A Look Back at a Classic 90s Show: “Home Improvement”

“Home Improvement” was one of those great sitcoms of the 90s that happened to live (at least somewhat) in the shadow of the major heavy hitters – “Friends” and “Seinfeld.” For most of the decade, the show was neck and neck with both “rival” TV shows, and even hit the top of the Nielsen ratings. While it isn’t widely watched anymore, “Home Improvement” likely inspired more Americans to do work around the house than any other comedy.

The cast of Home Improvement posing on top of a wooden sign that is shaped like home and says ‘Improvement’
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

It definitely turned Tim Allen into a massive star, that’s for sure. It also put Jonathan Taylor Thomas on the map, who became the ultimate locker pin-up for school girls. Since the show was an American network staple for a good part of the 90s (it ran for eight seasons – from 1991 to 1999), I think it’s high time we give it the light of day it deserves (and hasn’t seen for nearly two decades).

This is everything “Home Improvement,” from the actors who could have been to the reason Wilson always covered his face…

It Was Supposed to Be Called “Hammer Time”

But the popularity of MC Hammer forced the creators to change the name. After the massive success of MC Hammer’s inescapable single “U Can’t Touch This,” which, as we all know and are singing in our heads right now, declared, “Stop! Hammer time!” And so, the producers settled on a less catchy and less problematic title, deciding between “Home Improvement” and “Tool Time.”

Tim Allen, Richard Karn, Gary McGurk, Casey Sanders, and Mickey Jones playing tools like instruments in the garage in Home Improvement
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

Both the creators and Tim Allen came up with “Home Improvement,” which they felt just worked better. The way they saw it, the title referenced both Tim Taylor’s show and the work a man does as a husband and father, keeping the family together. Essentially, it was a double entendre. But it even went triple, as a nod to keeping the house repaired – something Tim managed to mess up quite often.

It Was Pamela Anderson’s First Recurring Role

The future “Baywatch” superstar had just moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles (yes, she’s Canadian) when she got the gig as the first “Tool Time Girl.” She starred for two seasons as Lisa. Before that, Anderson had been modeling and appeared in “Playboy” as the Playmate of the Month. “Home Improvement,” though, was her first acting gig.

Tim, Allen, Pamela Anderson, and Richard Karn standing in the garage next to an old grey car in Home Improvement
Tim, Allen, Pamela Anderson, and Richard Karn in Home Improvement. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

She also had a couple appearances on “Married… With Children” and “Charles in Charge.” You can even see Anderson modeling in the Binford Tools calendars in the “Tool Time” set background. Anderson ended up leaving “Home Improvement” when she was cast as CJ Parker on the show that made her career. But she eventually went back to “Home Improvement,” in the season six finale, “The Kiss and the Kiss-off.”

“Too Talented” To Play the Tool Time Girl

The series creator, Matt Williams, loved Ashley Judd at her audition, but felt that she was simply too talented for the small role of the “Tool Time Girl.” “I called her agent and told him that she was so good, we would find a way to incorporate her into the series, period,” Williams told “Entertainment Weekly.” Williams then came up with an idea to create a sister for Tim Allen’s character.

Ashley Judd
Photo By James Mccauley/Shutterstock

But Judd’s agent told Williams that she was “not ready to go into television right now. She thinks she has a feature career.” At the time, Judd had no real acting credits. Judd fans know that she, indeed, went on to become a talented movie star, starring in movies like “Heat” and “A Time to Kill.”

There Was a “Home Improvement” Video Game

And it was pretty bad. Back in the 90s, there was no popular property that couldn’t be turned into an awful video game. “Home Improvement” was no exception. It was called “Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit,” and it was released by Super Nintendo in late 1994/early 1995. And, look, don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it.

The Home Improvement video game with a shot of the Tool Time garage and audience
The Home Improvement video game. Source: YouTube

If you’re curious as to what the game even involved, it let you play as Tim as he battles through various movie sets to get back his stolen power tools. Now it makes sense why the game never became a success. It could be fun, though, to see Tim Taylor leap over gaps like a Super Mario brother and blast dinosaurs with a nail gun.

The “Tool Time” Audience and the Studio Audience Were the Same

If you ever went to a taping of “Home Improvement,” you got more than just laughs. You also had the chance to be on the sitcom itself. Why? Because the real studio audience was seen on camera as the fictional “Tool Time” audience. Aside from the thrill of being seen in the episode, people wanted to go to tapings because Tim Allen was known to use some risqué language.

Tim Allen and Richard Karn in Home Improvement standing in front of the ‘Took Time’ sign
Tim Allen and Richard Karn in Home Improvement. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

When Tim “filmed” his show “Tool Time,” he would also frequently interact with the audience. He was known to do some improvisation as a way to entertain the crowd in between takes.

Fun fact: “Home Improvement” was reportedly the last American sitcom to be recorded on videotape.

One of the Most-Watched Series Finales of All Time

The show’s finale had a whopping 35.5 million viewers tuning in for the last episode, which placed it in the Top 10 highest-rated finales. It aired on May 25th, 1999, after 204 episodes. That means that more eyeballs were on it than “Frasier,” “Dallas,” “Happy Days” and “Gunsmoke.” Speaking of finales, Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson (Jill) were offered a pretty penny for a possible ninth season…

Tim Allen, Richard Karn, Penn Jillette, Teller, and Debbe Dunning in Home Improvement season 8
Season 8 behind the scenes of Home Improvement. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

During its eighth season, “Home Improvement”’s ratings were on a decline, yet it was still a very popular show. The producers wanted to do at least one more season. And they were prepared to offer large sums of money to their two stars. Allen was offered $50 million, whereas Richardson was offered $25 million.

Why Season 9 Didn’t Happen

Both Allen and Richardson declined to return, so there was just no point in keeping the show going. Part of the reason the 9th season didn’t happen was that Richardson wanted her paycheck to match Tim Allen’s. But, sadly, for her, the producers were unwilling to meet her demands.

Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson sitting in the kitchen talking
Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson in Home Improvement. Photo by Moviestore Collection / Shutterstock

As for Allen, a huge payday wasn’t enough to convince him. He just wasn’t interested in doing the show anymore. Apparently, it was partly because two of the three Taylor boys, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Taran Noah Smith, had already moved on from the show. And without Richardson, Thomas, and Smith, that’s a huge chunk missing.

Wait, That’s Not Jill!

If you remember the pilot episode, it wasn’t Patricia Richardson who played the character of Jill. It was actually Frances Fisher, who is known for her dramatic work on stage and in movies like “Unforgiven” and “Titanic.” But, regardless, she was indeed the original choice for Tim’s wife, Jill. Fisher shot the pilot episode, but she didn’t test well with audiences.

Frances Fisher dressed up for tea in Titanic 1997
Frances Fisher in Titanic 1997. Photo by 20th Century Fox / Paramount / Kobal / Shutterstock

She was then replaced by Patricia Richardson, and the pilot was re-shot for ABC. I think we can all agree that the audience knew what they were feeling. Richardson was clearly a much better fit for the part. Fisher, who is a serious, dramatic actor, wasn’t as fun and lighthearted as Richardson proved to be – which is what the showrunners wanted.

Disney Was Going in the Wrong Direction

Disney wanted Tim Allen to star in an ABC sitcom – somehow, some way. Their original ideas were to adapt the popular movies “Turner & Hooch” and “Dead Poets Society” into sitcoms, with Allen stepping in for the roles of Tom Hanks and Robin Williams. But Allen himself knew this was the wrong direction, and a case of really bad miscasting.

A headshot of Matt Williams in the 1990s
Matt Williams. Photo by Marzullo / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

“They offered me two sitcoms. And I thought they got the wrong guy. I told them, ‘I’m the one you saw on stage doing the men thing, grunting like a pig,'” Allen told, “The Los Angeles Times” in 1991, just as “Home Improvement” began. So, Disney returned to the drawing board and searched for a producer to develop a sitcom based on Allen’s stand-up material. That’s when Matt Williams, the creator of “Roseanne,” came into the picture.

What’s Up With Wilson?

One of the quirkiest (and oddest) parts of the show was the fact that the good ol’ neighbor, Wilson, was blocked off by the fence. And so, we never got to see Wilson’s whole face. In fact, there were few instances when we were close enough to see his whole face – that is when he was away from the fence.

Tim Allen holding a dream catcher with Earl Hindman sticking out from behind the fence
Tim Allen and Earl Hindman in Home Improvement. Photo by Moviestore Collection / Shutterstock

Apparently, it was an attempt at a fun running joke, but not everyone appreciated the gag. The original actor hired to play Wilson, John Bedford Lloyd, didn’t know that his face was never going to be seen, and so he quit the day before filming began. The creators scrambled to find a replacement, and thus cast Earl Hindman to replace him. He obviously had no problem being obscure.

The Inspiration Behind Wilson

If you’re curious to know what his character was based on, then you should know that he was inspired by Tim Allen’s real-life neighbor. When Allen was a child, he would talk to his neighbor in his backyard. But the thing is, Allen’s family had a big picket fence, so little Timmy was never able to see his neighbor’s full face.

Earl Hindman behind a fence in a promotional shot for Home Improvement
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

And despite playing a seemingly limited character based on a visual gag, Wilson still became a fan-favorite. In the series finale, during the curtain call, his full face was finally revealed to the audience. Did you catch it? Earl Hindman passed away from lung cancer in 2003, at 61 years old.

So, What About Al?

As it turns out, Al Borland was originally supposed to be a different character. Originally, Tim’s “Tool Time” co-host was a guy named Glen, and he was to be played by Stephen Tobolowsky. But Tobolowsky wasn’t available to film the first few episodes due to a prior commitment to a film. The producers then created the character of Al as a brief stand-in, until Tobolowsky became available.

Tim Allen and Richard Karn with kitchen electronics on the table in front of them
Tim Allen and Richard Karn. Photo by Buena Vista Tv / Touchstone Tv / Kobal / Shutterstock

That is, Al was only meant to be a temporary fill-in for Glen. But when Richard Karn was cast, he simply crushed it, and there was no going back. Karn’s dynamic with Allen was just too good to ignore. When Tobolowsky eventually decided to pass on the show, Karn was added as a permanent cast member.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

There’s a funny backstory on why Richard Karn even got the role of Al. At the time, Karn was in a theater production of “King Lear” in Los Angeles. And, on his way home from rehearsal, he ran a stop sign. He was then required to go to traffic school, which turned out to be the luckiest moment of his life.

Tim Allen and Richard Karn in the kitchen wearing aprons
Tim Allen and Richard Karn. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

It was there that he met an agent who told him about this new show that was looking for actors. Yes, that show was “Home Improvement.” Karn realized that he actually knew several people working on the series, so he decided to give it a shot and audition for the role of Al Borland.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas Wanted to Leave the Show

Thanks to his role on the show as the wisecracking middle child Randy, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (aka JTT) became a teen heartthrob in the 90s. Thomas appeared in several movies during his time on the show, like “The Lion King” and “Tom & Huck.” But by the last season, he wanted to leave and focus on his film career.

Tim Allen and Jonathan Thomas sitting in an emergency room
Tim Allen and Jonathan Thomas. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

Thomas told his fellow cast members that the reason for leaving was to focus on his schooling. But Allen later said, “He said it was about going to school, but then he did some films.” Thomas was in one of the final episodes, “Home for the Holidays,” but he didn’t show up for the series finale. Later, in 2013, Taylor guest-starred on Tim Allen’s show, “Last Man Standing.”

A Reunion Special

In 2003, the cast reunited and took their fans down memory lane. Sure, it was only four years after “Home Improvement” ended, but still. A handful of the main cast members got together for a TV special. Tim Allen, Richard Karn, Debbie Dunning, and Earl Hindman returned for a show called “Tim Allen Presents: A User’s Guide to Home Improvement.”

Tim Allen and Richard Karn carving pumpkins
Tim Allen and Richard Karn. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

Hindman actually didn’t appear on-screen since he was battling cancer at the time, but he contributed to the special via voice-over narration. In the special, Tim Allen presented his favorite clips from the show and hosted a Q&A session with the live studio audience. The special was included as a bonus feature on the “Home Improvement” DVDs. Remember those things?

#20 on “TV Guide”’s “50 Greatest TV Dads”

When you think of TV dads from the 90s, Tim Taylor is definitely up there on the list. And that’s not just what I think. Apparently many other viewers thought so as well. Despite his manly habit of getting carried away, adding “more power” as his way to solve any situation, Tim had his family’s best interests at heart, always.

Tim Allen showing his on screen sons how to do something in the garage
Photo by Moviestore Collection / Shutterstock

Audiences tuned in to see Tim as the clumsy yet good-natured husband and father for eight seasons. It was enough to earn him the #20 spot on “TV Guide”’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” list. That marked him above Ward Cleaver. I don’t think Tim Allen ever saw that one coming.

A Stand-Up Comedian Turned Disney Star

Before he became a sitcom star, Tim Allen was a stand-up comedian. His comedy act, as we learned, eventually became the source of the material they would eventually use as the basis for “Home Improvement.” Allen had first performed comedy at the Comedy Castle in his home state of Michigan. He walked onto the club’s stage a month after the venue opened in 1979.

Tim Allen performing at the Laugh Factory
Source: Twitter

He then caught the attention of Disney executives Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner after they saw him perform at LA’s Comedy Store. The two execs loved his act, and it led to a career-long collaboration with Disney. Other than “Home Improvement,” Allen’s Disney projects included hit film franchises like “The Santa Clause” and “Toy Story.”

Their Disney Cameos

The show’s two breakout stars were certainly Tim Allen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who both went on to enjoy successful film careers with Disney. As you know, Thomas was the voice behind the young Simba in “The Lion King.” And Allen was the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the “Toy Story” movies (#3 was the best, hands down).

Tim Allen and Buzz Lightyear posing
Photo by Chloe Rice / Disney Via South Beach Photo / Shutterstock

While Thomas and Allen’s characters never met on the big screen, they happened to cross paths on the small screen. In a season 6 episode called “I Was a Teenage Taylor,” Randy (JTT) greets two trick-or-treaters. If you remember the show, they were dressed as Buzz Lightyear and Simba. Pretty cute, huh? And as a fun gag, Randy gives more candy to the one dressed up as Simba.

Tim Allen Only Wore Clothes From Michigan Schools

If you recall, Tim Taylor would wear a number of different shirts and sweatshirts on the show. It sure made sense for a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy who loves his power tools. But Allen purposely decided that Tim should only wear clothes that promoted teams and schools from Allen’s home state of Michigan.

Tim Allen wearing a Detroit Lions t-shirt
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

The Michigan tribute ended up being a blessing for Allen’s personal wardrobe. The different items he wore on the show were sent to him from Michigan colleges and universities, who simply enjoyed seeing their school on TV. Despite the rule that only schools from Michigan would get the free advertising, the costume department accidentally put Allen in a Wofford College sweatshirt in a 1996 episode called “Al’s Video.” Wofford College, for those who don’t know, is in South Carolina.

Supporting the Troops

Not only did Tim Allen like to support the schools in his hometown, he also liked to support the troops. There happens to be a big connection to the Navy in “Home Improvement.” Patricia Richardson, for one, was the daughter of a Navy veteran. Allen even invited a number of Navy servicemen to a rehearsal of the show, letting them see a part of production that most fans never got to witness.

Tim Allen in camaflauge pants and Jonathan Taylor Thomas dressed as Peter Pan
Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

But Allen’s support of the Navy didn’t end there. He once surprised a mother and her two kids by inviting them to a live taping of a Christmas episode of “Last Man Standing,” where her husband, who’s a Naval officer, was waiting behind the scenes to greet them after having been deployed overseas.

“Tool Time” is a Spoof of “This Old House”

The character of Tim Taylor was actually conceived as a spoof of the then-famous home improvement star Bob Vila. Vila had his own show called “This Old House,” which ran on PBS for a whopping 39 seasons. Tim Taylor is sort of a bumbling version of the real-life Bob Vila. And Al’s beard and flannel shirt reflect Vila’s typical attire.

Bob Vila, Tim Allen, Richard Karn, and Pamela Anderson hanging out around the set behind the scenes
Bob Vila, Tim Allen, Richard Karn, and Pamela Anderson behind the scenes of Home Improvement. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

Vila had a good sense of humor about it all. He even appeared, as himself, on episodes of “Home Improvement.” On those episodes, Vila was a rival of Tim Taylor’s. Tim challenged Vila to two different races: riding lawnmowers and classic hot rods. Tim Allen and Pamela Anderson later appeared on Bob Vila’s other show, “Home Again.”

Tim’s Phone Number

“Home Improvement” had its share of running jokes. One of the show’s recurring jokes was that anytime Tim would say something offensive on “Tool Time,” Al would have Tim’s phone number and/or address flash on the screen. The idea behind it was that the viewers could call in and complain about the language.

Richard Karn and Tim Allen behind the counter during Tool Time
Photo by Buena Vista Tv / Touchstone Tv / Kobal / Shutterstock

But any viewers who actually did try to dial that number were met with yet another joke. “Home Improvement” takes place in Michigan, but the phone number that appears on the screen begins with an area code from Illinois. It’s not clear whether this was a joke made by Tim and Al, or just a fun gag by the show’s producers.

The Mrs. Doubtfire Connection

You’re probably wondering, what the heck could “Home Improvement” have to do with “Mrs. Doubtfire”? While it’s almost impossible to imagine “Mrs. Doubtfire” with anyone other than Robin Williams in the title role, the truth is that the movie was originally supposed to be a “Home Improvement” movie.

Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire
Photo by 20th Century Fox / Blue Wolf / Kobal / Shutterstock

What does that even mean? Well, apparently, the story would have been about Tim and Jill getting separated, and Tim would disguise himself as the British nanny in order to see his kids. But Tim Allen wasn’t so gung-ho about the idea. So the idea was changed and made into the classic movie it became. Allen reportedly also turned down a chance to star in another version, alongside Williams, but he just didn’t want to dress up like a British nanny.

Some Famous Guest Stars

“Home Improvement” might just be the only sitcom to have ever featured a Super Bowl MVP, a four-time Oscar nominee, a President and Oprah. The names, you ask? Well, there was Drew Carey, the former Detroit Piston Isaiah Thomas, the Beach Boys, Evander Holyfield, Michelle Williams and Jimmy Carter.

Tim Allen, Ron Taylor, and Art LaFleur in Home Improvement
Tim Allen, Ron Taylor, and Art LaFleur. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

Oprah showed up in an episode as herself in a dream sequence. Tim dreams that she’ll have Toni Morrison on her TV show to read from his book. Oh, and there was also an episode where superstar comedian Dave Chappelle guest-starred. In the season four episode, “Talk to Me,” Chappelle played the character Dave with his real-life friend and fellow comedian Jim Breuer.

A Short-Lived Spin-Off

In that episode, Chappelle and Breuer played a pair of guys looking for advice on how to deal with their girlfriends. Their appearances on that episode were so well received that the two comedians were given their own brief spin-off show, called “Buddies.” Chances are you never saw it (I haven’t either).

Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer
Source: Twitter

The spin-off was plagued with problems, including an abrupt replacement of Jim Breuer. It was canceled after a mere five episodes. Chappelle went on to see major TV success a few years later when he debuted “Chappelle’s Show” on Comedy Central. And any comedy fan knows that those few years of his sketch show were pure comedy gold.

The Show’s Numerous Awards

“Home Improvement” received many awards and nominations during its eight-season run. Tim Allen’s performance as Tim Taylor made such an impression that he was nominated for five Golden Globes and an Emmy. He won a Golden Globe in 1995. Patricia Richardson also received recognition for her role as Jill Taylor. She was nominated for four Emmys and a Golden Globe.

Tim Allen as Santa Clause holding a snow globe
Photo by Attila Dory / Walt Disney / Kobal / Shutterstock

For one week in November 1994, Tim Allen was on top of the world. He had a #1 TV show, the #1 movie (“The Santa Clause”), and the #1 book (“Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man”) in the country. The show also received the Kids’ Choice Awards, the Young Artist Awards, the YoungStar Awards, the ASCAP Award, and many others.

Binford Tools Appeared in Allen’s Other Projects

Binford Tools was basically a cast member in itself, and a major part of the show. Fans of Allen’s other work have probably noticed that the fictional company Binford Tools has popped up in places outside of “Home Improvement.” The brand that sponsors “Tool Time” also made an appearance in “Toy Story.” Did you catch it? The Binford name was stenciled across the side of a toolbox in little Sid’s room.

Richard Karn and Tim Allen with toolbelts on and a Binford measuring tape on Richard’s belt in Home Improvement
Richard Karn and Tim Allen with a Binford measuring tape on Richard’s belt. Photo by Buena Vista Tv / Touchstone Tv / Kobal / Shutterstock

Binford also showed up on Allen’s other sitcom, “Last Man Standing.” He clearly still loves the show that made him a superstar and likes to pay homage to it. Here’s a fun fact: Binford was named after a “Home Improvement” writer’s friend from school.

Tim Allen Now

Allen went on to star in more movies, like “Jungle to Jungle” (1997), “Galaxy Quest” (1999), “Christmas with the Kranks” (2004), “Wild Hogs” (2007) and all of the “Toy Story” movies. He currently stars and produces “Last Man Standing” on ABC, which began in 2011. It was canceled in 2017 but revived by Fox in 2018.

Tim Allen and his family on the red carpet
Photo by Matt Baron / Shutterstock

Allen has been happily married to his wife Jane Hajduk since 2006. He has two daughters — one with Jane and another with his previous wife. You probably heard that he had his days of battling addiction, but the comedian has stayed out of trouble ever since he went to rehab after a 1997 DUI arrest and jail time in the ’80s for drug-trafficking.

Patricia Richardson Now

Patricia Richardson starred in sitcoms such as “Eisenhower & Lutz” and “FM” in her early career, but it was a former college classmate that got her the role of Jill Taylor. Richardson later starred in a Lifetime series called “Strong Medicine,” and had a recurring role on “The West Wing.” She even guest-starred in two episodes of “Last Man Standing.”

Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson standing in front of a model war set up with little figurines on Last Man Standing
Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson on Last Man Standing. Source: MoviestillsDB.com / Copyright: Walt Disney Studios

Recently, she appeared in the musical “Still Waiting in the Wings” and in the TV movies “Dayworld” and “A Christmas in Tennessee.” In 2019, she guest-starred on an episode of NBC’s “Blindspot.” The single TV actress has three grown kids from her previous marriage to Ray Baker, which ended in 1995.

Zachery Ty Bryan Now

During “Home Improvement” the young actor found regular work in movies like “First Kid” (1996) and “The Rage: Carrie 2” (1999). You might have seen him in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Picket Fences” and “Promised Land” too. After “Home Improvement” ended, he continued to act for another decade.

Zachary Ty Bryan in Home Improvement / Zachary Ty Bryan on the red carpet
Source: MoviestillsDB.com, Copyright: Walt Disney Studios / Photo by Jim Smeal, BEI, Shutterstock

He was in short stints or one-offs like “Touched by an Angel,” “Boston Public,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Smallville” and “Burn Notice.” He seemingly hasn’t acted since 2009, when he played Thor in the TV movie “Thor: Hammer of the Gods.” But he did produce the 2018 documentary “BIT X BIT: In Bitcoin We Trust” and the films “Warning” and “Heavy.” The 38-year-old and his wife just had their fourth child recently.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas Now

Thomas left the sitcom in its eighth and final season to focus on studying. Tim Allen wasn’t so sure about his story seeing as he went on to do more films, but the fact of the matter is Thomas earned a few degrees. He graduated with honors from Chaminade College Preparatory School in 2000. Until 2006, he worked sporadically and also went to Harvard University, St. Andrew’s University (in Scotland), and Columbia University, where he earned a degree in 2010.

Johnathan Taylor Thomas in Home Improvement / Jonathan Taylor Thomas at a restaurant table holding wine bottles and glasses in Last Man Standing
Source: MoviestillsDB.com, Copyright: Walt Disney Studios / MoviestillsDB.com, Copyright: Fox, ABC

Thomas was given a small role in “Last Man Standing” from 2013 to 2015. But Thomas prefers to work behind the camera now. In his late 30s now, he’s been collaborating on a project with Zachery Ty Bryan and Macaulay Culkin.

Taran Noah Smith Now

Aside from playing Mark, Taran Noah Smith has very few acting credits. He was in the TV movie “Ebbie” in 1995, and in a 1997 episode of “7th Heaven.” He also was in the 1998 film “Little Bigfoot 2: The Journey Home,” and voiced a character in an episode of “Batman Beyond” in 1999. But since then, he hasn’t acted.

 Taran Noah Smith in Home Improvement / Taran Noah Smith and his mother posing on a boat
Taran Noah Smith and his mother. Source: MoviestillsDB.com, Copyright: Walt Disney Studios / Pinterest

In fact, he sued his parents for spending his acting money but later dropped the suit. He got married, started his own vegan restaurant, had a child with his wife, got divorced, and, in 2012, he was arrested for DUI and drug possession. Yup. But these days, Smith seems to be doing well. His mother wrote a book about her son’s experience in the spotlight called “Stardom Happens” in 2015.

Richard Karn Now

His notoriety from the show earned him steady work afterward on series like “That ‘70s Show,” “Ctrl,” “Last Man Standing” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” He was also in a large number of animal-centric films, like “MVP: Most Vertical Primate” (2001), “Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch” (2002), “Air Buddies” (2006), “A Dog for Christmas” (2015), “The Horse Dancer” (2017) and “Amanda and the Fox” (2018).

Richard Karn with two contestants on Family Feud, Ron and Sheree
Photo by Fremantle Media / Shutterstock

His best-known gig was hosting “Family Feud” from 2002 to 2006. After that came a gig on “Bingo America” in 2008. He can now be seen on Hulu’s comedy “PEN15.” Following “Home Improvement,” Karn is married to Tudi Roche since 1985. They have a son named Cooper Karn Wilson, who is an actor too.

Pamela Anderson Now

Anderson has stayed busy, as we know, with roles on TV and in film (and in “Playboy”). After breaking up with her husband Tommy Lee in 1998, she married and divorced both Kid Rock and Rick Salomon. The 52-year-old is now married to Jon Peters. The outspoken PETA advocate still acts here and there, with recent roles on “Sur-Vie” and in the French comedy “Nicky Larson et le parfum de Cupidon” (2018).

Pamela Anderson in Home Improvement / Pamela Anderson holding a rose in her mouth in an ad for her purses
Source: MoviestillsDB.com, Copyright: Walt Disney Studios / Photo by Isopix, Shutterstock

The mother of two also tried her hand at a reality TV show, competing on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2010. As of July 2019, Anderson said she moved back to her home country. She now lives on Vancouver Island.

Debbe Dunning Now

When Pamela Anderson left the show, she was replaced by Heidi, the master electrician and “Tool Girl” who was played by Debbe Dunning. Dunning stayed until the show’s end. During her time on the show, she was also in episodes of “Tales from the Crypt,” “Baywatch” and “Boy Meets World.”

 Debbie Dunning in Home Improvement / Debbie Dunning in 2018
Photo by Buena Vista Tv, Touchstone Tv, Kobal, Shutterstock / AFF-USA, Shutterstock

She also had credits in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Wicked Wicked Games.” Dunning hasn’t acted in recent years. She was on the show “Wicked Wicked Games” back in 2006 and recently hosted a travel series called “Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Roundup” on RFD-TV. Dunning mostly focuses on charity work and her family, as she’s a mom to three kids. She was married to two-time gold medal-winning volleyball player Steve Timmons from 1997 to 2018.