymore. The coworker calls up to get directions to the house, and Tim intentionally sends her to Canada. Too bad she still manages to make her way to Tim and Jill's house, much to Jill's chagrin.
  • Disappeared Dad: Tim's dad died when he was younger. It is used as a plot point now and then, such as when Tim refuses to work out a will because he's the same age his father was. Notably, Tim's dad was quite the toolman himself and he looked up to him, thus explaining his path in life. Binford Tools founder (and Tim's surrogate father) John Binford later became this as well, dying of a heart attack in season 3.
  • Disapproving Look: The main point of "The Look", where Jill gives Tim the Look after getting basketball season tickets.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Tim loses his hot rod race against Bob Vila. While he could have won the race by pushing his car into the redline, Tim spent three years building it and didn't want to risk blowing the motor.
  • Doom It Yourself: On Tool Time anyway. When he's not playing it up for the camera Tim can be quite effective at fixing things.
  • Doorstopper: Tim's been injured so frequently that his medical records for each month fill up an extra large binder.
  • Double Entendre: All over the place. Became a Running Gag for Tim and Jill to look at each other and clarify them.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Home Improvement refers to both the physical improvement of houses and the improvement of one's family life.
  • The Dreaded "Thank You" Letter: When Jill receives a thank-you note from a woman on behalf of both her and her husband, she notes that the only men who send thank-you notes are widowers. Her son Brad then asks why she makes him write thank-you notes and she says, "Because I'm trying to change the world, one boy at a time."
  • Dream Sequence: Several over the course of the show. A couple even utilized claymation.
  • Dress Hits Floor: In "It Was The Best Of Tims, It Was The Worst Of Tims", after Tim apologizes for taking Jill for granted, he reveals a tuxedo underneath his coveralls. Jill mentions she's not wearing anything under her robe. The robe hits the floor shortly thereafter.
  • Drop the Hammer: During the Flash Back to the pilot episode of Tool Time, Tim wields a sledgehammer while Al holds a stake steady. Tim stops the clip at this point, but considering the fact that Al has high confidence toward Tim's tool-handling competence during that time (but not so much after fasting forward to the present), we can safely assume this is what happens next.
    • The pilot resurfaces in a clip show of Tool Time episodes that Tim is watching while dealing with the consequences of eating Polish food. This time it plays all the way through as the camera pans away from the television screen; the audience doesn't see or hear the impact of the hammer, but we do hear Al's reaction including his questioning how Tim got a television show in the first place.
    • An early episode had the crew doing a massive remodeling job on the Taylors' home installing a Jacuzzi. A five day project ended up taking nearly a month because of set-backs and poor planning, starting off with Ted busting a gas line doing demolition with a 20 pound sledgehammer.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The Very Special Episode "What a Drag" delivered the message that using marijuana is bad, but it took a more even-handed approach than many other works. The lesson was that while marijuana might not be inherently bad it can cause the user to make bad decisions and the potential risk is not worth it.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Taylors, as a whole.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first several episodes, Jill's cooking is actually good. Tim even remarks on how good the chili is in "For Whom the Belch Tolls". It wasn't until later that Jill's reputation as a Lethal Chef became a running gag.
    • In the first season, Tim on Tool Time would make jokes about how overweight his mother-in-law is. After the character starts appearing and is skinny, Tim spends the rest of the show's run making fun of how fat Al's mom is instead.
    • Done intentionally in-universe when Tim shares the Tool Time pilot episode with his audience for an anniversary. Tim has a beard, Al doesn't, and the intro is played on piano by Ms. Binford, who has to prompt the audience to respond to 'Do you know what time it is?'. Oh, and Al trusts Tim's skill with a hammer.
  • Elderly Future Fantasy: In the episode "Future Shock", Jill feels strained by Tim's morning routine of exercise, breakfast and shower time when it interferes with Jill's school days. Jill has a nightmare where both her and Tim being elderly and Tim thoughtlessly ruining Jill's paperwork, which would have gotten her psychology degree (and on top of this, the boys still live with them and haven't aged beyond teenagers). Afterwards, Tim has his own elderly dream where his exercise left him in very good physical shape, but Al and Heidi quit Tool Time and Wilson runs out of advice for Tim. Jill dies after trying to exercise so she can be like Tim. Tim wakes up and realizes he needs to be more flexible for Jill.
  • Emotional Regression: Tim had an old college buddy (whom Jill hated) come visit, and Tim was distraught to find himself not having so much fun with the guy because all he did was talk about college glory days and still do the same college hijinks. Tim briefly started reverting but stopped himself because he can't go out to the bar on family night.
  • Escalating War: All of the characters engage in a series of escalating Halloween pranks in the episode "I Was a Teenage Taylor".
    • More than one of the Christmas episodes state that Tim is in competition with a retired proctologist to win the Christmas decoration contest. At one point the roof is so lit up that an airplane starts circling it.
  • Emo Teen: Mark in the later seasons, but more extreme with his fellow Emo Teen friend.
    • Mark came close to being a Perky Goth. He seemed so thrilled at the pointlessness of the world.
  • Enforced Plug:
    • Tim will stand behind Binford's products, and has no problem promoting them on his Binford Tools-sponsored show. However, in one episode, Tim is told to plug a new product that he thinks is terrible, and is torn between his honesty and his obligations. He eventually trashes the tool on-air and even puts his boss on the spot by roping him into it. However, a positive spin is still put on it, by saying that Binford prides itself on making only the highest quality tools, and that when a tool doesn't pass the test, it doesn't go to market. They then proceed to destroy the prototype.
    • To somewhat of a lesser extent, in one second-season episode, Tim wore a sweatshirt with the logo of ABC's Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV (complete with its “Circle 7” emblem) on it. ABC owned WXYZ from its sign-on in 1948 until 1986, when it sold the station to its current owner, the E. W. Scripps Company, during the network’s merger with Capital Cities Communications due to FCC broadcast ownership limits.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: In-show, Al is implied to be this for the fans of Tool Time.
    Any fan upon meeting Tim, repeatedly: We like your show, Tim. We really love Al.
    • Often to the point that many viewers think Al is the host.
    Tim: Al is my assistant. HE assists ME.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Invoked in-show. Tim accidentally drops a beam on Jill's station wagon, and she later leaves his painstakingly restored hot rod uncovered in the snow. Since she's been working on a Psychology degree, she worries to Wilson whether she did it, on some level, on purpose. He suggests it's an accident, and they start matching each other quote for quote.
    Jill: "Remember what Freud said though, there are no accidents."
    Wilson: "Well Jill, I don't think Freud ever watched Tool Time."
  • Expansion Pack Past: Wilson has been all over the world and met with many famous people, in addition to having the most obscure hobbies.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In "Birds of a Feather Flock to Taylor", Jill makes plans for her and Tim to attend the opera. They get into an argument over whether or not she actually told him this. Tim complains to his friends, only to realize that all of the things she did tell him were her way of softening him up for the news. Meanwhile, Jill complains to Wilson, only to realize that she should have actually told him much sooner.
  • Explosive Overclocking: Note — Dishwashers are not supposed to throw the dishes.
    • This is most often the source of Tim's many mechanical disasters; one of his favorite phrases was "More Power". He tries to soup up an electric ice cream scoop once. After splicing it together with a curling iron, he proceeds to punch through the entire (very large) tub of frozen ice cream, and through the other edge of the tub.
    • Subverted, believe it or not, when Tim races his hot rod against Bob Vila's. Tim loses the race, but he tells Jill that he could have won if he'd pushed his car into the redline. He didn't do it because he spent three years building his hot rod and wasn't about to wreck it over a low-stakes race.
  • The Faceless:
    • A recurring gag is that the audience only sees half of Wilson's face. Sometimes the top half, sometimes the bottom, other times just obscured. Tim Allen recalled the whole character came from his memory of his Dad talking to a neighbor over a fence and he could only see part of his face.
    • Al's Mom was like this as well, although she only appeared in a few episodes. She was apparently so large actually seeing her wouldn't do it justice and the only time we see her is an arm holding a loaf of French bread and we only hear her speak in mumbles and groans.
  • Fake Shemp: A very strange example from the episode "Slip Sleddin' Away": in the last scene (at 6'30), Mark is sitting on the couch, his head obscured by a cap and a magazine he's holding. A blooper from the end credits confirms that it isn't Taran Noah Smith. Why this was done when there was no reason to have Mark in the scene at all is a mystery.
  • Father, I Want to Marry My Brother: In the episode "Look Who's Not Talking":
    Mark: I have a woman — Mommy.
    Randy: Your mommy can't be your woman, doofus.
    Tim: A lot of men pay a psychiatrist a lot of money to figure that one out.
  • Flanderization: Al started off as just more low-key, reserved, and competent than Tim, and these traits grew into him being an oversensitive momma's boy who was practically the opposite of Tim in every way. Probably for the best, as the original version of Al was not a lot of fun and pretty much a Jerkass.
  • Fly in the Soup: Parodied in one episode when Tim brings out his book of flannel jokes to tease Al. "Waiter, there's a fly in my flannel!"
  • Food Fight: Namedropped, though one doesn't actually happen, during the start of the "Tool Time" episode featuring "The Man's Dorm Room".
    Tim: "Welcome to our Tool Time Salute-"
    Tim and Al (trade glances and yell): "Food fight!" (both make a saluting gesture, then speak simultaneously) "To college!"
  • Foreign Queasine: Wilson made all sorts of strange foods from foreign cultures.
  • Foreshadowing: When Jill buys her Austin-Healey, Tim protests that, like other British cars of the era, it will require a lot of maintenance. He's not wrong; all subsequent appearances or mentions discuss it having been rebuilt or needing repair work.
  • Former Child Star: An unusual real life example, as Taran Noah Smith dropped off the radar almost instantly once the show ended. He was quoted as explaining that he was just kind of thrown into the business and had no real desire to keep acting.
  • Formerly Fat: Tim used to joke about his mother-in-law Lillian being fat. The first time she shows up in the series (the season 2 episode "Much Ado About Nana"), she's very skinny, explaining that she and her husband are now able to watch "Tool Time" (and all of Tim's jokes about her size, which she describes as "the best motivation a fat person could have") thanks to the satellite dish they'd gotten.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The intro for seasons 7 and 8 had "Watch Tool Time" flash quickly several times when the cast members were shown on screen.
  • French Cuisine Is Haughty: When the characters want fine dining, they tend to go to a local restaurant whose waiter always insults them. When one of the boys takes a girl there for a dinner date, they end up just ordering salads because they can't afford anything else.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kind of. Tim's dad died when he was young, and he had to teach himself how to be a man. He only figures out that he wasn't necessarily right when he starts raising his own boys.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: All the kids got this at one point. Also interesting is that each of their first are shortened versions of their full first names, Bradley, Randall and Marcus.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: Tim Allen's later show Last Man Standing eventually had a full crossover episode where Tim Taylor meets Mike Baxter, both played by Allen. It appeared that Tim had progressed to become upper management of Binford Tools, while Mike checks YouTube clips of Tool Time and suggest he revive Tool Time if he was still passionate about it.
  • Fully Automatic Clip Show: In one episode, a friend's house blows up and Tim spends the rest of the episode vigorously denying that he was at fault (he triggered it, but completely unwittingly). The credits for that episode replaced the usual Hilarious Outtakes with all the times Tim exclaimed "I didn't blow up his house!", followed by, of course, the clip of the house blowing up.


  • Gallows Humor: Randy, the Deadpan Snarker, found himself almost compulsively making horrible puns ("I know how to iron for a funeral, dad. Set the dial to stiff.") after the death of Jill's dad, which his brothers didn't appreciate. Tim talked to him about it, saying he understood, explaining that it was Randy's way of coping, but that a good comedian could read his audience. He added that Randy should only make his jokes around someone who wouldn't be bothered by them (aka him).
  • "Getting My Own Room" Plot:
    • The season 3 episode "Room for Change" has Brad successfully lobby Tim and Jill to give him his own room, forcing Randy and Mark to share a room. This did cause some problems for Randy since he felt Brad was leaving him behind. Hilariously Brad finds out having his own room wasn't all that great since it meant he was expected to take on more responsibilities.
    • The season 5 episode "Room Without a View" has Tim and the Tool Time crew build a new bedroom for Randy in the basement when it's clear he and Mark have grown up too much to share one. Unfortunately, he wasn't prepared for the strange noises in the night and slept in the living room in fright. Thankfully Tim was able to ease him back to the basement. Meanwhile, Brad's jealous over it.
  • Generation Xerox: Marty mentions on a few occasions that Tim and Jeff used to pull pranks on him just like Brad and Randy pull them on Mark.
  • Genius Ditz: He may be clueless about a lot of things but Tim did build an entire car in his garage and his "Man's . . . " projects were inspired.
  • Gift Shake: In one episode, the boys shake their presents but hear nothing and conclude that they're clothes.
  • Giftedly Bad: When Tim messes up his carpentry projects, they're practically a work of art to witness.
  • Gilligan Cut: Tim visits his mother Lucille and walks in on a poker game she's playing with her friends:
    Lucille's friend: Say, while you're waiting, would you like to play a little poker?
    Tim: I couldn't take your money, ladies...
    *Scene cuts to Tim handing his money over to Lucille's friend*
  • Going Commando:
    • Referenced but not actually shown or confirmed to be true in the third season's episode "Fifth Anniversary". While Tim and Al are showing off the "Man's Kitchen", they don lead vests to protect themselves from the radiation given off by the Binford "Macrowave". From there, this exchange follows:
    Al: "Also useful in case Superman wants to take a peek at your underwear."
    Tim: "No problem there. I'm not wearing any."
    • Hinted at with Patricia Richardson's reaction in an outtake from "The Rights and Wrongs of Passage", in which Tim appears to flash her while wearing a kilt.
  • Good Parents: Tim and Jill are this in the end, despite occasionally making mistakes.
  • Grand Finale: Tim has to deal with Executive Meddling interfering with Tool Time by staging accidents and studio audience fights a la Jerry Springer. Tim refuses to go along with this under threat of being replaced, so he stages an impromptu Grand Finale inviting previous popular guests to join while they rock out to the K&B Construction Band song, all with the air of giving the execs the middle finger. At the same time Jill is offered a psychology job out of state, and with Tool Time gone she ends up taking it and the family prepare to move. Al marries Trudy in the Taylor back yard, inciting Tim and Wilson to take down their fence to give more space, wondering why they bothered having a fence there to begin with. Eventually Tool Time producers invite Tim to come back, and the show ends on a Maybe Ever After as Tim and Jill discuss possibly staying and Tim has an Imagine Spot bringing the entire house with them via a tugboat with "More Power!"
  • Grilling Pyrotechnics: See Brick Joke.
  • Groin Attack: Most infamously, when Tim slides down a banister and hits his groin against the wooden end.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Played with, during a Flash Back to the pilot episode of Tool Time. Tim has a beard while Al is clean-shaven.
  • Halloween Costume Characterization: One year, the Taylor boys announce that they want to be The Three Stooges for Halloween. It takes their mom a moment to make the connection:
    Jill: Why would you want to be the Stooges? They're obnoxious, they're always hitting each other — it just became clear.
  • Halloween Episode: One nearly every year. Usually revolving around the Halloween pranks that Tim loves so much.
  • Happily Married: Despite all the shenanigans Tim gets up to and all the disagreements they've had, no one ever doubts that Tim and Jill are still as in love with each other as the day they got married.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jill gets one after learning her father died. It's made much worse for her over the fact that the last thing she told him was a lie. And not just any lie, a lie she told so that he wouldn't visit at that time. She gets better after she and her mother are able to comfort each other.
    • Al has one after he invests his life savings into a Tool Time board game. When it's revealed that the game is defective and Al stands to lose double his entire life savings, Al breaks down and flees to his cabin before he has to sell it. luckily Tim is able to fix Al's game on time.
  • Hero Insurance: For being a small-budget show, Tim is quite reckless with all the mishaps on the set, but never faces repercussions for all the broken equipment, etc.
    • Averted in "Fifth Anniversary", when Tim wants to have Tool Time's fifth anniversary shot on-location at the Indy 500, only to be informed that his "Man's Kitchen" blew the show's budget.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tim and Al. Though Tim states at one point that he treats Al like he treats his brothers.
  • Hey, You!: Jill's father tends to address Tim this way, much to Tim's annoyance.
    Jill's Father: No it wasn't you... it was Hey You.
  • Hidden Depths: Tim was often able to say the right thing at the right time when someone needed him.
  • High-School Hustler: Brad's friend Jason.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Frequently shown during the closing credits.
  • Hint Dropping: In one episode, Jill has made plans for her and Tim to attend some formal event. She's marked the date on the calendar (apparently only marked it, not indicated what it was), ordered up his formal wear and all that. Tim, of course, doesn't take the hint. Only when complaining to Wilson later did she realize that she dropped hints but never ACTUALLY explained what was going on.
  • Holiday Volunteering: Episode "The Wood, the Bad and the Hungry" has Randy volunteering at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving. While leaving one of the regulars is upset about spending the day at a shelter so Jill invites him back for a meal at theirs.
  • Home and Garden: It has a Show Within a Show called Tool Time that is of this kind.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: The ice fishing variant.
  • House Inspection: Used for just a quick gag, as the inspector was supposed to go to their neighbor Wilson's but got the wrong house. He still showed up right when the Taylors had a dead rat in one of their walls.
    "Hi, I'm the home inspector from the bank [catches the smell of the rat for a beat] ...and right now, I'm thinking low."
  • Humble Pie: On one memorable occasion, Jill is served a heaping portion of this when she drags Tim to a couple's therapy workshop, and every single person there (including the women) tells her that she is too critical and demanding.
  • Hurrying Home for the Holidays: One of the Christmas Episodes has Tim and Al on their way to a Binford festival, but a snowstorm leaves them stranded at the airport in Alpena, MI. Tim and Al try to get back to Detroit so Tim can see his family for the holidays while Al has to make a choice between his Love Interest Ilene and his mother.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Al on Tool Time.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Near the end of "The Eyes Don't Have It" after Mark gets his new glasses
    Brad: If anyone calls you a dork, they'll have to answer to us, all right?
    Randy: That's right, we're the only ones who are allowed to call you a dork.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Said by Al after he gets the chance to say "I told you never to call me here" in the episode "Bachelor of the Year".
  • Idiot Ball: Tim and Al often take turns holding this when it comes to playing pranks on each other on Tool Time — for example, Al readily believing that a pair of ordinary sunglasses are virtual reality goggles.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: A lot of puns based on song titles, movie titles, titles of poems, idioms, etc. "Luck Be a Taylor Tonight", "For Whom the Belch Tolls" and many others. Three consecutive Christmas episodes are titled after 'Twas the Night Before Christmas ("'Twas the Blight Before Christmas", "'Twas the Night Before Chaos", "'Twas the Flight Before Christmas").
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Sometimes scene-relevant, sometimes not, usually involving tools and/or home improvement.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: In one episode, Jill attempts to interest the men in the house in opera. As expected, they all claim to hate it, until she brings an opera singer in to sing for a party. One of the boys finds it incredibly fascinating and asks if he can go to the opera with her.
  • Ignorant About Fire: Tim would occasionally set himself or something else on fire in his quest for "more power!"
  • Ignored Expert: Al frequently comes across as one of these. When Tim tries to add more power to things, Al usually warns him of the potential risks, but Tim rarely pays attention.
  • Implausible Deniability: In an early episode, Randy wrecks a bike and he and Brad discuss what to tell their parents. Brad suggests they say it was hit by lightning, and he goes ahead with that excuse when Tim and Jill ask him; which they don't buy for a second. Then then call Randy in to get his story:
    Randy: It looks like it was hit by—
    Jill: Don't say lightning.
    Randy: —Wind!
    Brad: A strong wind.
  • Important Haircut: Brad gets a ponytail for self-expression. Later on Mark in his Emo Teen years shaves his head following a break-up.
  • Incriminating Indifference: When Mr. Binford dies, both Jill and Al get on Tim's case for not mourning enough.
  • Indubitably Uninteresting Individual: Al Borland has shades of this. His idea of a night-out is going to bingo with his mother. And once when Tim stayed over at his place, Al's idea of a movie night is watching home movies of him as a baby.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: In the episode "My Son, the Driver", Jill hastily asks for some liquor when she is worried about her son Brad driving by himself for the first time. In another instance, Tim gulps down his drink after he is Mistaken for Gay at a bar.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    Tim: Al is my assistant! He assists me!
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: As long as you count various versions of Tim Allen's grunt as an instrument.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: In the episode "Let's Go To The Videotape", Tim videotapes Jill making a speech at a library fundraiser and then shows his friends at the hardware store how to use the video camera. Then, not knowing the camera is still recording, he starts complaining about how boring Jill's speech was and how he's tired of listening to her talk about her psychology classes. Of course, Jill ends up seeing the tape later, and she's not happy.
  • Interservice Rivalry: In "'Twas the Night Before Chaos", Tim tries to get his father-in-law, who happens to be an Army vet, to help him put up his Christmas display to beat his long-time rival, an eighty-something retired proctologist. He doesn't want to get involved in their rivalry until Tim mentions that the man was in the Navy. Then he's only too eager to beat "that Navy butt doctor."
    • And later when he's making it up to his wife and promising to take her on a trip to Venice like she always wanted.
    Fred: Well, we could see the sights, eat some pasta, go on a gondola ride.
    Lillian: I thought you hated boats.
    Fred: [Beat] A gondola's a boat?
  • Invisible Subtle Difference: Tim and Jill are picking out bathroom tiles. Jill insists they're different colors, Tim sees them all as white. Al, however, agrees with Jill.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Rodney Dangerfield guest stars in Season 7's "Thanksgiving" As Himself. Tim Allen was among those who got help and support from Dangerfield early on in his stand-up career.
  • Jaw Drop: Jill does this when Brad yells that he's not going to discuss his "sex life" with her, after she walked in on Brad and Angela making out alone in his room.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tim has quite a few Jerkass moments, but they are caused by his insensitivity and stupidity; he isn't a particularly mean person and usually recognizes what he did wrong by the end of the episode.
    • Also, Brad and Randy are like this in the early seasons, with especially antagonistic behavior towards Mark. This trait is dropped as the characters grow up, but in the last couple of seasons each of them take up another jerkass-like trait: Brad with Jerk Jock and Randy with Insufferable Genius. But in the end, the brothers do care for one another through thick and thin.
  • The Klutz: Usually, Tim's screw-ups are due to his signature brand of overclocking. However, there are sometimes when he gets into trouble out of just plain klutziness, especially on Tool Time.
    • The most notable exception is the running gag of him always banging his head into a pipe when he goes into the basement.
  • Lame Rhyme Dodge:
    Lucille: Wait a minute. Are you saying that before they got married, your mom and dad lived together!?
    Randy: Oh, no, no. What I said was that before they got married, they loved good weather. See?
    • And another:
    Tim: There's nothing wrong with two kids having a nice race down Dead Man's Curve.
    Jill: Down what!?
    Tim: Fred Mann's Curve!
    • And another time when Tim tried to claim "so boring" was actually "sobering".
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: After the older boys explain that their parents were having a 'somersault contest' to explain their makeup sex, Mark asks who won the somersault contest. Tim says that Jill won — she always wins. After Mark leaves, he confirms:
    Tim: You did win, didn't you?
    Jill: Twice.
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    Al: (to Jill) That is a terrib... ly nice picture of you.
  • Laugh Track: Quite a lot of it.
  • Lethal Chef: Poor Jill suffers from this reputation. Even she acknowledges it herself one time when talking to her mother about exchanging recipes: "I can't do that. Nobody wants mine."
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: Al once criticizes Tim claiming that being the host of the show telling bad jokes and getting Amusing Injuries is easy, and so they switch places for one episode of "Tool Time". While Tim is able to humble himself as the assistant, Al finds that he is not charismatic enough to lead the show and it does take a certain quality to do what Tim does. A related episode has Al taking over a cooking show that films in the same studio, and Tim struggles to not be the center of attention. Tim decides to do his research on the dish and manages to assist Al, which is so unusual Al gets distracted and starts making similar mistakes that Tim would.
  • Let's Get Serious: Whenever Tim is forced to take things seriously, he does remarkably well.
    • Whenever there is a death in the family, Tim is probably the most helpful person, in no small part due to dealing with his father's death early in his life.
    • Seeing classic cars as perfect, he saw no need to try to improve upon them, and thus built them by the book. He successfully builds two over the course of the series (and has a third rebuilt offscreen... after dropping a beam on it).
    • When him and Al were filling in for a cooking show on the same network, Tim actually takes the time to study up on what they're cooking, with the end result being that Tim and Al's roles are reversed, with Al screwing up and Tim getting everything right.
    • Whenever he manages to screw something up with his family, he will go to fairly large lengths to make up for it, and demonstrate that he really is a loving father and husband.
    • The implication is that Tim's failures are a result primarily of his own enthusiasm and a desire to make things more interesting (usually by adding MORE POWER). When he actually just wants to get something done, and not do it just to have fun, Tim reveals remarkable competence.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: Happens to Taps once Tim's "21 Nail Gun Salute" to the late John Binford starts going wrong.
  • Licensed Game: Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! for the Super Nintendo.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Al always wears flannel, and apparently does so because his father always did.
    • On Tool Time, Tim always wore a dress shirt and blazer. One episode he & Al wore Hawaiian shirts as they were working with lathes and advocated not working on such machines with ties, then he wound up demonstrating why when the shirt got caught in the lathe.
  • Local Hangout: Harry's Hardware Store for Tim and his friends, and Mike's bar to a lesser extent.
  • Lost Wedding Ring: Tim tries to clear the kitchen counter and accidentally ends up dropping Jill's wedding ring down the furnace vent.
    Jill: Did you drop my wedding ring down the drain!?
    Tim: No, I dropped it down the furnace vent.
    Jill: Tim!
    Tim: It's okay, I'll just get some tools. It'll give me a chance to look for those earrings I dropped down there, that I just realized I didn't tell you about.
    • And another when, after two viewers from the stands were brought down and accidentally made unflattering remarks about their girlfriends, one reveals on a following Tool Time they made up, and he even got her a ring to propose with. Which, of course, led to the inevitable...
      Tim: Come in. Let's get a close up in this—
      Knocks the ring against the camera; a plinking noise is heard.
      Tim: You know, I never noticed that drain until now!
  • Lonely Bachelor Pad: One episode has Tim design the ultimate male bathroom. The toilet unfolds into a recliner, there's a fridge and a large TV for sporting events... All good for a single person to live in, of course, but there's no way two people could live in it.
  • Lost in Character: Home Improvement was actually Tim Allen's first real exposure to character acting, years after the show ended he shared a story about his struggles learning how to act while being the star of the show. He said Patricia Richardson did such a good performance while their characters were arguing that he actually broke character worried that she was really upset. In a response to him sharing that story Richardson said she remembers it differently, where Allen started crying during the scene and THAT caught him by surprise, which is what led to him breaking character worried about her.
  • Lovely Assistant: Tool Time had Lisa and her replacement Heidi.


  • Macho Disaster Expedition: In one episode, a team of guys (a bunch of football players and Tim) think that they can construct a house better and faster than a team of women (plus Wilson and Al). Naturally, they've learned their lesson by the end of the episode.
  • Mad at a Dream: One episode where Tim and Jill are both dreaming of what they'll be like when they'll be old. In Jill's dream, Tim does something stupid with her life's work, and she angrily wakes up and starts berating him.
  • Mad Scientist: A handyman example with Tim.
  • Made of Iron: Accident prone Tim has been to the emergency room so often they know him by name. AND he has his own coffee mug. When Tim starts worrying about his own mortality after Harry had a heart attack, Jill listed off some of the accidents he has been in and declared him practically Nigh-Invulnerable.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: After Tim gets a vasectomy, sex can be done anytime, anywhere. At the end of the episode, he and Jill choose a location they haven't done in a while: the bedroom.
  • Male Gaze: While rebuilding Benny's house, Brad gets so distracted looking up at Heidi on a ladder he doesn't realize he's accidentally putting house paint on Randy's face.
  • Man Hug: Tim talks about this in a Tool Time segment, and tells his guests that he's secure enough as a man to dare hug other men as a token of appreciation. The hug issue is very quickly dropped when Al remarks: "You know, Tim, in Europe, men kiss each other on both cheeks."
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Tim loves to partake in manly stuff like grilling, cars, and sports, which greatly contrasts what Jill likes.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam:
    • "Crazy For You": Jill concocts a scheme where a supposedly obsessive fan stalks Tim. Everyone joins in on it to make Tim paranoid until the reveal at a big party.
    • "Bewitched": Wilson pulls one by apparently dying during one of Tim's little pranks and police being brought in to investigate. Naturally, they're all just friends of Wilson helping with the ruse, and again Jill, their family, and Al are in on it.
  • Matchmaker Failure: In "Heavy Meddle", Jill decides to play matchmaker for her friend Karen with Tim's friend Dave. Several episodes later, Tim gets dragged into it when Dave cheats on Karen. They end up splitting for good.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Tim gives Jill a phone message from her pregnant sister.
    Jill: What did she say about the ultrasound, what's she having?
    Tim: A baby.
  • Medium Blending: The episode "The Wood, the Bad and the Hungry" has a dream sequence done in stop motion with wooden figures.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Especially Tim Taylor.
    • Subverted with Wilson who is quite worldly.
  • Men Don't Cry: Discussed when Tim is almost unfazed by John Binford's death (his boss and family friend, having loaned them money for the house). Tim doesn't like Jill bothering him about it, but reconsiders when he learned Brad thought it was cool to not to show such "girly feelings". It is shown that Tim is just too familiar with death due to his father dying when he was 11, but prefers not to talk about it. The end of the episode Jill reveals that Tim did cry at the funeral, more than the widow. "That's because she didn't have to pay for parking!"
  • Milholland Relationship Moment: In the season 2 episode "Howard's End", Brad accidentally kills his girlfriend's goldfish while fish-sitting; he tries to cover it up, all the while agonizing over her reaction. When he finally comes clean with her, she's so impressed that he was worried about her feelings that she forgives him.
  • Military Brat: Jill. Her dad was retired Army and she spent much of her life in Army bases. In one episode she and Tim got to race in tanks, after Jill saying she always wanted to drive one, and she soundly beat him.
  • Miserable Massage: In one episode, Tim has a business meeting in a Japanese hotel, and has to join his bosses in a full Shiatsu massage. While they enjoy themselves, Tim is clearly in pain when the masseur starts stepping on his back.
  • Mistaken for Gay: In the episode "Roomie For Improvement", Al kicks Tim out of his apartment after Tim ridicules Al's snoring on Tool Time.
    Tim: Al, you can't end it like this. We've had a relationship for three years!
    Al: It's over between us!
    (Al's neighbor Cynthia overhears them)
    Tim: Al, open the door...
    Al: You should never have made that recording of me in bed!
    • There's also the episode where Tim and Al go to a singles bar, and Tim, uneasy with his "date" hitting on him, retreats to the bathroom with Al:
    Tim: We've got to tell them the truth about us.
    Al: Let's just wait until after the shrimp cocktail!
    Tim: I can't wait. I hate her touching me. I can't pretend to be something I'm not!
    (A bouncer comes out of the stall and raises an eyebrow at them)
    • One time when Tim goes to Wilson for advice, Wilson is in the middle of training for a biathlon, specifically saying that he's a biathlete. Tim hears this as "bi athlete" and tells him that whatever he does behind closed doors is his own business.
  • Moment Killer: In one episode, Tim and Jill are feeling romantic, leaning against a wall and kissing... then Tim's brother Jeff calls, and when the answering machine picks up, he starts going on about a foot fungus he's picked up, utterly killing the mood.
  • Momma's Boy: Al. He even once made a song for his mother and performed it on Tool Time.
  • Mooning: Discussed but averted in the season 3 episode "Room for Change". When Wilson says he's "shooting the moon" (taking time-lapse photographs and tracking the path of the blue moon), Tim asks "Aren't you supposed to have your pants down for that?"
  • Morning Routine: Tim and Al discuss their respective morning routines in one episode. Al's is to get up, say "Oh boy, another wonderful day of working side by side with Tim." And the next part is to consider calling in sick. Tim's is to get up, scratch and get in the bathroom.
  • Motherhood Is Superior: This is the subject of an argument between Tim and Jill in an episode, where Jill thinks she should be the one to talk to a suddenly withdrawn and quiet Mark because of the special tie mothers have to their children. Tim thinks she's being ridiculous and insists he can handle the situation just fine. The trope is subverted in the end: Mark does talk to Jill about the problem (he needs glasses), but only because nobody else was at home.
  • Motor Mouth: Brad's girlfriend Angela.
    • Wilson after coffee. And he's not much better after eating chocolate.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In-universe, the purpose of Pamela Anderson's Lisa (in her breakout role) and later Debbe Dunning's Heidi. Not nearly as suggestive as in most shows — they're merely just hot, busty women in tight clothing. Lisa was never a big part of the show (having more to do in her return appearance than she ever did during the show) and Heidi would only occasionally have a story. Heidi, especially on location builds, would also occasionally be shown to actually be working the build, and would explain what she was doing to viewers the same as Al and Tim. Her skill seems to be an Informed Attribute in-universe because most shows don't have her doing a lot of the actual on-air work, as Tim points out to the Tool Time audience that Heidi is a master electrician.
  • Mundane Utility: Tim makes most of his extremely powerful devices with the intention of using them for mundane household tasks, though they rarely actually work.
    • When they do, however, they play this trope straight. Early on, as an apology to Jill, Tim rigs a setup on the washing machine that makes adding the detergents automatic. The modified washing machine remains for the rest of the series.
      • Jill is gobsmacked when she sees it.
    Jill: It worked; it actually worked...
  • Murphy's Bed: In one episode, Tim remodels Al's apartment to maximize usable space. One of his improvements is a motorized hide-a-bed operated by a remote control. Al gets this remote confused with the one for the TV, and ends up getting sent through the wall into the neighbor's bedroom. "Hey! I don't go in for that sort of thing!"
  • My Beloved Smother: Al's Mom
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: In the episode dealing with Jill's 39th birthday:
    Tim: Great? There were only eleven people at your party.
    Jill: Yeah, but eleven people I really love. Well, ten plus Benny.
  • Nail 'Em: Tim, naturally, tends to have some accidents involving shooting people with nail guns. Examples include:
    • The season 2 episode "Dances with Tools" sees Tim accidentally shooting his cameraman with a nail gun while they're filming, and immediately try to downplay it by calling for the man to "get a claw hammer, get that out of your thigh. Get some salve on it."
    • The season 3 episode "Arrivederci, Binford" had Tim say farewell to his Show In A Show's corporate sponsor's recently deceased CEO by giving him a 21 nail gun salute. The guns come loose from their anchoring and start firing all over the stage, forcing him and Al to seek cover for fear of being nailed.
    • The season 5 episode "Shopping Around" sees Tim accidentally shoot his old shop teacher Mr. Leonard, who's guest-starring on Tool Time, in the butt with a nail gun.
    • Another episode ends with Tim in his garage, using a nail gun to shoot at a Dartboard of Hate with Bob Vila's face on it.
  • Nervous Tics: When Heidi has to fill in for Al on Tool Time, she mentions to Tim that she's nervous doing so and gets twitchy when she's nervous:
    Tim: Your eye or something?
    Heidi: Not exactly. [cue jiggling]
    Tim: [Beat] I don't think I can work with that.
  • Never Heard That One Before: In an episode guest-starring Real Life astronaut Story Musgrave:
    Tim Taylor: Hey Story, what's the story?
    Story Musgrave: Never heard that one before.
  • Never My Fault:
    • In the episode "A House Divided", Benny blames Tim for Benny's house blowing up (as do Wilson and Tim's kids, by the way), when it was actually Benny's fault because there was a gas leak in his house (or rather two, one of which he neglected to mention) and he didn't unplug a lamp after Al told him to unplug all the electrical appliances, his reasoning being that the lamp only turns on when you clap — even if Tim's clapping accidentally turned the lamp on, he didn't know about Benny's leaving the lamp plugged in and it's not his fault Benny didn't listen to Al.
    • In "Some Like It Hot Rod", Jill almost ruins Tim's chance of getting his hot rod in a big magazine by not covering the hot rod when it starts snowing, wrecking the interior, soaking the carpet and fogging up the gauges. When Tim finds out and gets mad, she claims that it's not her fault and pins the blame on Tim for not bringing the hot rod out of the garage. However, she eventually realizes that she was wrong to blame Tim when she was indeed at fault. She admits to Wilson she does have a problem admitting when she screws up.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: In his few appearances, John Binford seems a bit of a Jerkass to Tim (forcing him into a camping trip and ruining his Valentine's Day plans with Jill, and eventually foisting his annoying daughter onto Tool Time as a producer so he can cavort with his young new wife). However, after Binford dies of a heart attack everyone only speaks of him in glowing terms, with Jill even tearing up as she mentions he lent them money for their house.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: This was practically Tim's forte.
  • Nobody Thinks It Will Work: Jill occasionally mentions that people tried to talk her out of marrying Tim.
    Jill: Our wedding was so beautiful. I am so glad that I didn't let anybody talk me out of marrying you.
    Tim: Who would try to talk you out of marrying me?
    Jill: Oh, no one, you know, just my mom, my dad, my sisters, my family, the minister, the postman, some guy down at the mailbox...
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Tim and Al's characters were based partially off of Bob Vila and Norm Abram from This Old House, in that Bob was the charismatic host while Norm was the more competent sidekick, exaggerated for the purposes of the show. Both Norm and Al were the Ensemble Dark Horse of their respective shows. Also, guess who Tim's Sitcom Archnemesis was?
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud* / Waking Non Sequitur: "We'll be right back after these messages from Binford Tools."
  • Noodle Incident: "The famous Bloody Nutty Buddy Bar incident" mentioned in the episode "Dollars and Sense".
    • Although, with the information given in the episode, what probably happened was that the boys wanted to split a candy bar, but got into a fight over it which ended with each of them having a bloody nose.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse:
    Jill: We've gotta get into the kitchen and start making those cupcakes for the school carnival.
    Tim: Honey, there's one thing you should know about men. We don't make cupcakes.
    Jill: Come on, you promised me that you'd help me.
    Tim: Another thing you should know about men, we lie.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Jill tries to talk to Tim about ballroom dancing lessons while he's trying to listen to a football game on the radio through an earbud. Tim remains completely oblivious.
    Jill: So anyway, the lessons are on Tuesday nights. And it doesn't really cost very much. And I've been having an affair with a space alien. Yep, I'm having his baby.
  • Not So Above It All: Jill constantly tells off Tim for making jokes about Al's mother. When they walk into her funeral, Jill stares at the oversized coffin in amazement and remarks on how it looks like someone polished a barn. Tim and Mark can only give her a look somewhere between astonishment and disgust.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: In one episode, Randy felt Tim favored Brad, largely because Randy was not so much into sports, cars and tools but was more into journalism and politics. Tim explained that while they may not share the same interests, personality wise they were very much alike with a good sense of humor and a quick wit.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: In a Halloween Episode, youngest son Mark, who is currently going a goth phase, makes a movie where he wants to film chopping off Tim and Jill's heads. Tim realizes in the last second that the machete is real, not a hard rubber one. Later, during the outro, Jill and Tim's heads are in the basket and Jill mentions she doesn't have any more back-pain.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Most viewers of Tool Time believe this to be the case with Tim. They often think that his accidents are staged, both as a "This is what not to do," as well as simply part of the (intentional) comedy of the show. The final episode seems to suggest that at least some of the incidents on the show were indeed staged for humor.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Jill's father rarely calls Tim by his name, usually just "Hey you!" In the early seasons he also took a lot of pot-shots at Jill's mother for being overweight, only for her first appearance on the show to reveal she had slimmed down considerably. Jill also mentions most of her family did not want her to marry him, and he avoids being around her sisters for any considerable amount of time.
  • Odd Couple: Al and Tim are genuine friends, united in their fondness for tools and craftsmanship.
  • Oh, Crap!: Tim's "Oh no" and "uh-oh" grunts.
    Randy: "Not a word you want to hear in this house!"
    • The rest of the family has one when Jill accidentally leaves Tim's Hot Rod out in a snowstorm without a protective cover.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten:
    • Tim's brothers won't let him forget he slid down the banister head first, explaining... well, Tim.
    • Tim gluing his head to the table is this, even though he found more than a few ways to top that over the course of the series.
    • Tool Time fans often tell Tim their favorite episode was the one where he crashed through the roof of a portable toilet.
    • And then there's the three ton beam dropped on Jill's car...
  • Once per Episode: One of the Taylors, usually Tim, goes to Wilson for advice. Only a few episodes don't have this, and this is because of role reversal, where Wilson goes to one of the family members for advice. They also had a yearly Halloween Episode and Christmas Episode, which typically revolved around a prank or some other dilemma that doesn't require sage wisdom from Wilson.
  • One-Neighbor Neighborhood: Wilson is the only regularly featured neighbor. Season 1 tried to have some of the other neighbors as recurring characters, but they were quickly written out of the show. Later series implied Tim had alienated the neighborhood with his Tim Taylor Technology (the spaghetti landing in a neighbor's house stood out).
  • One of the Kids: Subverted. Tim is immature and enjoys sports activities with his boys, but he is a fully capable adult and knows how to be serious when the time comes. In an early episode Tim promised Jill he could take care of the house and kids while she took longer hours at work. When she comes home there were a few accidents and she is upset thinking she couldn't trust Tim to handle things. He turns the conversation around by listing off that everyone got to school and other appointments on time and back home safe (not to mention Tim is accident prone regardless).
  • Only One Name, and it's a Repetitive Name, too: Wilson W. Wilson, Jr.
  • Only Sane Man: Al thinks he is. Whether or not he's right varies from one episode to the next. There are a couple of other recurring contractors used for certain builds, and they typically fill the role of The Comically Serious next to Tim's accidents.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Done in several instances, the most notable one being the time Jill's Dad died. Tim had taken care of everything (plane tickets, etc) before Jill had returned home to learn the news and he was uncharacteristically supportive and sensitive to her situation. Jill even comments "Look at you, you're saying all the right things." and Tim explained that he pretty much went into another frame of mind to help her and that it wouldn't last.
    • Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize Tim knows exactly what to do & what to say in that situation because he lost his father too (albeit when he was much younger) and knows how it feels and what needs to be done in that situation. In fact any time death is brought up (especially that of a parent) Tim is often the most comforting and sensitive of the two. Tim's own mother admitted that when her husband passed away Tim and his brothers took care of most of the arrangements.
  • Outlandish Device Setting: When Tim shows off the Binford "Macrowave" in the Man's Kitchen, it only has three settings: high, REALLY high, and "split your own atoms," marked with a radiation symbol. He demonstrates the microwave by baking two potatoes, which takes about three seconds
    Tim Taylor: Once they stop glowing, they're probably ready to eat.
  • Oven Logic: The Man's Kitchen in one show of Tool Time had an over-the-top microwave (or as they called it, a "macrowave") that worked on this principle. It emits so much radiation that you cannot operate it without wearing lead vests.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: During a special episode of Tool Time, Tim thanked the audience for making it "Michigan's fourth-highest-rated cable tool show".
  • Over-the-Top Christmas Decorations: Tim's desire to add MORE POWER to his already over-the-top decorations ends up creating such a blindingly bright light that an airplane was able to locate the runway in the middle of a snow storm thanks to him.
  • Painful Adhesive Removal: One episode has Tim getting his head stuck to a table via superglue during a segment on Tool Time. Later on, he returns back home, with the piece of the table still stuck on his head. Shortly after, he rips the piece of table right from his head. His wife said that had to hurt. But Tim says otherwise right before he starts screaming in pain as he walks away.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: Tim and Jill catch Brad with marijuana. He deduces that they've used it before based on the fact that they were alive during "that whole hippie thing", which turns out to be true in Jill's case (Tim preferred beer). The parents discuss whether they should tell Brad the truth, and eventually, they do and she explains the trouble it caused her (she wound up inhaling a laced portion and the next thing she remembered was waking up in the ER) and that it was a mistake she doesn't want him to make.
  • Parental Substitute: Tim's father was killed by a drunk driver when he was just 11. As he got older, he met John Binford, founder of Binford Tools. Binford hired Tim right out of college as a traveling tool salesman and loaned him and Jill the money for their first house. He also gave Tim the Tool Time hosting job. Both Al and Jill even mention that John was like a father to Tim. Jill even says that he was the first person besides the two of them there when the boys were born.
  • Parenting the Husband: Tim can be rather childish at times, leading Jill to help him get to her level so they can be more effective parents. Sometimes this is flipped around as Tim has to talk Jill down from getting involved, letting the kids handle their own problems.
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: Jill walks in on Brad and his girlfriend making out in his bedroom. This gets Brad in trouble because Brad wasn't allowed to have girls in his room. Well, that and he referred to his romantic activities as his "sex life".
  • Parody Episode: The episode "Believe It or Not" features a Dream Sequence that parodies The X-Files, with Tim and Jill as parodies of Mulder and Scully. To complete the parody, instead of being named Fox, Tim's Mulder parody is named ABC.
  • Parting-Words Regret: One episode has Jill telling her father that she was too sick for him to visit. He dies shortly thereafter, and the rest of the episode focuses on how Jill regrets lying to him.
  • Periphery Demographic: In-universe. Given how many people Tim meets who like the show, and the couple of instances of selling the show out to a larger market, it's quite likely that Tool Time's (unintentional) slapstick comedy has earned the show a strong following among people who aren't interested in tools or home improvement.
    • Al's popularity turned out to be skewed more towards older viewers, especially older women, while Tim and Heidi (the latter of whom rated higher than Santa Claus) hit the target demographic more likely to buy their tools. Thus Binford was about to can Al because of the periphery demographic while Tim had to fight to keep him on, arguing it was their banter that made the show work.
  • Personality Swap: Every so often Tim would shift character positions with someone else as they act more impulsive like Tim would normally. When Wilson is thinking of moving back to where he used to live with his (now deceased) wife because her memory was fading, they actually swap sides of the fence as Tim gives him advice on how to remember departed loved ones. When Al takes on a gig as a guest host for a cooking show and Tim takes up the gig as his dedicated assistant, Al ends up being arrogant and causes an accident on-set when he refuses to listen to the practical advice Tim would give.
    • The cooking show incident may be Fridge Brilliance, as Tim has to learn to deal with Jill's terrible cooking. Also, Tim's lack of arrogance regarding cooking leads to him to do some research, and when actually trying to do things by the book, his competence takes hold.
  • The Philosopher: Wilson (though he was also sometimes a Cloudcuckoolander).
  • Plank Gag: Happened with some regularity, usually with Al on the receiving end.
    • Tim once knocked out Bob Villa.
  • Playing Sick: Used for tragedy in a later-season episode. Jill pretends to be ill because she doesn't want her parents to visit, only for her father to die of a heart attack and Jill to regret not being able to see him one last time. Brad uses it in an earlier-season episode to get himself out of school, but it doesn't work and this is more hilarious in his case.
  • Politician Guest-Star: Former President Jimmy Carter appears in the episode where Tim helps build a house for Habitat for Humanity.
  • Polka-Dot Paint: In one episode, Tim claims to have a machine that can scan anything and make a color of it. Perfectly reasonable at first, but then Tim scans Al, produces "A nice can of Al", and proceeds to paint his exact likeness on a wall with a few strokes of a paintbrush. Everyone else is shocked or amused by this, so in-universe it's probably just a magic trick.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: In "Talk to Me", real-life friends Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer appear as two friends that were in the Tool Time audience and get advice from Tim about relationships (which unsurprisingly leads to trouble for all three). The intent was apparently for the duo to get their own Spin-Off show from there, but then Executive Meddling intervened. Buddies saw much of it — leading to it not premiering for a year and Breuer replaced by Christopher Gartin. The show bombed out quickly and Chappelle considers it an Old Shame.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: In Season 4's "Don't Tell Momma", where Tim tries to hide the fact that he accidentally destroyed Jill's 1955 Chevrolet Nomad in an accident at a construction site by allowing a three-ton beam to be dropped on the roof. Of course, Jill does find out and is angry.
  • Promoted to Opening Credits:
    • Richard Karn in Season 2.
    • Debbe Dunning in Season 7.
  • Properly Paranoid: After Brad gets his driver's license, Jill freaks out when he doesn't call her at the time they discussed while out with his friends, fearing the worst, while Tim mocks her the whole time. Of course, Brad winds up hitting another car.
  • Pun-Based Title: A lot of the episodes have this type of title. Many of them are Epunymous Titles, such as "It Was the Best of Tims, It Was the Worst of Tims" and "Al's Fair in Love and War".
  • Pungeon Master:
    • Tim makes incredibly lame puns all the time, esp. on Tool Time. For instance, he once introduces Al as "Al 'This Land Is' Borland".
    Al: No thanks, Tim, I'd rather [chop a tree] the way my forefathers did it!
    Tim: But Al, three out of four fathers recommend this!
    • Al might not be as prolific as Tim in this department, but he makes his share of puns too, such as telling the Tool Time audience about a roofing product that's guaranteed to work "every shingle time."
    • There's an episode where Tim tells Jill he got to ride a cow at work, and Jill asks, "Why, was the pig in the shop?" She goes on to suggest that the pig was in the shop to have his "porking brake fixed."
  • Puppet Permutation: One episode had a Dream Sequence where the cast become Rankin/Bass Productions-style stop-motion puppets. Hilarity Ensues. Especially since Tim ends up Losing His Head.
    Oh no!
  • Put on a Bus: Randy Taylor in Season 8. The Bus Came Back in the episode "Home for the Holidays". Also, Tool Girl Lisa was put on a bus offscreen between seasons two and three, and The Bus Came Back for her in the season six episode "The Kiss & the Kiss-Off".
  • Raised Lighter Tribute: When the guys from K&B Construction come on Tool Time and play their tools as instruments, Tim, Al & Lisa use grill lighters.
  • Rated M for Manly: How Tim and his target audience perceive his show: As a manly program for manly men making manly things WITH manly things! Outside of Tool Time, Tim's manliness results in Testosterone Poisoning, causing more destruction and havoc than is strictly necessary. Usually from his desire for his tools to have more power.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Tim doesn't think he needs to read the instructions for his new entertainment system because "this is just the manufacturer's opinion of how to put this together." Hilarity Ensues.
  • Real After All: During one of the Christmas special episodes Wilson dresses as Santa to convince Mark and the other boys that Santa is real. Just as Santa walks out the door the real Wilson appears in the backyard dressed normally.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: More than one episode had a plotline centering around this idea; though it should be noted that while Tim isn't the touchy-feely type he doesn't actively try to avoid showing affection. Al, of course, is an aversion.
  • Real Time: One episode had the primary storyline being the filming of an important episode of Tool Time to show to foreign distributors.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: In one episode, Tim is dreading a bowling game with a Binford higher-up after being told by the latter's wife that the last guy who beat him was transferred to Pakistan. Eventually, Tim mentions this to him... who explains that said employee was his wife's brother who had been embezzling from the company (and Bud had that plant built specifically so he'd have a place to send the guy). Tim is relieved... until the guy insists on staying until he wins...
    Bud: [After Tim mentions being "tired"] Did my wife tell you what happened to the vice president who threw the game?
    Tim: Wearing a turban?
    Bud: Fez.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Randy and Lauren at the end of season 6, and they lasted throughout the rest of the series.
  • The Reveal:
    • We finally see Wilson's entire face during the credits of the finale, when everyone came out for applause. (Even in previous credits, Earl Hindman covered his face, using a tiny handheld fence.)
    • During "The Bud Bowl", Tim learns from Bud's wife, Jean, that when the vice president of Binford's textile company outbowled him last year, Bud reassigned him to the manufacturing division in Pakistan, thus implying Bud has a grudge when it comes to bowling. When Tim confronts Bud about this after the filming of a "Tool Time" episode a few days later:
      Bud: Did she also tell you it was her idiot brother who was embezzling money from the company?
      Tim: ...I-I think she might've left out that little detail...
      Bud: Uh huh... I built that plant in Pakistan so I'd have somewhere to send him.
  • Riddle for the Ages: One Halloween Episode has Jill promise she has the scariest costume ever waiting. She ends up dressed as a carrot. Jill says the costume shop didn't have her outfit ready and the carrot was all they had left. We never did learn what Jill had in mind for her scary costume.
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: Tim Taylor, on his Tool Time show, is considered to do this deliberately. He has gotten a few rewards for what they consider deliberately doing the wrong thing in contrast to his assistant Al, and showing what happens. Subverted on the Show Within a Show as they're both talented, but Tim is really just accident prone.
  • Rule-Breaker Rule-Namer: A rule limiting the amount of Christmas lighting and electricity used in the neighborhood decorating contest is known as the "Tim Taylor Rule".
  • Running Gag: All over the place.
    • Any time Tim goes down into a basement, you can count on him banging his head on a pipe on the way down the stairs. (Averted once... only for him to bang his head on the way up.)
    • Most episodes have Wilson give Tim some advice to deal with his dilemma of the week, which Tim usually misinterprets and then totally garbles when trying to recount the advice to someone else.
    • Related to that, in the first couple seasons, when Wilson gave Tim advice, he'd ask Wilson "how do you spell that?" to which Wilson would respond by using a much simpler phrase that Tim could understand. As an example:
      Wilson: Well, Tim it seems you crave catharsis.
      Tim: How do spell that?
      Wilson: Let's just say emotional release.
    • Tim going out into the backyard and finding Wilson doing some bizarre thing, and then misunderstanding Wilson's answer when he asks him what he's doing.
    Wilson: [making strange throaty noises]
    Tim: Wilson? Did you swallow a pigeon?
    Wilson: No Tim, I'm ululating.
    Tim: Huh. I didn't know men could do that.
    • Tim making fun of Al's mother's weight.
    • This exchange:
    Tim: Hey, Al. Do you suppose [silly pun or play on words]?
    • Tim introducing Al on Tool Time:
    "And you all know my assistant, Al [humorous overly-long nickname] Borland!"
    • "Hey! I don't go in for that sort of thing!"
    • Whenever Tim says something particularly insensitive on Tool Time, Al displays the show's mailing address so people can write in with complaints.
    • Every Binford product mentioned is model 6100, from innovative power tools to generic doorknobs.
    • Tool Time has several recurring segments, such as "Gadget Corner", and most famously, "The Man's ______."
    • Whenever Tim tells the boys he's doing something nice with Jill, one of them (usually Randy) will ask "What did you do this time?"
    • Tim often has machine mishaps that result in his shirt getting ripped off.


  • Sanity Has Advantages: When not giving in to his desires for MORE POWER, Tim is usually quite successful.
  • Scenery Censor: The show used this to cover half of Wilson's face.
  • Scrabble Babble:
    Randy: Melonology?!
    Brad: It's the study of melons!
    Mark: There's no such word as "melonology"!
    Brad: Sure there is! Call the fruit section of the grocery store.
    Randy: Who should I ask for? The melonologist?
    Jill: "Melonology"?
    Tim: Yeah, it's the study of guys named Mel!
    • Also, a game of Scrabble with Jill, Tim, and Randy had Jill play "lacks", with Tim adding "Ex" for "Exlacks" which the others point out is spelled wrong and brand names aren't allowed (the rules have been changed to allow brand names, but that was about 15 years later).
  • Screw the Electric Bill: In Christmas Episodes, Tim is always shown to be competing to have the best light display in the neighborhood. This usually results in him using so many lights that his house becomes a navigation hazard to passing airplanes. And while his wife may sometimes criticize him about getting overzealous, the electric bill is never brought up. (Then again, the writers glossed over a lot of other questions about money, so at least they're being consistent.)
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Tim was asked to promote a new Binford demolition saw on the show, designed to be lightweight and appeal to women. Tim took the prototype home and found it to be lacking in both durability and performance and could not give it his endorsement. The marketing guy gave him the ultimatum of promoting the tool or being fired, which he got around by affirming on air the great quality of Binford tools and that the saw was not one of them, and he topped it off by inviting the marketing guy to stand with him and answer questions about why they would make a substandard tool.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Al and Tim.
  • Series Continuity Error: The number and names of Tim and Jill's siblings were inconsistent. Tim's mother says that she raised five boys in her first episode, yet the names of seven brothers are given over the course of the show (Marty, Jeff, Steve, Rick, John, Danny, Brian). Jill mentions two sisters named Carol and Katie in earlier episodes, yet when all of her sisters appear in season 6, there are none with those names (they're Carrie, Robin, Tracy and Linda).
    • They tried to fix the inconsistent number of Tim's siblings later in the series, for an episode where Brad and Randy are having a spat, and Tim tries to explain to them that this could potentially cause a bad rift between the two, then mentions that several of his siblings had bad fights and arguments in the past resulting in them not speaking, or really acknowledging each other.
  • Series Establishing Moment: The creators pointed out the moment in the pilot where Tim electrocutes himself and tries "dancing off" the pain, with Mark joining him just because he is trying to imitate his dad. Just the sight of the two, shirtless and hopping around together, was the purest form of comedy.
  • Sequel Episode: In one episode, Jill meets a man at the gym that she becomes attracted to and starts dreaming about, causing her to worry about her relationship with Tim. Though the issue is seemingly resolved in that episode, it's brought up again a few episodes later when the same guy comes to work on the Taylor's kitchen and ends up kissing Jill.
  • Sexily Modest: Discussed in "The Flirting Game", when Jill wants to avoid using flirting in a new job interview and strives to dress as professionally as possible. When Tim sees her in a conservative suit he reacts to it like a complete horndog, and tells her it'll just make men think about what she's covering up.
  • Sexy Santa Dress: Tim gets his wife to wear a skimpy Mrs. Claus outfit for a Christmas picture.
  • She Who Must Not Be Seen: Al's mother, presumably because the constant stream of jokes about her girth would humiliate any actress that actually played her. She was heard off-camera during Al's aborted wedding to Ilene (her only words are "Oh no!").
    • That episode however does reveal that she really is that fat. When she faints upon hearing the wedding is canceled the entire church shakes. The amount of padding necessary for any actress to play her would be astounding.
    • You sort of see her in the funeral episode, her coffin, the size of a Volkwagon Beetle, took about ten pallbearers.
    • Jill's mom was also supposedly enormous, which made for a joke that she'd lost a lot of weight and was played by a waif thin actress.
  • "Shaggy Frog" Story: Tim's attempts to retell Wilson's stories to Jill inevitably end up like this. He understood the meaning when Wilson tells the story, but trying to repeat the story he mixes up names and the order of events.
  • Ship Tease: Al and Heidi in the episode "Futile Attraction". They also kiss passionately in one of the outtakes for "Family Un-Ties".
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: Tim and Jill are on the same line talking to Brad, but after Brad hangs up they continue talking over the phones. They continue oblivious until Randy enters the scene and gives a WTF? look that Tim notices.
  • Shot in the Ass: In one episode, Tim accidentally shoots his old shop teacher Mr. Leonard (who's making a guest appearance on Tim's show Tool Time) in the butt with a nail gun.
    • This had actually happened to him before; after his injury, Mr. Leonard snaps, "I got shot in the butt in 'Nam and it didn't hurt this much..."
  • Shower of Awkward: In the episode "The Naked Truth", Tim thinks it's his wife in the shower so he enters the bathroom and takes off his clothes, but once he pulls open the curtains, he instead sees his (very attractive) sister-in-law.
  • Show Stopper: Tim's confused Reaction Shots.
  • Show Within a Show: Tool Time
  • Signature Laugh: Tim's grunting "ohOhOH!"
  • Sit Comic: Tim Allen was a popular comedian in the late 80s and it led to him getting his own show.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Tim's is Bob Vila, though the rivalry is not mutual. Bob is actually quite friendly to both Al and him. The rivalry only comes from Tim's jealously of Bob being the more well recognized tool host. So much so that it really affect Tim's ego whenever they meet (i.e: souping up his lawnmower in trying to beat him in a charity race, nearly risking his custom built hot rod in a drag race. Heck Tim actually escaped from a hospital while recovering with a broken arm, just to beat Villa's record in TV appearances. Which resulted in him getting hurt further and being unable to take Mark to an Air Show. Though he did make up for that one.)
  • Skeleton Key Card: Used in one episode where Tim, attempting to show the efficacy of the anti-theft system he's installed, has a guest star thief try to break in. Moments after saying that he's engaged the system, the front door opens and the thief walks in. He explains that he used a credit card to slip the lock. Tim replies "Sure, if you don't mind destroying your credit card doing it" to which the thief says, "That's why I used yours" and hands Tim's wallet to him.
  • Slapstick: Usually happens when something goes wrong on Tool Time, or when Tim messes up his technology in general.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Tim. But when he managed to overcome his own ego and did things like check the manual, he was a genuinely talented handyman. (The modified washing machine he made early on is seen in use throughout the whole series, and he builds two hot rods in his garage almost single-handedly over a period of about ten years.)
    • It also seemed that whenever Tim would focus on the actual build and not trying to add "More Power!!" things would work out just fine.
    • Also in the episode where Al takes over a cooking show as a favor and Tim is reduced to playing second banana they essentially swap schticks and Al becomes the Small Name, Big Ego while Tim is the quieter, competent, Deadpan Snarker sidekick. Perhaps Fridge Brilliance, as Jill's famously bad cooking means that Tim might have learned cookery in self-defense. He was shown studying up for the complicated specialty dish Al wanted to prepare with Jill.
    • Also in the episode where Al invests his life savings into a Tool Time board game. When it's revealed that the game is defective and Al stands to lose his entire life savings, Al flees to his cabin before he has to sell it. Tim, however, fixes the game while timing himself to find the most efficient method, and then recruits and teaches his friends and co-workers to do the same thing.
    • Part of Tim's backstory is that he was a traveling salesman for Binford Tools. It also states that he was the best salesman in the entire company. Ego justified, and also helpful as studies show that people with more confidence are better at selling product.
  • Small Reference Pools: Wilson existed to subvert this.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Tim and Jill sometimes engaged in as playful, affectionate version of this trope:
    Tim: ...when Brad's guests get here tonight, they'll be down there with their hair bleached white, eyes bulging out with that look of horror — (Tim makes a horror face)
    Jill: That's the way you looked on our wedding day.
    Tim: I shouldn't have lifted the veil.
    Jill: Who told you to wear it?
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Tim's nieces were babies in season 4, but about eight years old when they appeared in the final season.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Wilson pulls this in "My Dinner With Wilson":
    Wilson: But if you boys want, you can play with my Orient Express train set.
    Randy: Hey, cool. Where is it?
    Wilson: Third door on the left, past the Tibetan meditation room, right before the can.
  • Special Guest: Many celebrities appeared as themselves as guests on Tool Time, including Bob Vila, Penn & Teller, George Foreman, Michael and Mario Andretti, and Evander Holyfield, and a few celebrities appeared as themselves outside of Tool Time, including The Beach Boys (Wilson is related to the 'blood relation' Beach Boys including Mike Love, as his mother was Emily Wilson) and Rodney Dangerfield.
  • Spinoff Babies: Parodied in "Bright Christmas" with one of the Tool Time videos: Look Who's Caulking.
  • Sports Widow: Jill knows that Tim is useless whenever the Detroit Lions are playing.
  • Spy-Tux Reveal: Tim goes to make up with Jill while wearing a mechanic's jumpsuit (he was "working in the garage"). After they reconcile, he comments that he's still capable of surprises, and out comes the tux. Lampshaded when he quips "Bond, James Bond."
  • Squirrels in My Pants: In "Wild Kingdom", Brad and Randy try to warn Tim that a snake is crawling out of the light fixture behind him. Because they had previously put fake snakes in his toolbox as a prank, he thinks they're joking around again, so he unbuttons his shirt and laughingly invites the snake to crawl in. Unfortunately for Tim, there really is a snake behind him... and it accepts his invitation.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: The layout of the floor plan subverts a lot of the standard features. It still uses The Couch to have them staring back at the audience when watching TV, but the front door is upstage with a wall blocking most of the foyer and the stairs from easy audience view, and later in the show's run a piano is put into that hidden corner. The sides of the stage lead to the garage on the left and the side lawn on the right, where Tim gets advice from Wilson. This layout is rather humorously lampshaded when Tim talks about Jill always giving him important advice when she leaves the room, as that wall muffles her voice to where he can't understand what she says.
  • Status Quo Is God: Notably in "Tool-Thousand-One a Space Odyssey", the penultimate episode of Season 7. Tim, with Jill's approval, is all set to join the crew of a space shuttle and would be gone for five months. Tim makes a last minute decision to not go after all, largely in part due to Mark being depressed over being dumped.
    • Mark is back to his normal self by the first episode of Season 8.
  • Stealing from the Hotel: Referenced in season 8's "Love's Labor Lost, part 2", when Tim brings home a lot of stuff he swiped from Jill's room in the hospital. He claims it's expected.
    Tim: "They expect you to take something. It's like when you go to a hotel, you take the little soaps and the bedroom furniture."
  • Sticky Situation: Tim gets his head stuck to a board while demonstrating Binford's Miracle Glue on Tool Time. In a separate episode (again on Tool Time), Tim hosts the show alone with a professional plumber with Al sick at home. While doing the show about toiletry, Tim gets his hands (yes, both of them) stuck to the interior of the toilet's tank.
  • St. Patrick's Day Episode: "Desperately Seeking Willow". When Wilson is out of town, Willow stays over at the Taylors', and Willow doesn't return home from a club one night... Jill fears the worst and sends the whole family out searching for her. It's Saint Patrick's day on Tool Time, and who better to celebrate with than the boys from K&B Construction.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Al and Tim, again.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Al is prone to this.
  • Straw Feminist: Jill's friend Karen was a mild, but still unbearably smug version. She was dropped after the first season when Betsy Randall was cast in Boy Meets World.
  • Studio Audience: The audience for the show itself and Tool Time were the same people.
  • Stuffed into a Locker: The episode "The Karate Kid Returns" has Randy stuff himself into a locker. Twice.
  • Superstition Episode: The series had Tim throwing away a chain letter (sent to him by Al) and refusing to believe there is bad luck associated with it. After a series of mishaps he is on the edge of believing, but Jill then reads off a list of all the Amusing Injuries he has had over the past couple of years and concludes his current streak really isn't all that different from his normal life.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After losing her journalism job, Jill decides to go Back to School and study for a psychology degree. Rather than becoming a season-long arc, she rather realistically spends the entire rest of the series (several years In-Universe and out) working as a full-time student. It takes even more time as she proves to not be exactly a perfect student, and several times passes by the skin of her teeth.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Pamela Anderson left the show, her "Tool Time Hot Girl" role was taken by Debbe Dunning as "Heidi", a different character with the same purpose. Heidi eventually had some Character Development and was portrayed as a competent handyperson in her own right.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    Jill: I don't like that look. What's going on?
    Brad: Nothing.
    Randy: Dad's not doing anything.
    Jill: What exactly is Dad not doing?
    Brad: He's not rewiring the vacuum.
  • Swapped Roles: Done in a few episodes:
    • Al thought Tim's job of hosting Tool Time was easy and became the host himself for one episode. Unfortunately, while Al's personality of The Quiet One makes him an excellent Sarcastic Devotee, it makes him awkward and wooden as a host.
    • When Al guest-hosted a cooking show, Tim acted as his assistant. Tim spent some time studying the recipe before starting, while Al went on his previous knowledge. Al ignored Tim's warning about overstuffing the duck, and it got stuck to his hand until he accidentally tossed it through the window.
  • Take a Third Option: See Enforced Plug above. Endorse a shoddy product or turn on your primary sponsor? Tim chooses to demonstrate the product as a failure rejected by his sponsor as a show of their commitment to quality.
  • The Talk: A variation happens in one episode. Tim has already long given Brad The Talk, being that he is supposed to be about 15, but things are a bit complicated when there is suspicion that Brad is active with his girlfriend. This leads to Tim having to specify concepts of safe-sex and things get even more awkward when Brad asks him about his first time. They have an honest discussion, which finishes with...
    Brad: "So, when will I know I'm a man?"
    Tim: "Your Mom and I will tell you!"
  • Tempting Fate: When Tim is laid up in the hospital after surgery and disappointing Mark with a selfish action:
    Tim: This day can't get any worse!
    Doctor: Ready for your enema?
  • Terrible Ticking: In "Bye Bye Birdie", a noisy woodpecker takes up residence outside the Taylor house. Jill and the boys don't seem particularly bothered by the noises, but Tim goes berserk and tries several increasingly drastic measures to get rid of the woodpecker.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: In an early episode, Brad signs up for Home Economics rather than Shop Class purely in order to meet girls. Unfortunately, his male classmates find out what he's doing and decide to join the class too. The high number of students results in the school splitting the class by gender so he's stuck in a class full of guys sewing. Later on, Al consoles him by revealing that he had to learn how to sew and all of those other activities when he was in the Navy, so it's not a big deal.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: While driving his attractive female mechanic home, Tim makes a hard stop at a stoplight and reaches out to stop her from going forward, grabbing the wrong area in the process. When she asks why, he says that since he has three kids, it's basically a reflex. Unfortunately for him, the Detroit area just got cameras installed to take pictures whenever somebody goes through a red light.
  • Therapy Backfire: Happens in one episode during a group session when the whole group sides with Tim instead of Jill. Of course, Jill is pissed that the whole group sided with Tim, and not her (after all, she did graduate with a 4.0 average).
  • Three-Dimensional Episode: Done as part of a week-long, network-wide gimmick — both in-universe and out as the Home Improvement staff wrote the 3D effects into the show by having Tool Time do a 3D episode.
    • Paddleball Shot: Shamelessly abused by Tim and Al — again, justified in-universe.
  • Through-the-Years Credits: The last two seasons use opening shots from previous years as a background. The older video is transformed for a Deliberately Monochrome effect.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: Trope Namer, and famous enough to avoid the recent trend of more generalized trope names.
  • Trash-Can Band: The guys at K&B Construction make one of these partway through the show, and perform in two episodes, including the finale. The members and their tool-based instruments are:
    • Rock Flanagan (Casey Sander) plays the angle grinder on a fifty gallon drum;
    • Dwayne Hoover (Gary McGurk) used hammers on an anvil and a set of chimes made from galvanized piping;
    • Pete Bilker (Mickey Jones) used screwdrivers as drumsticks, a set of trash cans and gas cans (and a wrench) as drums, plus a set of circular saw blades as mounted crash cymbals (the wrench and saw blades only appear in the first performance); Jones was a long time session drummer before taking up acting.
    • John "Juke" Logan (himself) played a normal harmonica that he apparently kept on hand on the job site; and
    • Janeen Rae Heller (herself), having made a solo appearance in an earlier episode of Tool Time, played the saw.
      • They're joined by other recurring characters in the finale: master upholsterer "Sparky" Henderson on staple gun, Eddie from Eddie's Body Shop on shock absorber, plumber Felix Myman on plunger, and IndyCar racer Mario Andretti on horn (actually a steering wheel from his race car).
  • Trash the Set: Tim's DIY gadgets often cause collateral damage. His 21 nail gun salute to John Binford was on a rotary turntable, and started spinning around the room, taking out windows and set decorations. Subverted in the series finale. The new management tells Tim to intentionally light the Tool Time set on fire as a ratings stunt. Tim acts like he's going along with it... until he reveals the management's plan to the audience and brings out the tool-themed band who sing about burning down the set while Al and Tim brandish lighters (but don't deliberately burn anything; Tim does accidentally light a sign on fire, but there are professionals with fire extinguishers who deal with it immediately).
  • Tricked into Signing: In "Bell Bottom Blues", Tim and Jill are arguing about the cluttered bedroom closet and whether it should be remodeled. Brad comes in and asks them to sign a permission slip. Tim is about to sign it, but Jill says, "They just wait for us to not be paying attention," and she's right; the so-called permission slip is actually a note from Brad's principal telling them that Brad punched another kid in the hallway.
  • Trivial Tragedy: Tim drops the chisel he was using to drill a hole for ice fishing into the water. He tells Al about this and hopes that he wasn't too attached to that chisel. Al tearfully replies that the chisel had been in his family for generations.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife:
    • In an interesting aversion, when compared against contemporary shows Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson felt like a realistically good-looking couple that finds a middle ground between a Model Couple and a sluggish man with a supermodel wife.
    • Discussed when Tim found some hints that Al and Heidi might have slept together when Heidi's marriage was in trouble, Tim just could not fathom a girl like her having interest in a guy like Al. The message at the end was to just let some things go, though at the end (they didn't actually have sex) Heidi did kiss Al and said he was exactly the kind of guy she could fall for.
  • Unflattering ID Photo: Tim makes a large portrait of his wife based on her comically awful driver's license photo; when she quite naturally complains, he points out that her passport photo looks even worse.
  • Unknown Rival: Bob Vila clearly doesn't know that Tim genuinely considers him a rival at all, he's just happily doing crossovers with a friendly local home improvement show. It helps that Tim's costars play it up like it's all part of Tim's "The Toolman" bit.
  • Unreveal Angle: Tim's neighbour Wilson's face was never fully exposed.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: The show almost didn't air because a special all-female test audience said they hated Tim, an apparent chauvinistic alpha male who loves to grunt and scratch. The producers had to beg the network to take a chance on the show, as Tim was supposed to be a celebration of the modern man with all his flaws, with wives nudging their husbands whenever Tim does something stupid.
  • Unwanted Gift Plot: In one episode the boys gave Jill a very large bottle of very cheap and very pungent perfume.
  • Unwanted Glasses Plot: Done with Mark in "The Eyes Don't Have It". Interestingly, despite Mark not wearing glasses after the episode note , his poor vision did come up a couple of more times through the series, including one opening gag where the all the Taylor men are searching around on the floor for Mark's lost contact. His prop glasses were occasionally seen in his room.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Definitely Tim, on so many levels.
  • Vacation Episode:
    • "Quest for Fire", where the Taylor family goes to a lake house.
    • "Whitewater", where Tim, Jill, Al, Heidi and Wilson go on a rafting trip for Tim's birthday.
    • A third example could be "A Taylor Runs Through It" though the "vacation" is crunched in amongst Jill's cousin's wedding activities. Even Al and Wilson are shown to be nearby the wedding location on their own vacation.
  • Very Special Episode: Often slightly less Anvilicious than the average, since the focus was on the characters' reactions to the problem instead of preaching to the audience. An episode involving Brad using pot even gave him a fairly sympathetic excuse for it — the parents weren't even necessarily against recreational drug use morally, but had personal experience with doing something other than what they thought they were taking — and one with Randy potentially having cancer believably portrayed how an adolescent might feel about this knowledge.
    • Part of the reason why the pot episode was particularly less anvilicious is because of Tim Allen's real-life substance abuse problems. The writers were very careful with this or similar episodes so as not to appear hypocritical in having Tim Taylor flat out condemning the kind of behavior that Tim Allen had done in real-life. They actually aborted doing a very special episode on DUIs because Allen had, at the time, gotten a DUI and they didn't want to seem hypocritical.
  • Vetinari Job Security: In one episode, Al tires of being the straight man to Tim and demands they switch roles for an episode of Tool Time, saying "How hard can it be to make lame puns and screw up all the time?" Turns out, pretty hard.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Tim and Al. They don't seem to get along too well but under the surface it's clear that Tim genuinely appreciates Al's help and Al knows he would be a lot more lonely and have fewer friends if Tim wasn't around. In one episode Al blows up at Tim for always making fun of him and Tim explains that is how he treats his friends ("And when you tease me for wearing flannel?" "I say that because you look ridiculous."). And while never stated out loud, they bonded a little bit since they both lost their fathers at a young age.
  • Wallpaper Camouflage: Tim pranks Al on Tool Time by wheeling out a portable wall decorated to resemble Al's plaid shirt, work pants, and tool belt, and then pretends he can't see Al when he walks in front of it.
  • Wannabe Line: In "Desperately Seeking Willow", Tim and Jill go to a club to search for Wilson's niece and the bouncer lets Jill in but not Tim because he's not cool enough. Tim then becomes obsessed with trying to get in. However, said club wasn't a Coolest Club Ever, it was a fairly normal looking club.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Brad is upset when Tim sells the first hot rod, pointing out how much work they had put into it. They visit the new owner, a pizza company founder with a massive car collection, in an attempt to get it back. Rather than doing so, however, they make an offer for an unrestored Ford, both realizing that the process of making it was better than having the finished product.
  • Waxing Lyrical:
    • An episode had Wilson dishing out some famous quotes about love. Tim responded with: "'Everybody... loves somebody sometimes.' Martin, comma, Dean."
    • Another episode had Wilson musing, on the subject of Tim compromising with his wife, "You have to give a little, take a little..." Tim responds, sardonically, "Yeah, and let your poor heart break a little." Then, he realizes what the next line in the song is, and they figure it's not so bad an idea after all, as they sing together, "That's the story of, that's the story of love..."
    • Yet another episode has Tim being tasked with going out in public with Al to meet a woman who connects with Al via an online matchmaking service. Wilson tries to help Tim relax by quoting the title of a KC & the Sunshine Band ("Shake Your Booty" in this case), but Tim isn't impressed.
    Wilson: As a song of KC & the Sunshine Band goes: "Shake Your Booty."
    Tim: Easy for you to say. It's not your booty.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Probably one of the most benign examples ever, but Tim would always be obsessed with making simple or menial things hyper-masculine, or as he puts, giving it "more power" in order to improve it. As a Running Gag in the series, this almost always led to whatever project he's making more manly to blow up in his face (literally) but he still continues his obsession throughout the series.
  • We Need a Distraction: Randy wants to distract Tim so that Mark and Brad can steal donuts from the kitchen, so he asks Tim how to build a house. The distraction doesn't work, though; Tim's answer to the question is, "Well, first you select the site where you're going to build. Then you choose the style of house. Then you put the donuts right back in the cupboard!"
  • What Are Records?: In one episode, Jill offers the boys "her old 45s" for a party, to which one of them responds; "You're giving us guns?"
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Tim's attempt to break a board with his head. Ouch.
    • Though that was due to seeing Al manage to do it. Al neglected to mention he studied Karate until only after Tim attempted it.
  • Who's on First?: In one episode, Tool Time is visited by Al Unser, his son Al Jr., and grandson Al III. Naturally, this leads to confusion when Tim is trying to differentiate between them and his regular Al. At the end of the episode, they visit again, with Tim now giving them shirts with individualized names written on them — Al Sr. is "Big Al", Al III is "Little Al", and Al Jr. is "Norm-Al", while giving his Al one that says "Abnorm-Al" (though Al preempts him by wearing one that reads "Speci-Al").
  • Wild Teen Party: In the episode "Let Them Eat Cake", a somewhat hesitant Brad and his crazy friend Jason throw one while Tim and Jill are out at an awards ceremony for local TV shows. In the middle of things, Brad goes out to the backyard fence to get advice from Wilson, and that's when Tim and Jill walk in on the whole thing.
  • Witch with a Capital "B": Played with. Tim and Jill are discussing Wilson's new friend in front of Brad, and Jill refers to her as a witch. Brad says "Mom, I'm old enough, you can use the B-word." In this case, Jill really did mean "witch" (and not as an insult); the woman was a practicing Wiccan.
  • Women Are Wiser: Applies to Tim and Jill, especially in the earlier seasons. This was softened a bit as the series went on, and Jill had several of her own moments of incompetence. For example, when Al's mother passes away, Jill's advice only makes things worse while Tim is more comforting and practical.
  • Wrench Wench: While maybe not a mechanic, Randy's girlfriend Lauren was big into cars and knowledgeable about them, which made Tim absolutely love her.
    • Second Tool Girl Heidi also fits this trope; she is seen contributing to the Tool Time renovations and shown to be competent at the work at hand.
  • You Know What You Did: In Season 2's Halloween episode, Jennifer does this to Brad by coming to the party not wearing the right outfit to match him as Raggedy Ann and Andy. Tim helps Brad find out she's mad he didn't pick her for his team at softball earlier.



Video Example(s):


Home Improvement [Hospital Visit]

Scene from Home Improvement, Ep 62 - Slip Sleddin Away. Randy hurt his arm after being challenged to a sled race by a local bully. After he tells his father, Tim takes him to the hospital to get it examined and Randy comes to learn he's pretty much a local regular around the joint due to Tim's penchant for injuries.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / AcquaintedWithEmergencyServices

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