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"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

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

In "Eve of Construction", Tim has NFL athletes on his Habitat for Humanity team, including Hall of Famer John Elway (left). Al gets to host "Cooking with Irma." "Fifth Anniversary" presents "a look back" at the first episode of "Tool Time." Tim and Al's facial hair statuses have been reversed!

Disc 3

18. Eve of Construction (23:33) (Originally aired March 9, 1994)
Tim, Al, and the crew from "Tool Time" build houses for the Habitat for Humanity. Joining them are a slew of NFL players and other celebrities, including Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, and Miss America Kimberly Aiken. While Tim stacks the deck in his favor, Al and his team of women build their house faster and more sturdily.
Meanwhile, Brad finds a locket in an alley and gives it to his girlfriend Ashley, which creates a problem when he finds out who the owner is. Also making an appearance in this memorable guest-filled episode (via videotape) is former president and Habitat for Humanity advocate Jimmy Carter.

19. Too Many Cooks (23:33) (Originally aired March 16, 1994)
Tim has trouble being Al's assistant when the pair hosts "Cooking with Irma" for the week. Randy has an awkward first date with Beth, a girl he has a crush on.

20. It Was the Best of Tims, It Was the Worst of Tims (23:05) (Originally aired March 30, 1994)
At a baby shower Jill hosts, Tim charms all the ladies. After he returns from an afternoon with the boys at a demolition derby, Jill finds Tim considerably less charming, which shatters her plans for a romantic night together.

21. Fifth Anniversary (23:14) (Originally aired April 6, 1994)
The elaborate and expensive Man's Kitchen leaves "Tool Time" with a budget too small to celebrate the show's fifth anniversary at an Indianapolis race track like Tim wants to. With some help from Jill and Al, Tim still gets to mark the occasion in a memorable way, from highly amusing clips of the first "Tool Time" episode to a couple of race car driver guests. Also, Jill has trouble conveying the notion of a "No Dinner" Dinner to raise funds for the library.

In "What You See Is What You Get ", Tim uses this computer program to see what Jill would look like if her body looked differently. Randy tells Brad about his online lover in "Reality Bytes." Al, Tim, and Heidi appear at the airport for "The Great Race II."

22. Swing Time (23:34) (Originally aired May 4, 1994)
Tim plans on getting Jill a hot tub for Mother's Day until she's disappointed at the prospect of losing the family swing set to make room for it. Pete from K & B Construction appears on "Tool Time" and his foreman Les (guest star Victoria Principal) challenges Tim to a "Tool Bowl" quiz show.

23. What You See Is What You Get (23:34) (Originally aired May 11, 1994)
Jill is hurt when Tim uses her plastic surgery computer program to see what she would be like with a bigger bust and smaller waist. Mark beats his brothers (and Tim) at a number of games with household chores at stake.

24. Reality Bytes (23:34) (Originally aired May 18, 1994)
Molly, a 25-year-old St. Louis woman (guest star Joanna Daniels) that Randy has been communicating with on an Internet singles bulletin board, shows up at the Taylor household. Jill and Tim discover that Randy has been pretending he's a 32-year-old dermatologist and using Tim's old love letters to virtually woo Molly. They use this knowledge to bust him in a highly entertaining way. Meanwhile, Tim must fight off his urges to help Mark on his solar system project and a real NASA space shuttle crew appears on "Tool Time."

25. The Great Race II (23:18) (Originally aired May 25, 1994)
Jill needs to raise a final thousand dollars for the library and Tim comes up with the idea of a Toolman auction. On "Tool Time", Tim gets shown up when Bob Vila goes for more than twice as much as him. In the hopes of redemption, Tim agrees to a hot rod race with Vila, which requires that he actually get his hot rod finished first.

Tim and Al stand in "The Man's Kitchen." The Taylors (plus Al and Wilson) wish you a Merry Christmas with some grunt-laced caroling.

VIDEO and AUDIO

In line with the show's first two DVD season sets, "Home Improvement" is presented in its original 1.33:1 "fullscreen" aspect ratio and looks mighty fine. The element is thankfully clean - shot on high grade video, "Home Improvement" holds up with nary an visual intrusion.
There was no evidence of compression woes, even with 9 episodes on Disc 2. Colors remained consistently vibrant and dark scenes did not seem excessively lacking in contrast or brightness, as I noticed a bit in the first season. There were few shortcomings and most of them seemed to stem from limitations of the source material than problems with the DVD mastering. Most identifiable of these was the ubiquitous moiré effect, where the picture produced rainbow-esque color bands typically at (but not limited to) striped or checked patterns. While present on the last two sets, this seemed to be in greater abundance here and more noticeable than I can ever remember it being on television reruns; perhaps the transfer is somewhat at fault, but I certainly wouldn't know how to address or correct it. That's rather trivial and about as bad as things get. Otherwise, aside from the obvious fact that its resolution that can't compete with big budget feature films, the third season "Home Improvement" episodes fare well, showing no signs of being over a decade old and boasting detail and clarity that can favorably be compared with any other television sitcom on DVD.

Once again, the DVD comes equipped with just one sound option: Dolby Stereo. This is more than sufficient and fairly robust as far as two-channel presentations go. Via Dolby Pro Logic, the rear speakers are capably employed for the steady laughtrack and music which is present but mostly unnoticeable (the exceptions being the instrumental themes for both "Home Improvement" and "Tool Time"). Dialogue is perfectly crisp and understandable. As far as sitcoms go, the show stands out a bit, offering better sound design than you may remember (assuming you weren't watching it on a home theater system twelve years ago), with Tim's on-air blunders and the increasingly elaborate scene transitions making good use of the sound field.

Tim looks for some over-the-fence wisdom from his enigmatic neighbor, Wilson. "Tim's Tool Corral": select a tool to view a clip.

BONUS FEATURES

Bonus material is the one area where Buena Vista's "Home Improvement" season sets continue to disappoint. The only supplement provided, appearing on Disc 3, is "Tim's Tool Corral", an interactive garage of clips. The feature is touted as being hosted by "Tool Time" girl Debbe Dunning, but the actress has merely supplied narration for this, namely a handful of one-liners.
Selecting any highlightable tool in this virtual garage yields a brief phrase from the unseen Dunning and then a relevant Season 3 clip of Tim's mechanical mayhem; pick a sander, you see Tim's table-sanding snafu, and so on. The clips are mostly from "Tool Time", but there are a couple of foul-ups at the Taylor home too. Selecting a couple of tools also yields nothing but a brief animation of that tool. These are lost, as are Dunning's limited narration, when one chooses the "Play All" option. Choosing this route, and you're basically treated to another season highlight reel, like the only video extras on the previous season sets, only shorter.

The interactive nature, a design which suggests the slightest bit of inspiration, and the fact that it features a cast member (however minimal Dunning's contributions may be) all put "Tim's Tool Corral" a few pegs above the past "Loose Screws" season highlight reels, but it still doesn't amount to much. Disappointingly, the studio has yet to treat this series (one of their longest-lasting and most popular) to great shakes in the way of bonus features. Fans who were underwhelmed by the handful of creator audio commentaries on Season 1 a year ago would probably settle for more reflections with those creators and surely must be hankering for some genuinely original supplements with the starring cast. I doubt many would prefer "Tool Corral" to an interview piece with Dunning. And can it really be that difficult for Disney to get Tim Allen to sit down for a day (or even a few hours) to record commentaries or an interview? The studio has employed him regularly over the past few years especially right now, from the upcoming remake of The Shaggy Dog to now-in-production The Santa Clause 3 and you'd think both parties would be interested in taking a bit of time to reflect on the highly successful property that did great things for each. Then there are Allen's supporting cast, all of whom are substantially less busy in the entertainment industry and whom have been willing to participate in unofficial documentaries from E!'s "Behind the Scenes" to A&E's "TVography."

Disc One opens with the customary Disney previews, starting with a new trailer/featurette hybrid for the studio's upcoming remake of The Shaggy Dog starring Tim Allen. Other promos tout Buena Vista TV on DVD (highlighting season sets of "Home Improvement", "Lost", "The Golden Girls", "Scrubs", "Alias", and "Desperate Housewives") and the upcoming Complete Third Season DVD of "Scrubs", while the Sneak Peeks menu adds looks at "Home Improvement": The Complete Fourth Season, "The Golden Girls": The Complete Third Season, "Alias": The Complete Fourth Season, and ABC's primetime sitcom "According to Jim."

Disc 1's animated Main Menu An Episode Selection menu from Disc 1. The "Home Improvement" Complete Third Season Digipak, unfolded.

MENUS, PACKAGING, and DESIGN

The 16x9-enhanced menus differ from the design employed for the last two seasons' selection screens, but illustrate that sometimes change can be good. The Main Menu features an animated wrinkled blueprint backdrop and is accompanied by the theme song. Submenus, now thankfully unadorned with music, feature similar backgrounds, with the Episode Selection menu holding relevant images from the various shows, arranged three per page. It's worth mentioning that a couple of episodes have slightly different titles than the ones most commonly found online ("Frozen Moments" instead of "A Frozen Moment", etc.). Spelling discrepancies aside, they are properly presented in the order of their original airings. Each episode is equipped with 8-10 chapter stops for quick scene access.

Like the first two seasons, the three discs are held in a six-sided Digipak. Two of the sides hold discs (Discs 1 and 2 overlap), one side contains episode listings for each disc (the show titles appear on the label artwork as well), and two sides feature snazzy artwork (one offers the Tool Time trio, the other features Tim, Jill, and Al). The final side contains a note on the Third Season from Elliot Shoenman, who joined "Home Improvement" as an executive producer in the featured year. While the note only briefly discusses some of the season's highlights and the writers' intentions for that year, it's nice to see the tradition of a creative crew member's message unique to the season has continued.

Once again, Buena Vista has shown some creativity in the outer box design. It features the three Taylor boys taking a break from a messy paint job and has a hole in the center, allowing Tim to show through from the Digipak within. Jill becomes the third character featured on the spine, following Wilson and Al. Kudos to the studio for maintaining some packaging consistency, while still giving each season some unique design traits. The only two inserts inside the box are the studio's typical TV-on-DVD library sweepstakes entry form and now-dated TV on DVD catalogue.

Brad and Randy make sure Tim has his hands full parenting. While Al sings about being the very model of a modern major-general in a "soundproof" booth, Tim has a good time. You'll have good times like these watching and re-watching The Complete Third Season of "Home Improvement."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I gave the first two seasons of "Home Improvement" hearty recommendations and, on the whole, Season Three offers an even better time than them. While this season takes a little while to consistently deliver top-notch episodes, it never fails to provide laughs and amusement the way only the best sitcoms do. When it hits its stride (near the end of Disc 1), the show is pretty much at its apex. In spite of some minor changes in focus and secondary cast, the series does not drastically alter anything from its previous years. That was fine then (the Third Season gave the show its greatest viewership and made it the highest rated non-news program on television) and it remains so now, as comedy from both the family and workplace settings hold up better than plenty of last decade's shows.

Disney's three-disc collection does not merit any of the complaints that plague many season sets; music has not been replaced, abbreviated syndicated cuts have not been used, packaging is consistent and well-done. The episodes themselves have been treated to unceasingly solid picture and sound, chapter stops, and faultless menus. That it comes at a price tag $10 lower than the previous two season sets makes the Third Season even easier to recommend. The only area where the studio continues to fail the show's large fanbase is in bonus material, offering again just one brief collection of highlights with only slight innovation. Few enthusiasts would argue that rounding up the cast for commentaries and retrospectives would be a wasted effort. Even less ambitious inclusions (like easily-accessible archival footage) would fill the void in a big way. Paying tribute to this extremely popular sitcom with bonus features is something that undoubtedly needs to be addressed before the entire series is out on DVD.

In spite of another missed opportunity for talent and viewer reflection on the featured show, The Complete Third Season of "Home Improvement" is a no-brainer purchase for fans. With preorder discounts, it amounts to about $1 per episode of one of the best family sitcoms to ever grace the television. Between its strong digital presentation and the excellence of the show itself, this is certainly one sitcom season set to buy and enjoy for many years to come.

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 November 21, 2005.