'Home Improvement': Celebrating the heartwarming series... and, of course, JTT

Home-Improvement

Image Credit: ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES

There was one very attractive reason I watched Home Improvement every week as a child. Say it with me: Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The Justin Bieber of the ’90s, JTT was talented, well-coiffed, and completely non-threatening, even though parents would be petrified knowing what pre-teens daydreamed about the young actor. When Home Improvement hit its stride in the mid-’90s, I hit the age in which boys were suddenly attractive, but still verboten enough to make any crush extremely embarrassing. So I used to admire JTT secretly. When no one was looking, I’d pick up the teen magazine at our grocery store to find out what JTT looked for in a girlfriend. My parents would cheer on my refined movie tastes at our local Hollywood Video, watching me appear interested in Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys when, really, I was just lingering in the “T” section of new releases to stare at JTT on the Tom and Huck VHS box. I soon discovered, however, that there was a much easier, far less embarrassing way to get my JTT fix: Tuning into Home Improvement.

Watching Home Improvement as an adolescent gave me a completely inaccurate crash course in boys: First off, they would only do household chores if it involved blowing things up, which, in real life, pretty much means never, so men are terrible. Second, they love plaid. And third, there are only three types of boys you could choose from: The Brute (Brad), the Brains (Randy), and the Awkward One Who Gets Married At 17 And Is Kind of Creepy (Mark). But as soon as I moved on from JTT to Nick Lachey, I began to enjoy Home Improvement for more than just its young eye candy. It was a rare blue collar comedy smart enough to appeal to people with all sorts of collars. (Except those with Ruffs. They might not get it.) It was silly enough for kids to enjoy (all those grunts from Tim Taylor), heartwarming enough for it to be labeled family viewing, and adult enough to allow dudes the opportunity to stare at Pamela Anderson’s pre-Baywatch breasts. And it offered an eclectic cast of characters. Sure, many loved the hidden-from-view Wilson, but I actually found him to be too much of a gimmick; rather, I had most sympathy for poor Al Borland, Tim’s long-suffering assistant that for some reason was constantly forced to play second banana to someone far less intelligent and talented as him. It’s a good lesson about life for the kids!

But one of the most appealing things about Home Improvement was watching a solid, equal marriage on television. True, Jill mostly played the role of a housewife, but she was an enlightened one. Her ability to constantly trade barbs with the man of the house and assert her influence over an all-male household set her up as one of the few feminist housewives on television — the fact that Jill eventually went back to school for psychology was just icing on the cake. It was hard to imagine that a woman so strong could make a marriage work with a man so… well, like Tim, but there’s a reason both Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson were nominated for a crop of Emmys.

Time to turn it over to you, fellow Home Improvement lovers. Share your favorite memories from in the comments below, but not before voting in our poll below!


Comments (75 total) Add your comment
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  • McProphet

    I hate to admit it, but I also “heart” JTT and watched the movie Man of the House with him and Chevy Chase NUMEROUS times!!

    • Kit

      Oh, I saw Man Of the House in theaters at least 4 times! Once I found out he voiced Simba, I loved the Lion King even more and ended up seeing that like 10 times!

    • Ashley

      JTT was the entire reason behind be watching “Man of the House” over and over again on VHS.

  • Julie

    I owned Man of the House, Wild America and Tom and Huck on VHS, and I would have argued with you all day if you said any of those three movies weren’t the pinnacle of cinematic excellence. Oh, to be 12 again. . .

  • Voodoo

    Man, I miss those kind of shows.

  • tomm

    Jason Priestly and Luke Perry were way more popular than JTT.

    • lboogiebean

      Hmm…not in the mid 90s. JTT was everywhere.

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks buzzkill, but that wasn’t the point.

    • Liv

      I think they were popular to a different age demographic though. JTT is like the pretweener nad the other guys were for the teen set.

    • Chelsea

      Devon Sawa>>>>>>JTT

      And I kinda liked the “creepy” brother most, bwahaha

  • Dave

    This is one of those shows that I used to watch a lot when I was a kid, but I just can’t stand it now. I can’t make it through more than 5 minutes of Home Improvement.

    • Jules

      Me too Dave. Now I can’t believe I used to faithfully watch this show every week.

  • Karen

    I loved him too! The only 90s kid actorI liked more than JTT was Elijah Wood…who I I kidding? I still have a crush on Elijah Wood!!!

    • Karen

      “who am I kidding” is what I meant to say.

    • Rants of A Crazy Person

      What about Jonathan Brandis?

      • melee

        aww… tear for Jonathan Brandis. He committed suicide…

    • Jess

      I hate to admit it but I still have a little crush on Elijah Wood too, he’s the only reason I’ve watched Lord of The Rings, numerous times.

    • Chelsea

      Elijah is adorable. I crushed (yeah right, I’m still crushing) so hard on the LOTR cast. Kinda embarrassing how much I’ve watched the extended special feature DVDs…

  • lboogiebean

    My best friend when I was 11-13 was in love with JTT. I was more of a Brad Renfro girl (RIP). Therefore we were both totally psyched when Tom and Huck made it’s cinematic debut. I think I still resent Rachel Leigh Cook to this day because she got to be in a movie with my Brad, lol.

  • ST

    Loved JTT growing up (especially loved it when he guest starred on Veronica Mars & 8 Simple Rules years later too) and still love Home Improvement. I totally agree with what you said about it truly being a show the whole family could watch and enjoy for many different reasons. Tim and Jill were kind of like Cliff and Claire on The Cosby Show in that they exemplified a good, working marriage where they truly seemed to enjoy each other’s company and had good on screen chemistry. Here’s to hoping Tim Allen’s new show is just as good.

  • Adam

    Forget JTT, I had a crush on Al.

  • julia

    does anyone remember the episode where JTT was sick and they didnt know what was wrong with him and then it turned out he had to take some pill everyday for the rest of his life omg cried so much during that episode. loved him so much had pics everywhere even wrote to him but i never got a reply :(

    • Jessica S.

      Do I remember?! I’m still pissed he didn’t win an Emmy lol

  • Jackie

    The great thing about JTT was that for a kid his age, he had such a great sense of comic timing. My favorite moment was in an episode where he was having his birthday party, and Jill brought out a little record player:

    Jill: I brought out my old 45′s.
    Randy: You’re gonna let us have guns at the party?

    • whatevs

      I have to agree with this one. Child actors are often hard to watch because of their inability to emote (see Mark Taylor), but JTT was a great actor on top of being adorable.

  • AC

    Brad: Leon? Who’s Leon?
    Randy: Leon was probably born in the manger next door.

    • Christine

      I maintain that the “Leon” incident is probably the funniest thing that’s ever happened on the show.

    • Jeff

      It was Al who asked, “Who’s Leon?” Not Brad.

  • PennyBeGood

    I can’t believe I remember this after all these years, but I recall Al getting a chance to host “Tool Time” while Tim played the assistant, and poor Al just had a bad time of it. That’s why Al was always playing second fiddle the dimmer, less talented Tim. No charisma.

  • Steve F.

    Home Improvement was one of my favorite shows back in the ’90s… yes, JTT had some great comic timing – one of my favorite episodes was the Christmas episode where Randy was in the church play and he and his classmates spelled “LEON” instead of “NOEL”:

    Brad: “Who’s Leon?”
    Randy: “I think he was the kid born in the stable next door.”

    (Of course, Pamela Anderson and Debbie Dunning also gave four good reasons to watch as well.)

    • Asha

      I’m gonna make a confession here. We watched Hoem Improvement as a family and it is the reason I got into carpentry. I remember being like 10 years old and wanting to play with power tools so my dad taught me! I’m pretty convinced I owe my career to a 90′s sitcom. :)

  • Lindsay

    I loved JTT. But I do distinctly remember absolutely loving the fact that Jill was getting her PhD in Psychology. So while my brothers made Tim’s ridiculous noises when talking about powerful tools, I was priding Jill’s ambitions and motivations. I was a little 12 year old feminist.

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