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YMMV / Home Improvement

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  • Acceptable Targets: The overweight; however, Tim's restriction of his fat jokes to Al, Al's mother, and Jill's mom (before she lost weight) may have been meant to imply it's only all right if it's a friend and they know you're joking (though judging by Al's reaction, they don't have to think it's funny). It should be noted that at Al's mother's funeral, it was revealed that she thought Tim's fat jokes were Actually Pretty Funny.
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  • Critic-Proof: The show was never a big darling of the critics (having to compete with edgier material with the likes of Roseanne, Seinfeld and Friends), the cast got nominated a few times but only Tim Allen won a Golden Globe. However, it was extremely popular with the People's Choice Awards, it was a top ten show (#1 a few years) for its entire run.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: When Tim asked an exterminator who used nerve gas what's shaking, Wilson says his entire is.
  • Ear Worm: Dan Foliart's theme song for the show. Never have power tools and grunting sounded so catchy.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Al is this in real-life. See Ascended Extra.
    • Al is this in universe as well with Tool Time: Most fans of the show that meet Tim usually tell him how much they love or idolize Al, or they will confuse Al for being the star of the show. This always annoys Tim.
    • Wilson, too. Originally, the character had limited screentime that was simply to have Tim seek advice on his current problem. However, producers liked both actor and character, so they gave him increasingly more to do over the run of the show. (Episodes centered around him, regular interactions with the other characters, a love interest, etc.)
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    • Of the kids, Randy was the most popular for very smart and snarky, able to play off his dad better than the others. Supplementing this was Jonathan Taylor Thomas being a great actor and rising to Teen Idol stardom, the producers took advantage of this by giving him some of the meatier story arcs.
    • Tool Time itself was this. A number of fans actually enjoyed the home-project-slapstick more than the actual sitcom.
  • Fair for Its Day: In later years the show has been criticized for its Strictly Formula episodes (Tim and Jill have an argument, Tim can't understand why Jill is angry, goes to Wilson who quotes a philosopher, Tim goes to Jill to apologize) with the male/female Double Standard, but the portrayal of Tim and Jill with common and realistic issues of miscommunication between genders was quite revolutionary. The show got loads of fan letters saying how well it reflected actual marital disputes. Supplementing that was that neither Tim or Jill were the dominant personalities in the family, Tim was immature but he was not One of the Kids, he could take care of himself and the family just fine without her. Also for a genre where Ugly Guy, Hot Wife is almost the norm even in modern sitcoms, it's still probably one of the few successful shows where the husband and wife are both on the same level of desirability.
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  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: The aesop of Season Eight's "Taylor Got Game" essentially boils down to "If you are given the the choice between immediately making a steady living doing a hobby you love or going to college, you should pick college because that is what society expects you to do first."
  • Fridge Horror: Invoked. When Randy goes upstairs to study with his girlfriend, Tim and Jill reminisce about how their own study sessions used to lead to sex... and a split second later they go check on Randy and the girl over the end credits.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: When Tim's brother gets a job offer in Detroit, he mentions how he'd love to take it but he's not sure he'd be able to afford a local house. This line looks very different to modern audiences, particularly those who are aware that Detroit was one of the hardest-hit cities by the property value crash of Great Recession, to the point where some people ended up dumping their homes for around $5000 just so they would get anything for them, and they still haven't really recovered.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the series finale Tim introduced Al as "Al-be-doing-infomercials-for-a-living Borland!" Richard Karn is indeed doing infomercials now, in costume as Al.
    • A 1993 episode (more accurately, the episode where Randy breaks his wrist sliding down Dead Man's Curve) features an easy-to-miss line where a character named Buzz brings Tim his coffee, "just how he likes it, cream and five sugars" Buzz then says "Two more sugars, they'll be calling you Buzz!" Then consider what Tim did two years later...
    • When Al lets the fame over being named one of Detroit's sexiest bachelors get to his head, Tim is in disbelief over Al's audacity to splurge on a luxury: a cell phone.
    • When Mark goes trick or treating as Tim during season 2's Halloween episode, Randy tells him he would get more candy if he dresses up as Al. Two years later, he does just that and wins a sack of candy at a costume contest where Al's mom was the judge.
    • One for the video game: The instruction manual is infamous for being nothing more than a two page spread with "REAL MEN DON'T NEED INSTRUCTIONS" plastered on it. Nowadays, instruction booklets in video games are becoming a rarity, if they even exist at all.
    • Season seven introduces Wilson's niece who turns out to be a witch. Her name? Willow.
  • Iconic Character, Forgotten Title: No, the name of this show is NOT "Tool Time". Tim Allen himself made an inverted mistake in a blooper during a Tool Time segment, calling that show "Home Improvement."
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Many people freely admit to watching the show solely for the "Tool Time" segments, which are almost universally viewed as the funniest part of the show.
  • Memetic Mutation: Al's "I don't think so, Tim."
    • From the video game: "Real men don't need instructions."
  • Most Wonderful Sound: "aaaauuuUUUUGGHH?!?!"
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: The SNES "adaptation" of the show.
    Seanbaby: This is a screenshot of a man with a grappling hook fighting a dinosaur. I swear to God this is based on the family show with the same name.
    JonTron: They made a game out of this? REALLY?!? I understand that back then if it had a face they made a friggin game out of it, bur really? Home Improvement THE GAME? That's like making a first person shooter out of Sister, Sister!
    • Even more infamous is the fact that the manual is just a folded sheet of paper with "REAL MEN DON'T NEED INSTRUCTIONS" plastered over fake manual text, which might be mildly amusing if the game weren't so confusing and in desperate need of an actual manual. In fact the game is practically UNBEATABLE without using the grappling hook to get past a large pit in the first stage, but many players probably don't even know that you have various weapons that can be cycled through because THERE IS NO MANUAL!
    • The major problems with this game were not that it had little to do with the actual TV series, however- the issue with a lack of a real manual was only the beginning. The game had a few good ideas behind it but it was mostly ruined by confusing and poor level design littered with instant death pits that you couldn't see until you fell in, a poor camera and the fact enemies take a lot of damage to kill. In this game's case, even without the TV license it would still have problems stemming from poor design.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • William O'Leary played Marty before his big break in Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
    • Future Oscar nominee Amy Ryan, of Gone Baby Gone, The Wire and The Office (US) fame, plays Jill's younger sister Robin in the season 1 episode "Luck Be A Taylor Tonight".
    • It happened almost simultaneously, but Pamela Anderson didn't become legendary until her stint on Baywatch after leaving Home Improvement.
    • Maggie Lawson played Brad's college-age girlfriend later in the series, eventually becoming better known as Juliet on Psych.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The show itself was popular for its time, but in hindsight even members of the cast have admitted that the formula of the show was very generic, and that it really did nothing to try to push any boundaries or introduce anything that had not been seen in any of the other many sitcoms popular at the time. Tropes Are Not Bad, as evidenced by the show's huge success during its initial run and continued syndication.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The aforementioned "Bewitched" opens with Tim playing his usual Halloween pranks on everyone only to discover that everyone has gotten used to them by now and aren't even phased and Tim starting to grow depressed about it, suggesting the episode will be about Tim having come to terms with his old-school pranks being seen as old-fashioned now. Instead, this is quickly forgotten after the opening credits, and the rest of the episode turns into a remake of a previous Halloween episode from the show with everyone teaming up to play a giant prank on him.
  • Values Dissonance: "Taylor Got Game", where Brad decides to forgo becoming a professional soccer player with a steady income so he can play and earn a degree at UCLA (even though he struggles academically), has not aged well to The New '10s, a time where rising tuition costs, over saturation of degree holders in the job market, and stagnating wages have caused many to question the notion that college educations automatically lead to better livelihoods.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: Tool Time is parody of This Old House, with the main host (Tim) being a charismatic salesman and his co-host (Al) being an anti-charismatic, bland, flannel-wearing man who nonetheless possess unrivaled expert knowledge of the topic at hand being a direct parody of Bob Vila and Norm Abram's screen presence. In addition, scenes outside of Tool Time point out how most of the actual renovation work is done by a trained crew and that the hosts' contributions are mostly symbolic. However, as Home Improvement has managed to remain popular and remembered in popular culture more than 20 years after it first aired while Vila and Abram have been eclipsed by newer, younger talent in the "Home Improvement" genre such as Ty Pennington and Mike Holmes, the fact that Tool Time is a parody is largely lost on those who watch the reruns today.
  • The Woobie: Mark, in early seasons. God, his big brothers were such pricks.
    • It never seemed to bother him all that much though, and Brad and Randy usually suffered for the teasing.
    • Mark kind of remained The Woobie even into his teen years. Because of his oddball habits and interests (and briefly becoming a goth), he often had difficulty keeping a girfriend.
    • Jerkass Woobie: Randy was an insufferable smartass, but several episodes showcased his hidden insecurities (his small size, worrying about how "cool" he was to girls, thinking Brad was their father's favorite) or gave him serious issues to cope with ("The Longest Day" in which he thought he might have cancer and "Losing My Religion" in which an old woman he bonded with suddenly became ill).
    • Really should also be noted that Brad, despite having none of these tendencies, did see these issues with his brothers (sometimes even Jill, Tim, Wilson and Al!!) and was very protective and loving of them, even in his Jerkass moments.
      • Brad (and by extension his actor, Zachary Ty Bryan) actually could be The Woobie on a meta level during the last half of Season 5 through the end of Season 7. In Season 5, Brad had some Character Development to start becoming a good student at the same time, Johnathan Taylor Thomas's character, Randy skipped two grades to join Brad in High School as to enable the two of them to have High School plotlines together. Unfortunately, JTT's career really took off at that time and combined with his more intellectual character and strong episodes like The Longest Day or the one where he wrote a big paper article slamming Tim's employer Binford, he started to overshadow Brad, who mainly got stuck with romantic or sports storylines. Taylor's departure for Season 8 ultimately allowed Brad and Zachary Bryan to get a season in the limelight dealing with him prepping for college.


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