"Home Improvement" eventually began to get a bit repetitive after the core idea was worn out, but most of the show's run utilized the idea of a guy too obsessed with horsepower and power tools for his own good quite effectively. For those who never saw the series, it starred former stand-up comic Tim Allen as Tim Taylor, a husband and father who continually seeks out tools and other electronic equipment of grander size and power. Allen's character was defined by both his trademark grunt and the fact that the machinery he was using often got the better of him. It all was largely based on the comedian's real-life stand-up material.
The character epitomized the kind of sitcom dad that I hate - one who acts all macho, screws up terribly and ends up learning a lesson from wife and family, to be repeated again next week. However, Allen managed to make the character endearing and - at least for a good stretch of time - pretty entertaining.
Allen was supported by Patricia Richardson as wife Jill. The character played off Allen's pretty well, as the two could not be more opposite. Richardson definitely shined in some episodes where she got more of the focus, but there were also times where her disapproval made her seem like something of a party pooper. There were also the show's three sons, played by: Taran Noah Smith (Mark Taylor), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy Taylor), Zachery Ty Bryan (Brad Taylor). While none of the three were standouts, they portrayed a trio of older, middle and younger brothers well. Also good throughout show were Richard Kind as Al, Tim's co-host on his "Tool Time" TV series, and Earl Hindman as the little-seen but often heard neighbor Wilson.
The sixth season of the series saw the kids getting older, and the series began to write a few more episodes geared towards the three sons growing older, starting with the first episode, where Tim finds himself having to give Brad "the talk". Randy and Brad also have relationship issues with girlfriends and "My Son, the Driver" sees Brad getting into serious car trouble on the first night of having a driver's license. The season also explores Jill and Tim's relationship further ("Future Shock" and "Workshop 'Till You Drop") and offers the usual blunders from Allen's character.
The seventh season saw the producers change things up a bit to try and keep the forumula going. This mainly involves focusing more on the changes for the three kids, as well as a few decisions that the parents have to make as they get older. As for the kids, Randy surprises Tim by going against Binford Tools when the newly pro-environment Randy reveals that the company is a major polluter. This was also the memorable season when the creators made the choice to turn youngest son Mark into a goth, which spooked Jill and Tim and was an unexpected change for the series and the character. Tim and Jill continue to work on their relationship, and Tim tries to decide whether or not he'll quit his job.
While I still think the series went on for longer than it probably should have (the seventh season of the series was where it really "jumped the shark"), the eighth and final season of the show does a nice job providing closure for the popular series. The biggest change for the final season would be the departure of star Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who leaves (he would not return at all to the series) to study in Costa Rica in "Adios". Shortly after, Brad is faced with the decision to head overseas to play soccer. The characters also face a potential crisis when Jill has to have an emergency hysterectomy, which runs into complications. The series heads to a close with a three-parter that sees Tim becoming upset with the "Jerry Springer"-like course that "Tool Time" has taken and, at the same time, Jill weighs a job offer in Indiana.
The final season has several highlights, including: "Whitewater" (Jill gets Tim a whitewater rafting trip as a birthday present), "Adios" (Randy leaves for Costa Rica), "Home For the Holidays" (Randy comes home to find out all the things that have changed), "Love's Labor Lost" (a two-parter where Jill has to undergo emergency surgery), "Neighbors" (Wilson wins prize money and decides to build a lab in the backyard, which blocks the Taylor's view) and "The Long and Winding Road" (the three-part finale.)
177. 22 Sep 98 Whitewater
178. 29 Sep 98 Adios
179. 6 Oct 98 All in the Family
180. 13 Oct 98 Taylor Got Game
181. 20 Oct 98 Al's Fair Lady
182. 27 Oct 98 Bewitched
183. 3 Nov 98 Not-So-Great Scott
184. 10 Nov 98 Tim's First Car
185. 17 Nov 98 Mr. Likable
186. 24 Nov 98 Thanks, But No Thanks
187. 8 Dec 98 Home for the Holidays
188. 15 Dec 98 Ploys for Tots
189. 5 Jan 99 Chop Shop 'Til You Drop
190. 19 Jan 99 Home Alone
191. 2 Feb 99 Knee Deep
192. 9 Feb 99 Mark's Big Break
193. 16 Feb 99 Young at Heart
194. 23 Feb 99 Love's Labor Lost (1)
195. 2 Mar 99 Love's Labor Lost (2)
196. 16 Mar 99 Neighbors
197. 30 Mar 99 A Hardware Habit to Break
198. 4 May 99 Loose Lips and Freudian Slips
199. 11 May 99 Trouble-a-Bruin
200. 18 May 99 Dead Weight
201. 18 May 99 The Long and Winding Road (1)
202. 25 May 99 The Long and Winding Road (2)
203. 25 May 99 The Long and Winding Road (3)
204. 25 May 99 Backstage Pass
VIDEO: "Home Improvement" is presented here again in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio by Buena Vista. The quality of the episode presentations are not without a few minor concerns, but the overall impression is better-than-expected. Sharpness and detail were mostly quite good, as the image remained crisp and detailed throughout, with only a few hints of softness here-and-there.
The presentation did show some very slight instances of shimmer and pixelation, but no edge enhancement was spotted and no wear on the elements was visible. Overall, the presentation appeared mostly clean and up to broadcast quality. Colors were bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other flaws.
SOUND: "Home Improvement" is presented here in 2.0 stereo, and the soundtrack was certainly adequate, with clean sounding dialogue, effects and music.
EXTRAS: "The User's Guide" is a really rather fun extra that runs about 40 minutes. The program takes place about three years after the final episode of the series and has Karn, Allen and Dunning on-stage providing a retrospective for the series, while also providing some new (well, new at that time) stand-up material. While it is mostly a clip show, it's a fun look back and the trio on-stage do provide some funny one-liners about their experiences on the series.
The set also provides the usual blooper reel, which offers some fun goofs.
Final Thoughts: The eighth and final season of "Home Improvement" offers a fine send-off for the Taylor family, as the season offers some terrific episodes and a fine three-part finale. The DVD set provides fine audio/video quality, as well as a nice 40-minute bonus featurette. Recommended for fans.