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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 Third Season DVD Review

Buy Home Improvement: The Complete Third Season from Amazon.com Home Improvement: Season Three (1993-94)
Show & DVD Details

Directors: Andy Cadiff, Peter Filsinger

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: Debbe Dunning (Heidi), Sherry Hursey (Ilene Markham), Mariangela Pino (Marie Morton), Robert Picardo (Joe Morton), Joel Polis (Wes Davidson), Mickey Jones (Pete Bilker), Leigh Ann Orsi (Ashley), Gary McGurk (Dwayne)

Notable Guest Stars: Isiah Thomas (Himself), Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr. (Jeremy Schmidt), William Allen Young (Gus), David Wohl (Card Store Salesman), Lee Garlington (Joanie Graham), Michael Toland (Jack Graham), Alan Fudge (Reverend McDonnell), M. Emmet Walsh (The Colonel), Kimberly Aiken (Herself), John Elway (Himself), Evander Holyfield (Himself), Jimmy Carter (Himself), Angela Paton (Irma), Anndi McAfee (Beth), Al Fann (Felix), Lois deBanzie (Mrs. Binford), Jim Labriola (Benny), Michael Andretti (Himself), Johnny Rutherford (Himself), Victoria Principal (Les Thompson), Joanna Daniels (Molly Lauden), 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 for Hearing Impaired; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 22, 2005
Season 3 Airdates: September 15, 1993 - May 25, 1994
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $23.99 (Was $39.99)
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with cardboard slipcover

Buy Season 3 from Amazon.com / Buy The Complete Series Collection


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

On the heels of a tremendously popular premiere season and considerable viewership growth in its sophomore year, there was never any question of whether or not "Home Improvement" would return for a third season. When the family sitcom started up again in September of 1993, it remained on ABC.
The network wisely decided to keep the show in its Wednesday 9:00 Eastern/Pacific timeslot, leaving Tim Taylor and company on the air in favorable mid-primetime, mid-week placement. The previous season's two lead-ins -- the fondly remembered single-camera, coming-of age series "The Wonder Years" and "Doogie Howser, M.D." -- had both come to an end, creating a void which ABC opted to fill with two new sitcoms -- "Thea" and "Joe's Life" -- neither of which are likely to ring a bell and neither of which would last beyond February.

Even running a pair of apparently lackluster series before "Home Improvement" could do nothing to make America miss its new favorite show. In the 1993-94 season, "Home Improvement" reached its ratings pinnacle, drawing an average of more than 19 million weekly viewers. That audience was large enough for the series to take the reins from another ABC family sitcom ("Roseanne") and lay claim to the title of most-watched non-news program of the year. Only CBS' Sunday night fixture "60 Minutes" had more people tuning in and that was barely the case - the difference being about 450,000 viewers. Ironically, finishing third for the season was NBC's "Seinfeld", which ranked only 25th in viewership the year before when it went head-to-head against "Home Improvement." Moved to Thursday nights in the slot of now-retired "Cheers", the endlessly-quoted "show about nothing" was able to slip away from ABC's firm grip and proceed to establish its legendary reputation.

Success creates a fine line for its captors to tread. Not unlike the incumbent politician or the champion sports team which assumes the "defending" clarifier the moment the confetti stops falling, the makers of "Home Improvement" had to decide how to keep their show fresh and free of stagnancy, while at the same time making sure they didn't screw up the great thing they had. Fortunately for them and for their show's faithful following, the folks behind "Home Improvement" tread that line skillfully. The third season of "Home Improvement" introduced subtle changes while still providing the largely pleasing and entertaining depiction of contemporary suburban middle class family life.

Tim Allen plays the wise-cracking Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, while Richard Karn portrays his loyal assistant Al Borland. Despite plenty of bumps in the road, Tim and Jill have a marriage filled with laughs.

Not much about the Taylors has changed since we first met them in 1991. The father of the clan and protagonist of the series, Tim Taylor (Tim Allen), remains a charmingly inept host of the local cable series "Tool Time" and a "man's man" who struggles to do right by his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson) and three mostly sarcastic and mischievous boys.
Everyone seems to have plenty of things to occupy their time, from the boys' schoolwork and crushes to Jill's jobs writing for a magazine and raising money for the Detroit Public Library. But, as was true before, Tim's activities are the ones we most often follow and observe.

Tim's workplace seems to hold the screen even longer than it did for the first two seasons, offering up more witty wordplay and manic mishaps. I don't believe there's a single Season 3 episode where we don't see what's happening on "Tool Time" for at least one or two sequences. Though the running gag is that "Tool Time" has a small viewership, the truth is that it entertained a majority of those 19 million "Home Improvement" viewers. In this season, the show-within-a-show's supposedly low budget is continually belied by the financial comfort afforded the Taylors, more guest appearances from celebrities with clout (including John Elway, Evander Holyfield, and Michael Andretti) and now also by elaborately-staged bits (including unforgettable segments devoted to The Man's Bathroom and The Man's Kitchen, the launch of a series of rooms catering to male interests).

Having made a jump from recurring character to regular cast member in the first two seasons, Tim's portly on-screen assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn) gets still more attention this year. As the sensible, widely-adored, flannel-clad gentleman who is frequently the butt of Tim's jokes, Borland makes for the perfect foil for Tim's grunt-laced antics. He provides many of the season's biggest laughs and the humor that dresses his character tends to hold up better than other jokes on the show. Al's presence gladly extends beyond "Tool Time" this year; he is seen outside of work as much as he is on, watching the Taylor boys when needed and accompanying Tim as a good friend beneath all the sarcastic snide asides and mother jokes. Al even gets a love interest this year, with the arrival of mild-mannered orthodontist Ilene Markham (Sherry Hursey), who would appear from time to time over the next four seasons.

Also joining the Binford gang is Debbe Dunning as Heidi, the new "Tool Time" girl who replaced Lisa. (Pamela Anderson's character is said to have gone back to school, which in reality reflected Anderson's full-time to devotion to Professor Hasselhoff and the other educators of "Baywatch" University.) Dunning would appear in nearly every episode through the series' conclusion, but, like Anderson before her, would be limited to a few lines and no more than a couple of minutes of screentime at most in any given episode.

The Taylor boys -- Mark (Taran Noah Smith), Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), and Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) -- sit and admire their collectible investment. Debbe Dunning joined the "Home Improvement" cast in Season 3 as Binford's new "Tool Time" girl Heidi.

Without the guise of an accident-heavy television show, viewers may feel as though they get to know Tim's family better than "The Toolman"'s co-workers. Whereas Al may complement (note: that's an "e", not an "i") Tim on "Tool Time", Jill Taylor gets to butt heads and reason with him at home. They continue to do this on an all-episode basis, almost always in a good-natured/semi-tongue-in-cheek argumentative spouses fashion. Jill doesn't get to have stories all her own just yet (even though there are regular but none-too-specific references to her library fundraising efforts), but her disappointment in Tim usually provides the all-important riddle that he must unwind in order to grow and garner redemption. Like any marriage, theirs is not without issues and hurt feelings, but it is a compelling one that is easy to root for and appreciate.

The three youngest Taylors -- Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and their common target/the baby of the family Mark (Taran Noah Smith) -- have grown a bit, but still remain chubby-cheeked boys who can deliver a punchline when needed. In the earliest episodes of Season 3, they are reduced to doing very little besides coming from and going to school, something that points out one of the few areas where the show is slightly lacking even at its best. Too often, you only get to see the build-up and aftermath of something, rather than the action/event itself. This is not a revolutionary idea that "Home Improvement" devised -- it's part of the nature of cost-saving nature of the situation comedy -- but it merits a complaint as much as any other aspect of the show does, which is not much. The Taylor sons' B storylines get more interesting as the season progresses, and as was true of the first two seasons, when they figure largely into a central plot, the show generally gets better.

Again, the parenting, marital, and other issues that plague Tim usually lead him to his shrouded, all-knowing neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman). Wilson summons his seemingly infinite wisdom to dispatch advice, which while always mistranslated by Tim, provides the moral core for his friend and "Home Improvement" at large. The writers again deserve high praise for being able to consistently convey an important human value by referencing some piece of high culture or the behavior of an obscure tribe. The late Hindman again merits accolades for being able to tastefully dispense his useful advice in a unique manner that is both patient and more than a little amusingly off-kilter. Wilson's advice remains primarily tailored for Tim, but a couple of other Taylors look over the fence for guidance in Season 3, namely Jill and Randy.

Tim reclines on the throne, while Al stands by the refrigerator. This is no ordinary bathroom...it's The Man's Bathroom! Marie and Joe Morton appear together only twice, which is probably less than the makers of "Home Improvement" planned.

Faithful viewers will notice the most noticeable shake-ups in "Home Improvement"'s third season occur in the recurring characters department. Jill's friend Karen and Brad's girlfriend Jennifer Sudarsky are both gone; the former's disappearance goes unmentioned (this was the first of seven seasons Betsy Randle spent portraying Cory Matthews' mom on another ABC/Touchstone Television series -- "Boy Meets World"),
while the latter's is neatly treated without any further appearance. Jill gets a new friend, Marie Morton (Mariangela Pino), who is the more frequently appearing member of a new neighborhood couple; her obnoxious husband (portrayed by "Star Trek" doctor and "Wonder Years" gym teacher Robert Picardo) only shows up twice. Though Marie would appear in three additional episodes after this season, the Mortons seem like a failed early-season experiment to put more people in the Taylors' lives. Brad gets a new girlfriend named Ashley (Leigh Ann Orsi), though she appears just thrice and is more normal (and, in turn, forgettable) than the long-appearing Jennifer (Jessica Wesson).

Outside of celebrity guest stars (which include the crew of the NASA space shuttle Endeavour, a host of NFL players, Michael Andretti, Isiah Thomas, former president Jimmy Carter, and in his third and final appearance, Bob Vila) and the aforementioned additions of Ilene and Heidi, Season 3 only contains three other supporting characters who appear more than once. Mickey Jones and Gary McGurk return to play Pete and Dwayne, a couple of guys from K & B Construction, the diminishing group that showed up a number of times on "Tool Time" and was represented in all but two seasons of "Home Improvement." In addition, Joel Polis does a couple of guest spots, his first more memorable than the second as Tim's "here today, gone next season" Binford supervisor Wes Davison.

In my review of Season 2, I noted that the series got off to something of a slow start in its sophomore year. To a lesser degree, I perceived the same thing in Season 3. It wasn't until the sixth episode (the Halloween treat "Crazy For You") that there was a show I could consider one of the "Home Improvement"'s best. Still, as a whole, the third season came across as a slight improvement upon the first two. By the end of Disc 2, the show finds a real comfort zone and proceeds to effortlessly deliver hearty laughs and interesting storylines around its well-established characters. There are plenty of classics in this set and many can be found in the middle of the season. Things get a bit racier in a couple of episodes ("Dream On" and "What You See Is What You Get"), but generally, it's about as tame and yet funny as most modern sitcoms are, providing enough to entertain kids and adults alike. Season 3 is far from beginning the downward slide that almost every television show given a chance ultimately succumbs to. The season brought in another six Emmy nominations including an Outstanding Lead Actress nod for Patricia Richardson, but "Home Improvement"'s second win was in the same category as all of the other seven Emmys it would win: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Lighting Direction.

I think I've said just about all that needs to be said about what distinguishes the third season of "Home Improvement" from the first two and the last five. I rather enjoyed revisiting these episodes, having not seen them in a number of years. Before moving onto the episode guide and specifics of this box set, I want to point out three things that stand out as particularly sweetening this memorable experience of television on DVD viewing. 1) The end credits sequences are preserved in their entirety. While that might not matter much for some series, the post-show outtakes always leave you with a few more laughs than you expected to get. Here, they're thankfully not omitted or subjected to promotional voiceover. 2) Another trademark of the series, its clever scene transitions get more sophisticated and elaborate in Season Three. These eye-catching but rapid transitions lend themselves to step-by-step analysis, which is easily achieved with any DVD remote. Check out some of them this way sometime, and you'll really appreciate the detail that went into an easy-to-miss gag. 3) Unlike reruns, there are no syndicated deletions or commercials to be found here. Goodness, do commercials suck. Sure, they're a necessary evil and yes, their absence is nothing new for "Home Improvement" or a majority of DVD season sets. But it's worth taking a moment to celebrate. I'm quite psyched and you should be too about reclaiming about 27% (roughly 8 minutes) of a half-hour viewing and erasing the fragmentation inherent to the medium. Hurray for TV on DVD!

Exactly a year to the week from when "Home Improvement" first came to DVD, Buena Vista Home Entertainment is releasing this, The Complete Third Season, much in the same fashion. The 3-disc set holds all 25 of the season's episodes and carries a slightly lower retail price. Between the strong sales numbers past seasons have put up and this DVD's included promotion for Season 4's release, I think it's safe to say that it won't be too long before the series' entire eight-season run is available on the format. If Disney continues at the current pace, you can expect Season 4 next spring, Season 5 in the fall of 2006, and the remaining three seasons issued in the subsequent eighteen months, concluding spring 2008, just months after Tim Allen's now-in-production The Santa Clause 3 will arrive on home video.

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

Jill explains to Mark her wishes for a daughter in "Maybe, Baby." Al and Ilene move fast in "Aisle See You in My Dreams." Tim defends himself against Randy's jokey insults.

Disc 1

1. Maybe, Baby (23:32) (Originally aired September 15, 1993)
When Jill hears her sister is having a baby girl, she begins to want a daughter and gets mad at Tim when is firmly against the idea of more kids. Meanwhile, Brad and Randy find out Jill was hoping for a girl when she had Mark and, of course, use this knowledge to make him feel bad.

2. Aisle See You in My Dreams (23:30) (Originally aired September 22, 1993)
Despite her weak track record as a matchmaker, Jill sets up Al with Ilene Markham, a co-worker's friend, and they hit it off well. Too well too quickly, Jill thinks, and she encourages Tim to intervene.
Brad and Randy trick Mark with a fake letter from Isiah Thomas. Thomas himself appears in a brief end credits cameo, which it's nice to finally see after years of being edited out in syndication.

3. This Joke's For You (23:30) (Originally aired September 29, 1993)
While struggling to fix the home intercom system, Tim overhears Randy making fun of him to his friend. Feeling hurt, Tim tries to stay serious on "Tool Time" against Al's efforts to lighten things up. Brad takes to reading David Copperfield but is disappointed to find out it's about a waif, not the magician, and Jessica (unseen) soon dumps him.

4. A Sew, Sew Evening (23:29) (Originally aired October 6, 1993)
An obnoxious new neighbor (guest star Robert Picardo) makes quite a first impression on Tim, who hopes to never have to deal with him again. Unfortunately for him, Jill has become friends with the neighbor's wife Marie, who is helping her out with a library fundraiser. The couples go out for a dinner together with awkward results. Brad's plan to take home economics with nothing but girls backfires, leaving him to darn socks.

Tim has set up a 21-nail gun salute to honor John Binford. Oh no! Dressed as a corpse for Halloween, Tim is scared stiff by the appearance of a rose. The Wilson of the Opera grimaces on. In "Blow Up", Jill isn't quite as happy as she looks in the photo that has been dramatically and unflatteringly enlarged.

5. Arrivederci, Binford (22:50) (Originally aired October 13, 1993)
Tim has troubling grieving after Mr. Binford dies, opting to play darts and basketball with the boys rather than talk about his feelings. The boys of K & B Construction return to "Tool Time" to dispense some on-the-job grooming tips and Tim honors the show's creator with a 21-nail gun salute.

6. Crazy For You (23:33) (Originally aired October 27, 1993)
Tim is convinced that an obsessed fan is stalking him and will be attending the Taylors' Halloween party. Holiday episodes often found "Home Improvement" at its best and this is one of the season's (and series') highlights.

7. Blow-Up (23:31) (Originally aired November 3, 1993)
Jill gets very upset at Tim for having her highly unflattering driver's license photo blown up and displayed at the big night held in honor of her library fundraising work. Al doesn't take Brad's defeat of him at the Putt Putt Panorama very well.

8. Be True To Your Tool (23:33) (Originally aired November 10, 1993)
Tim is unimpressed by Binford's new reciprocating saw. When he voices his reservations about promoting it on "Tool Time", company president Wes Davidson threatens to replace him. Back at home, the boys find a way to shop for groceries and save enough money to afford junk food too.

Tim and the boys zero in on a collectible remote-controlled race car they think would be a wise way to invest their bond money. Tim has a different family Christmas card photo in mind this Thanksgiving. Brad is a no-show at the Taylors' church's Christmas Eve service.

Disc 2

9. Dollars and Sense (23:31) (Originally aired November 17, 1993)
The boys get $150 from savings bonds, which Tim and Jill eventually agree to let them invest on baseball cards. At the shop, though, they decide upon a collectible autographed remote-controlled race car which practically begs to be driven after simply staring at it gets old. Oh no!

10. Frozen Moments (23:34) (Originally aired November 24, 1993)
Tim has a vision for the family's Christmas card and it involves a North Pole village set and some colorful costumes for all. Jill tries to balance catering to his enthused whimsy while overseeing Thanksgiving dinner preparations. On "Tool Time", Tim and Al unveil "The Man's Bathroom."

11. Feud For Thought (23:33) (Originally aired December 1, 1993)
Jill attends her 20 year high school reunion, but she fails in her efforts to avoid the friend who stole her boyfriend away during their senior year. Back home, Al has his hands full with the boys, between Brad's female study buddy Ashley, Randy's bronchitis, and preparing Mark for a skating/pizza party.

12. 'Twas the Blight Before Christmas (23:37) (Originally aired December 15, 1993)
Brad wants to spend Christmas weekend on a skiing trip with a friend's family. Doc Johnson, Tim's chief competitor in the neighborhood's annual lighting contest, seems to be one step ahead of the Taylors with every new addition to his rooftop display.

No stranger to hospital paperwork, Tim nonetheless struggles to fill out a form for Randy. Ilene's dream involving Tim, bicycle shorts, and a golden stallion makes for awkward dinner conversation. Jill has a difficult time telling her father how she really feels about his book in "The Colonel."

13. Slip Sleddin' Away (23:31) (Originally aired January 5, 1994)
When Tim soups up Randy's sled so he can better race against the McGurn boys, Randy winds up at the emergency room with an injured wrist. Tim tries to explain the importance of standing up to challenges, but Jill won't allow Randy to partake in a rematch.

14. Dream On (23:34) (Originally aired January 12, 1994)
Al's girlfriend Ilene has a passionate dream about Tim. Tim can't avoid making jokes about this at their dinner together, which leads Ilene to leave Al, and Jill to get mad at Tim.

15. Reel Men (23:33) (Originally aired January 26, 1994)
Tim and Al spend Saturday ice fishing with at a shanty that Al is considering buying, but Tim isn't very open to listening to Al talk. Back at home, Jill, Ilene, and Marie spend the day watching movie musicals and waxing away unnecessary body hair.

16. The Colonel (23:33) (Originally aired February 9, 1994)
Jill's father (guest star M. Emmet Walsh) visits and he brings manuscripts of a book he has written. Jill can't summon the courage to tell him she didn't like it, leaving Tim to take a lashing from "The Colonel" for his honest criticism.

17. Room for Change (23:33) (Originally aired March 2, 1994)
In response to constant fighting between Brad and Randy, Tim decides that Brad should gets Mark's room and Mark should move in with Randy. This decision upsets Randy and Mark, while the fact that Tim made it without consulting Jill angers her.

Tim and company find good use for Jill's unflattering driver's license blow-up with some homemade backyard mini golf. Tim wrestles with the boys.

Continue to Page 2 >>

Order Home Improvement: Season Three DVD from Amazon.com

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

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Reviewed November 21, 2005.