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Home Improvement on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6 Season 7 Season 8

"Home Improvement" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy Home Improvement: The Complete First Season from Amazon.com Home Improvement: Season One (1991-92)
Show & DVD Details

Director: John Pasquin

Regular Cast: Tim Allen (Tim Taylor), Patricia Richardson (Jill Taylor), Earl Hindman (Wilson), Taran Noah Smith (Mark Taylor), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy Taylor), Zachery Ty Bryan (Brad Taylor)

Recurring Characters: Richard Karn (Al Borland), Pamela Denise Anderson (Lisa), Betsy Randle (Karen), Jessica Wesson (Jennifer Sudarsky), Mickey Jones (Pete), Gary McGurk (Dwayne), Casey Sander (Rock), Jennifer Nash (Greta Post), Noble Willingham (Mr. Binford)

Notable Guest Stars: Eric Christmas (Sir Larry Houdini), John Marshall Jones (Rick), Sam McMurray (Rondall), Stephen Root (Exterminator), Adam Wylie (Jimmy Wagner), Art LaFleur (Jim), Ron Taylor (Kyle), Christopher McDonald (Stu Cutler), Patrick Thomas O'Brien ("Ink" Ingram), Bob Vila (Himself), Aaron Freeman (Curtis), George Foreman (Himself), Jack Elam (Hick Peterson), Ernest Borgnine (Eddie Phillips), Amy Ryan (Robin), Janeen Rae Heller (Herself)

Running Time: 566 Minutes (24 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 23, 2004; Suggested Retail Price: $23.99 (Was $49.99)
Season 1 Airdates: September 17, 1991 - May 5, 1992
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with two-piece cardboard slipcover

Buy Season 1 from Amazon.com / Buy The Complete Series Collection

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season.

Bob Vila shows up for a little 'Stump the Toolman' action in "What About Bob?" Jill and Tim on the family's unplanned Valentine's Day camping trip. Green hands and bad luck for Tim in "Unchained Malady."

Disc 3

17. What About Bob? (23:35) (Originally aired February 11, 1992)
Mr. Binford proudly informs Tim that there will be a special guest on "Tool Time": Bob Vila, the "pioneer of home repair." Even with a great amount of preparation and some surefire help from Jill, Tim gets embarrassed by Vila in the "Stump the Toolman" competition. Things get worse when Tim accidentally hits Vila in the head with a wooden board. Back at home, Curtis, the boy who Randy pulled a prank on, is invited over and Jill soon understands where Randy is coming from.
Bob Vila's guest appearance is the first of several he would make, and leads to an inspired and hilarious "Tool Time."

18. Baby, It's Cold Outside (23:08) (Originally aired February 18, 1992)
Tim has plans for a romantic Valentine's Day weekend with Jill at a spa. But at the last minute, Mr. Binford decides Tim and his family should go camping this weekend and record their journeys. Tim hopes he can still do both, but camping in the snowy outdoors proves challenging for the Taylor family and extremely enjoyable for viewers. Brad gets some help from his parents on his valentine for Jennifer.

19. Unchained Malady (23:37) (Originally aired February 25, 1992)
When Tim throws away a chain letter, his luck takes a turn for the worse. He accidentally dyes his hands green and Jill gives him a black eye. George Foreman shows up on "Tool Time."

20. Birds of a Feather Flock to Taylor (23:07) (Originally aired March 3, 1992)
Tim and the boys build an elaborate birdhouse. On "Tool Time", two old-time working class men Hick and Eddie (guest stars Jack Elam and Ernest Borgnine) talk about their careers. Tim and Jill argue over an opera fundraiser that he can't remember her telling about. Tim gets some women advice from Hick and Eddie down at Big Mike's (a bar that would turn up in numerous episodes in the future).

Al gets his chance to host "Tool Time" in "A Battle of Wheels." Tim and the guys play poker in "Luck Be a Taylor Tonight." The boys of K & B Construction get musical in the season finale "Stereo-typical."

21. A Battle of Wheels (23:26) (Originally aired March 17, 1992)
Jill has a pottery wheel moved into the garage, which upsets Tim's workplace. Al gets frustrated with Tim at work and feels unappreciated. In response, Tim gives Al a shot at hosting the show, with hilariously disastrous results.

22. Luck Be a Taylor Tonight (23:36) (Originally aired April 7, 1992)
Jill's sister Robin and her husband Charlie come over the Taylor house in the midst of a fight. Charlie joins Tim, Al, and a thrice-divorced friend for the monthly Poker Night, during which Tim explains the importance of apologizing in marriage. Upstairs, Jill and Robin give themselves facials and talk about men. This episode isn't very subtle at discussing the differences with which men and women approach relationships.

23. Al's Fair in Love and War (23:37) (Originally aired April 28, 1992)
Greta Post, who caught Al's eye on the women's episode of "Tool Time" earlier in the season, shows up again and writes Al a note. Al wants to ask her out, but he has trouble working up the nerve. Hoping not to get let down again, Al heed's the advice of Tim and tries not to be labeled as merely "sensitive" by Greta, but that puts a damper in their dinner date at the Taylors. Jennifer Sudarsky is spending more time with Brad at home.

24. Stereo-typical (23:39) (Originally aired May 5, 1992)
When the family room speakers blow out, Tim goes all out on a state-of-the-art system, controlled by clapping. "Tool Time" guest Janeen Rae Heller makes music with an ordinary saw. Inspired by the performance, the boys at K & B Construction find a new use for their tools and join Heller for "The Ratchet Rhapsody", a riveting a musical number. This season finale ends with a montage of some of Tim's most memorable snafus from the year.

Jill prepares dinner, while Tim tries to smooth things over. In one of her first acting roles, Pamela Anderson plays "Tool Time girl" Lisa.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Presented of course in its original aspect ratio (1.33:1), "Home Improvement" boasts one of the best transfers I've seen on a TV show on DVD. The picture quality here is terrific.
The image remains clean and sharp, colors are vibrant and there's a great amount of detail. "Home Improvement" won six Emmy awards for lighting, and the show took pride in its high production values, distinguishing it from other family sitcoms. Some may worry about compression issues when putting an entire season onto three discs, but I think Disney has got it figured out quite well. Even with over three hours of episodes per DVD, the video quality is most pleasing.

The Dolby Stereo track is also satisfactory. Dialogue is crisp and discernible. Played back in Dolby Pro Logic, the rear speakers are effectively called into to use for music and the live audience laughtrack. Sitcoms generally aren't designed to give sound systems a workout, but "Home Improvement" offers a slightly more active audio experience than other shows of this format, and the DVD does an accurate and adequate job of presenting it.

The Taylor Family outside their house, which is all decorated for Christmas. A still from the restored full-length opening credits sequence.

BONUS FEATURES

Most significant among bonus features are audio commentaries from "Home Improvement" co-creators/executive producers Carmen Finestra and David McFadzean. These commentaries appear on three episodes: "Pilot", "Nothing More Than Feelings" and "Forever Jung."

While it's great that an effort has been made to include bonus features, Finestra and McFadzean aren't the most interesting talkers.
They do lend some insight to technical aspects (such as casting the characters, the inspired scene transitions, the set where the show was filmed, and the genuine audience laughter), but at times there's dead space or simply narration of what's going on in the episode. The third commentary ("Forever Jung") does pick up considerably, as McFadzean and Finestra share some interesting anecdotes about the cast.

The only other bonus feature on this set is called "Loose Screws: Home Improvement Hilarity", a collection of comedic clips from the early seasons of the show. Running 16 minutes and 15 seconds altogether with the "Play All" option, the montage is divided into 9 different sections: Just a Minor Technical Difficulty (Tim's repair bloopers), Masculinity (argumentative interplay between Tim and Jill), Call of the Wild (a series of grunts), Howdy Neighbor! (interactions with Wilson), The Language of Love (some of the parents' suggestive banter that helps the show earn a TV-PG rating), Everyone Loves Al (clips featuring Tim's trusty assistant), Random Acts of Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, What is That Thing? (Tim's gadget talk), and Parenting Lessons (which feature the three Taylor lads and the problems they pose for their parents).

It's not much of an extra since it's essentially the box set in clip show form, but it's better than nothing. Hopefully future season sets will contain input from the cast in commentaries or featurettes, or some vintage material from the series production (press interviews, promos, or anything of the sort). Heck, even all the different animated "Home Improvement will be right back" clips would be cool to see.

Audio Commentaries menu from Disc 1. Disc 1's Main Menu Episode Selection menu from Disc 1.

MENUS, DESIGN, and PACKAGING

The 4x3 Main Menu makes use of the theme song and Season 1 opening, alternating between house patterns and poses of the family against the wrinkled paper background. Submenus are static, and accompanied by odd music selections that are sometimes a little loud. The cursors are a variety of tools. Each disc has a "Play All" option to run through 8 episodes. Each episode contains between 5 and 10 chapter stops for quick scene access, although there isn't a separate menu for each episode (nor is one really needed).

Sneak Peeks play at the beginning of Disc 1 for "Boy Meets World" The Complete Second Season, "The Golden Girls" The Complete First Season, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. The Sneak Peeks menu also provides an ad for ABC's "Hope and Faith" sitcom.

Home Improvement: Season One's outer packaging. The inside of the Alphapack holds the three discs. The outside of the inner case opened up to reveal some nice photos of the fam in front of a fence and blue sky.

The packaging for "Home Improvement" is pretty neat. The embossed outer slipcover resembles a tool box that features just Tim in the center, and it opens like a toolbox would, near the top. This reveals a six-sided Digipak, with nicer artwork - a more inclusive photo of the Taylor family, Wilson, and Al by a fence in front of a nice sky.
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The back of this case also includes a family photo in front of the fence and sky. One side includes a nice letter "signed" by show creators David McFadzean, Matt Williams, and Carmen Finestra which sums up the show and how it's at last on DVD. One side lists the episodes on each disc with writing and directing credits. And the last two sides are of course devoted to the discs (which feature Tim, Al, and Wilson).

From the preliminary artwork released for Season 2 (due next spring), I doubt they'll be remaining entirely consistent as far as spines and boxes go. But this is a nice-looking design, sufficient for disc storage, and not very space-consuming, so hopefully they won't stray from the overall design. Even if the covers oddly feature only Tim (and for Season 2, Lisa) and the spines and discs thus far seem devoted to the adult male characters (Wilson on this Season, Al on the next release), Disney has succeeded with this packaging, an element of surprising importance to TV on DVD box set collectors.

Inside the case, you'll find a mail-in rebate certificate which will give you $10 back if you send in proofs of purchases and receipts for this set and any one of the following Buena Vista TV show sets coming out the same day: "Boy Meets World" (Season Two), "Lizzie McGuire" (Volume One), or "The Golden Girls" (Season One). There is also a single-sided 2005 calendar poster (14" x 9") featuring Pamela Anderson as Lisa, the "Tool Time" Girl.

Tim Taylor in the opening credits. Tim and Jill go for a spin of the imaginary variety.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Complete First Season DVD of "Home Improvement" merits a hearty recommendation. Disney hasn't hit a home run as far as bonus materials go, but the real draw here is of course the show, which has been wonderfully treated with first-rate picture and sound and the first 24 episodes in their entirety. One of last decade's finest sitcoms finally comes to DVD, and unlike the season boxsets of some other popular TV shows, this digital presentation of Season One doesn't inspire any complaints, only praise.

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Home Improvement on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6 Season 7 Season 8

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Reviewed November 20, 2004.

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts