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

"Home Improvement" The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review

Buy Home Improvement: The Complete Fourth Season from Amazon.com Home Improvement: Season Four (1994-95)
Show & DVD Details

Directors: Andy Cadiff, Peter Filsinger / Regular Writers: Rosalind Moore, Howard J. Morris, Marley Sims, Elliot Shoenman, Bruce Ferber, Bob Bendetson, Jon Vandergriff

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

Recurring Characters: Debbe Dunning (Heidi Keppert), Blake Clark (Harry), Jim Labriola (Benny Baronny), Sherry Hursey (Ilene Martin), William O'Leary (Marty), Jensen Daggett (Nancy), Mariangela Pino (Marie Morton), Tom LaGrua (Eddie McCormick), Anndi McAfee (Beth), Murray Rubinstein (Larry)

Notable Guest Stars: James Cromwell (Fred), Dick O'Neill (Art Leonard), M. Emmet Walsh (The Colonel), Polly Holliday (Lillian Patterson), Bruce McGill (Doug O'Brien), Jay Leno (Jay), Mickey Jones (Pete), Lucy Liu (Woman #3), Mark L. Taylor (Bert Russell), Francesca P. Roberts (Marge), Kimberly Cullum (Michelle), Ralph Manza (Sam), Jim Breuer (Jim), Dave Chappelle (Dave), Max Gail (Officer Carl Keegan), Mike Grief (George), Tudi Roche (Carrie), Keith Lehman (Cal Borland, uncredited), Deb Selby (Herself), Beth Dixon (Judith Haber), Michelle Williams (Jessica Lutz)

Running Time: 597 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: June 6, 2006
Season 4 Airdates: September 20, 1994 - May 23, 1995
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with cardboard slipcover

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Page 1: Show and Season 4 Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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

Benny Baronny is the Taylors' houseguest in "A House Divided." Tim is there to let Dave Chappelle know that this is not "Chappelle's Show." Scalping NHL tickets leads Al and Tim to make new friends in "No, No, Godot."

Disc 3

18. A House Divided (22:53) (Originally aired February 21, 1995)
An on-location "Tool Time" ends in disaster when Tim accidentally blows up the house in which his friend Benny is staying. Consequently, the Taylors get a new roommate, one who eats all the food and tortures the family with his odd hours, loud operatic singing, and unsightly exercises.
To serve a common goal, everyone pitches in to fix Benny's old house in this memorable episode.

19. The Naked Truth (22:32) (Originally aired February 28, 1995)
Tim accidentally walks in on his sister-in-law Nancy in the shower and a degree of awkwardness lingers between them and their spouses. Bodily innuendo runs very high. Meanwhile, Randy attends a friend's bar mitzvah and has some pants trouble.

20. Talk to Me (23:03) (Originally aired March 14, 1995)
Jill urges Tim to explain why he's been hostile lately, but when he does, she snaps at him. Comedians Jim Breuer and Dave Chappelle play two bachelors whose comments on "Tool Time" get them in trouble with their girlfriends. Despite the fact that the show's three creators/executive producers wrote this episode, it is one of the show's weaker ones, as conceivable marital issues feel thoroughly manufactured.

21. No, No, Godot (23:02) (Originally aired March 21, 1995)
Plans for Tim, Jill, Al, and Ilene to see Waiting for Godot on stage are derailed when Tim and Al get arrested for scalping their unneeded hockey game tickets. At home, Wilson watches the Taylor boys as Randy and Mark long to attend an unsupervised party. On "Tool Time", Tim gets to display his tire-changing skills (or lack thereof) for a real NASCAR pit crew belonging to racer Robby Gordon and owner Derrick Walker.

Episode #96 decides it's time for retrospection, as Tim sips some antacid and watches "Tool Time" highlights. The Taylor boys admire a Swiss army knife, which one of them will steal. But which one? After twenty date-free years, Wilson quickly and strongly takes to Jill's professor Judith, enough to sculpt a bust.

22. Tool Time After Dark (45:31) (Originally aired April 11, 1995)
A hearty dinner of Polish food keeps Tim from sleeping.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
He heads downstairs with a bottle of antacid and a loopy straw, and unable to find anything good on TV, pops in a videocassette holding memorable moments from "Tool Time." That's right - this is a clip show, though one that is better than most, as the setup is somewhat clever and involving. Plus, it makes sense to offer high/low-lights from the show within the show. Included in this hour-long special are the rooms custom-designed for a man, assorted Tim/Al hijinks, and, of course, no shortage of Tim's blunders. In quasi-chronological order, the excerpts span all 95 episodes from the nearly four full seasons which preceded this episode, giving it another advantage over the lame highlight reels that appeared on the first three seasons' DVDs.

Though the menu gives separate listings for "Tool Time After Dark, Part 1" and "Tool Time After Dark, Part 2", selecting the former plays the entire episode as it originally aired ("Home Improvement"'s first hour-long one), while selecting the latter merely takes you 20 minutes into the proceedings. For syndication, this special was obviously broken into two separate parts, though the option to view them as such is not offered, despite what the menu leads you to believe.

23. Sisters and Brothers (23:01) (Originally aired May 2, 1995)
Jill's sister Carrie (Tudi Roche, the real life wife of Richard Karn), a world-traveling photographer, comes to stay with the Taylors and their different ways of life soon create unease for them and Tim, whose brother Marty and family are also temporarily at the Taylors' house (with moving boxes abound). Meanwhile, Al's brother Cal, who bears more than a passing resemblance, makes an appearance on "Tool Time."

24. A Marked Man (22:54) (Originally aired May 9, 1995)
When a Swiss Army knife is stolen from Harry's Hardware, Tim is surprised that Al suspects one of his sons is the culprit. Tim and Jill are even more surprised to find that Al was right. Meanwhile, the vocal work of a prize-winning "husband caller" on "Tool Time" affects Tim's hearing in a big way.

25. Wilson's Girlfriend (23:03) (Originally aired May 23, 1995)
Jill tries to set up Wilson with her professor, and their initially strong connection is soon questioned. While Wilson's last name is revealed, great lengths are taken to keep his face partially-obscured. Also, Brad worries about a pre-date pimple, only to discover makeup, while Tim and Al demonstrate ironing techniques as part of Bachelor Week on "Tool Time."

ZTB tries paint as a way to get past JTT in the "HI" cast list. No need to adjust your television -- there really are two flannel-clad Borlands in "Sisters and Brothers."

VIDEO and AUDIO

Once again, the video quality on a "Home Improvement" release is without problems. The picture is sharp, detailed, and free from any major concerns.
For episodes that are 11 to 12 years old, these don't show any sign of age. Anything close to a shortcoming seems inherent to the recording mediums and even those are extremely minor.

In the sound department, there is another Dolby Stereo soundtrack. With the first three seasons, my surround sound receiver automatically treated the two-channel mix as Dolby Pro Logic, with the lively laugh track and music becoming rear reinforcement. This time, viewing on a different system, my receiver did not do this and I was puzzled. The good news is that nothing was different in the mastering process this time around and the change was my end. (Though I've gone back and edited the first three seasons' critiques to this effect.) I guess the two-channel stereo or Pro Logic "surround" poses a judgment call for viewers and both is acceptable. Anyhow, outside of some inconsistency in the volume levels (from show to menu and within the show itself), the soundtrack is also pretty stellar. That means that if anyone is only concerned about having their "Home Improvement" episodes presented with the utmost care and quality, they will be satisfied with Buena Vista's sets, regardless of their skimpy supplements.

If there were more than one bonus feature, I wouldn't have to rely on another show screencap like this. Tim finds the rodent making all the stink in the never-before-seen blooper reel.

BONUS FEATURES

Though the menu listing indicates a plurality of supplements, there is but one thing to find here.
A Blooper Reel (6:25) provides a collection of outtakes beyond the usual end credits fare. It's not much, a fact which the very poor picture quality underscores. Still, this is the closest thing to a genuine video-based bonus feature of interest that has accompanied the show. The botched lines and on-set hijinks deliver a few laughs, including a hearty audience response to a Mickey Mouse sighting, one of several clips never aired. Most of the footage stems from Season 4 episodes, but a bit seems to come from either earlier or later episodes (like the premiered-in-syndication "Tanks for the Memories" which will presumably be on next season's set).

Sadly, though "The Golden Girls" ("Improvement"'s frequent store shelf neighbor) discovered the audio commentary on the recent Season 5 release, such a simple-to-include, easy-to-appreciate bonus has gone absent after Season 1's semi-underwhelming slate of producer tracks. What makes this all the more frustrating is that actors Tim Allen, Debbe Dunning, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Zachery Ty Bryan have all worked on Disney projects in the past year, from Allen's high-profile comedies The Shaggy Dog and The Santa Clause 3 and Dunning's Season 3 DVD bonus narration to Thomas' dubbing of Pom Poko and Bryan's roles in ESPN's Code Breakers and Touchstone's Annapolis. Obviously having all the episodes of a season on a non-degrading format in pristine quality, unedited and sans network bugs is nothing to sneeze at. But with all the TV shows on the DVD market now, it really makes sense for Disney, the cast, and crew to make the small but serious effort to either dig up archival material of interest or record new reflections on this much-loved show. It just makes sense. Without sounding like a broken record, even things as minor as ABC's TV promos, or the trailers for The Santa Clause and Man of the House (which are absent from their DVDs) would have been apt inclusions and a huge step-up over this.

The customary sneak peeks appear at the start of Disc 1 to tout Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, "TV on DVD" (via the widely-seen and long-dated promo highlighting six Touchstone Television hits), plus box office duds Annapolis and Goal! The Dream Begins. From the menu, additional previews can be found for "The Golden Girls" The Complete Fourth Season, "Dinosaurs" The Complete First and Second Seasons, "Scrubs" The Complete Third Season, and "George Lopez" on ABC.

Home Improvement: Season 4, Disc 1 - Main Menu One of Disc 2's Episode Selection menus A tiny look at the whole kit and caboodle

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The 16x9 menus here basically recycle Season 3's, with some minor changes, chiefly color. This, and the show's previous three seasons suggest that entirely new menus will be created only for odd-numbered season releases. In any event, the blueprint motif serves the show well and each disc's Main Menu features the minimally different Season 4 theme tune.
I think we could all do without music on the "Episode Selection" menus (and does anyone really watch TV show DVDs with a "Play All" feature?), but this is a minor gripe.

Once again, Disney has found a new way for "Home Improvement" packaging to be innovative. While remaining consistent with the first three seasons, this one's outer slipcover appears to be missing its bottom right corner. That's due to a circular saw, which is seen in the corner and revealed in full when the inner Digipak is taken out - presumably another Toolman gaffe. Oh no! As usual, assorted artwork graces the glossy sides of the six-sided Digipak, which also contains an episode list, the discs (three overlapped onto two sides, as usual), and a note on the fourth season from producer/writer Elliot Shoenman. As bonus features for the show have been utterly lacking, these "signed" letters have gone a long way to distinguish each season and their inclusions are welcome. There's also a double-sided insert promoting this fall's arrival of "Scrubs" and "According to Jim" in daily syndication.

As is customary, each episode is broken into chapter stops, though there is no menu dedicated to these. These breaks (allowing for quick scene access with the Skip buttons) appear even more frequently than commercial breaks. There are about 8-11 chapters per episode, while the lone hour-long show has 12 stops.

"Jill, this is the greatest gift you've ever given me." "I gave you three children." "Yeah, but none of them came out this clean." Tool Time tip of the day: always make sure to mouse over images for amusing captions. Well, occasionally amusing.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The fourth season of "Home Improvement" isn't as consistently entertaining as the seasons which immediately preceded or followed it, but it still delivers a good number of laughs and fun in the family sitcom's winning tradition. The introductions of new recurring characters offer change (needed or not), the adult storylines in the foreground largely hold up well, and some of the show's very best episodes are found among these.

The three-disc DVD release does not give us much new to say. The brief, beat-up blooper reel registers as the most worthwhile video bonus bestowed upon the show to date, but the anemic slate of supplements once again leaves a great deal to be desired. On the plus side, picture and sound are without issue, design and packaging are both consistent and sufficient, and the price (while not on par with Warner's attractive tags) is easy to justify when discounting brings it down to about a dollar an episode.

Since the first three seasons of "Home Improvement" are currently enjoying temporary price reduction throughout the summer, they should be a greater priority and prerequisite for any interested party who hasn't already swept them up. But, in spite of the Season 4 set's shortcomings (and technically, extras are supposed to be gravy), fans will also want to pick this one up somewhere down the line and hope that better bonuses are yet to come.

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Related Reviews
Home Improvement: The Complete Third Season Home Improvement: The Complete Second Season
Home Improvement: The Complete First Season Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons
Scrubs: The Complete Third Season The Golden Girls: The Complete Fifth Season

1994-95 Television Season:
Boy Meets World: The Complete Second Season Ellen: The Complete Season Two
Sweet Valley High: The Complete First Season Gargoyles: The Complete First Season
Fantastic Four: The Complete 1994-95 Animated Television Series

Starring Tim Allen: Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition Toy Story 2: Special Edition Jungle 2 Jungle The Santa Clause 2
Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas: The Lion King: Platinum Edition I'll Be Home for Christmas Pom Poko

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

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Page 1: Show and Season 4 Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Reviewed June 8, 2006.