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"Home Improvement" The Complete Second Season DVD Review

Buy Home Improvement: The Complete Second Season from Amazon.com Home Improvement: Season Two (1992-93)
Show & DVD Details

Directors: John Pasquin, Andy Cadiff

Regular Cast: Tim Allen (Tim "The Toolman" Taylor), Patricia Richardson (Jill Taylor), Earl Hindman (Wilson), Taran Noah Smith (Mark Taylor), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy Taylor), Zachery Ty Bryan (Brad Taylor), Richard Karn (Al Borland)

Recurring Characters: Betsy Randle (Karen Kelly), Jessica Wesson (Jennifer Sudarsky), Vicki Lewis (Maureen Binford), Pamela Denise Anderson (Lisa), Casey Sander (Rock), Mickey Jones (Pete), Gary McGurk (Dwayne), Tony Carreiro (Dave)

Notable Guest Stars: Will Nye (Angus McLain), Debbe Dunning (Kiki), Rider Strong (Danny), Aaron Freeman (Curtis), Mario Andretti (Himself), Michael Andretti (Himself), Debra Engle (Cynthia), The Manhattan Transfer (Themselves), Ann Miller (Dance Instructor Mrs. Keeney), Dirk Lumbard (Mr. Green), Michael Pniewski (Andy Paxton), Kevin Scannell (Officer Lambert), Stuart Quan (Robert Cho), Polly Holliday (Nana), Paige Tamada (Tiffany), Kathleen Garrett (Stacey Lewis), Ann Guilbert (Wilson's Mother), David Correia (Gus), Bob Vila (Himself)

Running Time: 587 Minutes (25 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: June 7, 2005
Season 2 Airdates: September 16, 1992 - May 19, 1993
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with cardboard slipcover

Buy Season 2 from Amazon.com / Buy The Complete Series Collection


Page 1: Show and Season 2 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.

Jill and Tim try to help Brad grasp mathematics in "Bye, Bye, Birdie." Mark and Tim practice their karate moves together in the Taylors' backyard. Jill's mother (played by Polly Holliday) visits and creates grief for Jill in "Much Ado About Nana."

Disc 3

18. Bye, Bye, Birdie (23:31) (Originally aired February 17, 1993)
Tim wages war with a pesky woodpecker. Brad breaks up with Jennifer because she won't let him copy her math homework anymore.
Tim and Jill struggle to help Brad grasp how to multiple compound fractions.

19. Karate or Not, Here I Come (23:34) (Originally aired February 24, 1993)
Since Brad and Randy won't let Mark play football with them, Tim and Jill decide their youngest son should take a class. Mark decides on karate, to Jill's worriment. At his first lesson, it's Jill who gets violent.

20. Shooting Three to Make Tutu (23:30) (Originally aired March 3, 1993)
Jill has to unexpectedly go to work, which means Tim needs to take Mark to the ballet to see Swan Lake. But when Wilson gives Tim courtside seats to the highly-anticipated Bulls/Pistons game, he and Mark try to balance ballet and basketball. Unsupervised, Brad and Randy try smoking a couple of cigars they find in Tim's dresser.

21. Much Ado About Nana (23:28) (Originally aired March 17, 1993)
Jill's mother comes to town, and she's conveniently lost a lot of weight so that she can be played by Polly Holliday (making her first of a number of appearances throughout the show's run). Mom's arrival brings embarrassing childhood stories and emotional turmoil for Jill. The family throws Mark a race car-themed 8th birthday party.

Wife, ex-girlfriend, and Tim: ohhh noooo! Tim encourages Randy to build something for Mother's Day. Tim and Bob Vila see whose souped-up lawnmower is the fastest in season finale "The Great Race."

22. Ex Marks the Spot (23:30) (Originally aired April 14, 1993)
Tim's old high school girlfriend Stacey Lewis spots Tim and Al at Big Mike's. Soon, she's meeting Jill at the Taylors, recalling how Tim never called her to break up, and looking at a nearby house with Al.

23. To Build or Not to Build (23:31) (Originally aired May 5, 1993)
Mother's Day is here and Tim decides it'd be good for the boys to build presents for Jill. But not all of Tim's sons can follow in their father's constructive footsteps. The boys of K & B Construction stop by "Tool Time" and offer praise to their mothers.

24. Birth of a Hot Rod (23:29) (Originally aired May 12, 1993)
Jill is aggravated that Tim can't simply fix the broken stove, doorknob, and icemaker plaguing the family. Tim would rather work on getting the engine started on the hot rod he's been building. Jill addresses the situation by calling a repairman, who also turns up for the funny end-credits bit.

25. The Great Race (23:29) (Originally aired May 19, 1993)
Despite being left off the ballot, Bob Vila is voted favorite "Tool Time" guest by viewers. This leads to an appearance on the show, in which Tim agrees to a lawnmower race against Bob for charity. Tim proceeds to soup up his mower accordingly for the showdown. Meanwhile, Brad and Randy make Mark eat a tadpole, and Jill decides revenge is the best punishment.

Tim and Al compare jack-o-lanterns. Think Tim has gone too far with the Christmas lights this year?

VIDEO and AUDIO

On DVD, "Home Improvement" is presented in the aspect ratio it was shot and aired in, 1.33:1 "fullscreen." Picture quality is again very good. Occasionally, you'll notice some limitations of the video medium with which this was filmed, such as the infrequent moiré effect or a resolution not as potent as big budget films. Nonetheless, the element is perfectly clean and there is a high level of detail. No noticeable issues arose from compressing more than three hours of video per disc. One minor complaint is that the transfer feels a bit too dark in dark scenes, and for a show that won multiple Emmy awards for lighting, I don't think the blame lies in the source. Nonetheless, on the whole, video is crisp, sharp, and vibrant, displaying this modern sitcom in shining digital glory.

In the audio department, the Dolby Stereo Surround too performed well. The surround speakers mostly only come to life for the theme song and rare scene transitional music. The theme feels a tiny bit louder than the rest of the audio in each episode, but otherwise dynamics are consistent. Dialogue is crisp and posed no problems, as is the live audience laughtrack, a staple of the TV sitcom. Again, capable production values allow for satisfactory sound mixes, and the DVD does not disappoint any reasonable expectations.

The Taylor boys as they appear in the opening credits sequence. The "Marital Bliss" title screen from the highlight reel "Loose Screws: Season 2."

BONUS FEATURES

On the Season 1 set, there were audio commentaries on three episodes
and something called "Loose Screws." This time, there's just "Loose Screws: Season Two" and it's only slightly better than nothing at all. It's a highlight reel of the second season, which compresses all ten hours of footage elsewhere on the DVD into a montage running just slightly longer than a single episode (25 minutes). The highlights are categorized into ten different subjects, which you can view as a short if you don't want to make use of the "Play All" option. The topics are pretty self-explanatory: "Warning: Kids at Play", "The Joke's On Al", "Marital Bliss", "Masculinity", "Parenting Lessons", "Al Strikes Back", "Just a Minor Technical Difficulty", "Call of the Wild" (clips of grunting), "On the Fence" (Wilson's words of wisdom), and "Has Anyone Seen the Script?" (outtakes from the end credits of episodes).

While a highlight reel is always a bit of fun, what makes "Home Improvement" succeed is the balance of all these recurring elements. That's why those buying the set will be delighted by the episodes on it more than these snippets. Nonetheless, isolating the jokes and zingers produces an effect of its own. The best part of it may be the last section, where the bloopers relegated to the final minute are linked together, even if you get to hear the closing music again and again. Each section opens with a tiny graphic, introductory clip, and then another graphic displaying the title screen for that segment. About the nicest thing that can be said for "Loose Screws" is that it's fairly well-edited and showcases funny moments from a good show, though these are often funnier in the context of the episodes from which they spring.

That this is the set's only extra is sure to disappoint fans of the show. The potential for bonus features is nearly unlimited, from electronic press kits to promos, from animated interstitials to other ABC appearances by the cast. Although newly-produced retrospective supplements may be ideal, footage from the archives exists and would certainly be appreciated by fans. The episodes, as entertaining as they are, have been seen before by enthusiasts, and a bit of bonus material would surely sweeten the package. There are six more season sets yet to come, and with all of the regular cast but Earl Hindman alive and not too busy with other work (except for Tim Allen, who is still making a number of films...for Disney, chiefly), one definitely hopes for more input from the creative talent who made "Home Improvement" the winning show it was. Even Season One's dry producer commentaries offered far more than a highlight reel.

Disc 1's Main Menu. Episode Selection menu on Disc 2.

MENUS, DESIGN, and PACKAGING

The animated 4x3 Main Menu nicely matches Season 1 in design and it too features the full theme song. Against the wrinkled paper background, the house and family go through transitions like they do in the opening credits. Tim and Al, and later Wilson show up too. Submenus are not animated but they are accompanied by music that is toooooo loud.

Each disc provides a "Play All" option, and thankfully, each episode is again equipped with chapter selections (between 6 and 9 per show), which enable quick scene access and easy skipping of the original opening credits sequence, which runs 70 seconds in full on each episode. Outside of the addition of Richard Karn (who became a regular cast member this season), the opening credits are very similar to the prior season's. Each episode runs 23 and a half minutes (give or take a few seconds in either direction). On average, Season 2's episodes are about five to ten seconds shorter than Season 1's shows.

At the start of Disc 1, there are promos for Herbie: Fully Loaded (again, the "sizzle reel"), "Home Improvement": The Complete First Season, "Scrubs": The Complete First Season, and The Pacifier. The Sneak Peeks menu contains all these and additional previews for "The Muppet Show": The Complete First Season, Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition, "According to Jim" on ABC, and "Smallville" on ABC Family.

The outer slipcover opens on the right side to reveal Al! Ahhhh! The Digipak inside folds open to hold the three discs.

Like Season One, Season Two boasts some neat packaging, though it takes a quite different approach. The three discs are still housed on two sides of a six-sided Digipak, which is again kept within an embossed cardboard slipcover. This time, though, the outer slipcover is wooden-colored and opens to the side (the way most do) revealing another botched project by Tim Taylor.
The holes on the front cover are actual holes, where Tim has apparently drilled in error. It's quite clever and unique, and does not stray far from Season 1's toolbox design. The inner Digipak features a more standard cast photo on one side, a listing of the 25 episodes on another, and a note on the season from creators/executive producers David McFadzean, Carmen Finestra, and Matt Williams. Outside of the prominent inclusion of Pamela Anderson on the outer slipcover, who appears in Season 2 no more often than Brad's girlfriend Jennifer Sudarsky or Jill's friend Karen, the creative packaging is top-notch.

Inside the case, you'll find several inserts including a sweepstakes form and a booklet outlining most of Buena Vista's available and upcoming TV boxsets. Most exciting is a mail-in certificate which will get you $10 back if you have bought both Seasons 1 and 2 of "Home Improvement" by the end of this November. Unfortunately, though, it seems like you have to buy Season 1 between June 7 and November 30, 2005. Either that's a typo and they really mean Season 2, or this is an offer designed wholly to encourage a purchase of Season 1 in the unlikely case that the owner of Season 2 does not already have it. Under a different design, this offer would be a great way to keep collectors happy and to make the retail price on the set more reasonable. Instead, it seems to reward only the slow-to-buy.

With the boys by his side, Tim tries to get his hotrod started. Woah!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Boasting stellar video and audio quality, chapter stops within episodes, satisfactory menu and packaging design, and no issues with cut episodes or replaced music, "Home Improvement": The Complete Second Season delivers just that with a practically flawless presentation. Even pricing might be more reasonable, depending on the intentions of that $10 mail-in certificate for those who buy Seasons 1 and 2. The one department where this 3-disc set comes up short is in bonus features, and it really comes up short there, with only a Season 2 highlight reel. The main appeal of having TV shows on DVD is the collectibility factor and without worthwhile bonus features, that is not as strong. Nonetheless, despite a shaky start, "Home Improvement"'s sophomore season is replete with classic episodes and they are dutifully presented on DVD.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy Complete Series Collection

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

Reviewed June 1, 2005.