An American network television staple for a good part of the 1990s, Home Improvement—which premiered 25 years ago, on September 17, 1991—was a sitcom documenting the work and home life of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, stand-up comedian Tim Allen’s interpretation of a man unjustifiably secure in his knowledge of power tools and in his ability to communicate with his wife and sons through grunting. Here are some facts about the show that don’t obscure themselves behind a picket fence.
1. TIM ALLEN TURNED DOWN STARRING IN TV VERSIONS OF TURNER AND HOOCH AND DEAD POETS SOCIETY TO GET HIS OWN SITCOM.
Allen told the Los Angeles Times that it seemed like the Disney executives who pitched him those potential shows were already “preparing for failure.” When he passed, Disney searched for a producer to develop a sitcom based on Allen’s stand-up character instead, which became Home Improvement. Matt Williams, the creator of Roseanne, was eventually hired for the job.
2. FRANCES FISHER PLAYED JILL IN THE PILOT.
The original idea for the show came from Allen and was titled Hammer Time. Frances Fisher, who is better known for her dramatic work on the stage and in films like Unforgiven and Titanic, was originally cast as Tim’s wife, Jill. She shot the pilot episode, but didn’t test well with audiences. So she was replaced by Patricia Richardson and the pilot was re-shot for ABC.
3. STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY WAS THE ORIGINAL AL.
Tobolowsky was cast as Tim Taylor’s Tool Time partner. Then, while Home Improvement’s actors and crew waited to find out when ABC would give them the go-ahead on beginning production, Tobolowsky wanted to be able to seek movie roles to keep his growing family financially secure. The actor decided to drop out of the project, and while he missed out on a steady paycheck for nine years, he got to appear in movies like Groundhog Day. “It turned out to be a very good choice for me,” said Tobolowsky.