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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 Fifth Season DVD Review

Buy Home Improvement: The Complete Fifth Season from Amazon.com Home Improvement: Season Five (1995-96)
Show & DVD Details

Director: Andy Cadiff / Repeat Writers: Bruce Ferber, Lloyd Garver, Jon Vandergriff, Howard J. Morris, Rosalind Moore, Ruth Bennett, Elliot Shoenman, Marley Sims

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), William O'Leary (Marty Taylor), Blake Clark (Harry), Charlie Robinson (Bud Harper), Jim Labriola (Benny Baroni), Sherry Hursey (Ilene Markham), Shirley Prestia (Delores), Bonnie Bartlett (Lucille), Dick O'Neill (Art Leonard), Kristin Clayton (Angela), Jarrad Paul (Jason), Gretchen German (June Palmer), Milton Canady (Milton)

Notable Guest Stars: Bonnie Hellman (Cousin Bonnie), Royce D. Applegate (Frank), Joe Urla (Chris Harper), Ja'net DuBois (Carol), Jensen Daggett (Nancy Taylor), Mariangela Pino (Marie Morton), Tudi Roche (Carrie Patterson), Tracy Letts (Henry), Mark L. Taylor (Bert Russell), Beth Dixon (Judith), Kimberly Cullum (Michelle), Angela Paton (Irma), Lea Moreno (Bridgett), Marla Sokoloff (Page), Troy Evans (Michael McKewen), Tom Poston (The Clerk), Miguel Sandoval (Mr. Jennings), Pat Crawford Brown (Mrs. Kluzewski), Commander Kenneth D. Bowersox (Himself), Rosalind Allen (Kelly Barnes), Bever-Leigh Banfield (Jean Harper), Andi Eystad (Jessica), Joseph Whipp (Kendall), Laura Bell Bundy (Sharon Liebowitz), Patrick Renna (Todd), Vasili Bogazianos (Antonio), James Hong (Dave), Keith Lehman (Cal Borland, uncredited)

Running Time: 598 Minutes (26 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 14, 2006
Season 5 Airdates: September 19, 1995 - May 21, 1996
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with cardboard slipcover

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy The Complete Series Collection

Page 1: Show and Season 5 Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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

To the dismay of Jill, Tim gets close to a TV news reporter (Rosalind Allen) in "Eye on Tim." Tim and Brad talk about their engine and haircut disagreements. In "The Longest Day", Jill enlightens Randy a bit on his potential health concern.

Disc 3

19. Eye on Tim (23:02) (Originally aired February 27, 1996)
While stricken with the flu, Jill worries that Tim is attracted to a TV newsreporter (Rosalind Allen) who is profiling him for a segment.

20. The Bud Bowl (22:18) (Originally aired March 5, 1996)
Tim and Jill go bowling with Bud and his wife.
Jill's stellar performance has Tim worried that his competitive boss may take it personally. At home, Randy meets Angela's sister.

21. Engine and a Haircut, Two Fights (21:48) (Originally aired March 12, 1996)
Tim gets mad over Brad's new ponytail haircut. Meanwhile, Randy rehearses for the part of Romeo with both Jill and Wilson taking a stab at Juliet's lines. The short runtime is suspicious, especially since this is one of the show's finest episodes.

22. The Longest Day (23:37) (Originally aired April 2, 1996)
A lump on Randy's neck might be cancerous. Jill worries while spending the day waiting for the phone call with the test results. "Home Improvement"'s most dramatic episode is not without its laughs, but it is most memorable for being truly poignant beyond all expectations of a sitcom.

Randy questions Wilson's play directing, as "The Big Green"'s Patrick Renna looks on. Tim tries to explain the new home security system to Jill in "Alarmed By Burglars." Al seems very confident of his "Tool Time" board game in "Games, Flames, and Automobiles."

23. Mr. Wilson's Opus (23:01) (Originally aired April 30, 1996)
Wilson agrees to direct Randy's school play, but his serious, craft-enforcing approach has a negative effect on the 8th grade cast and the aluminum-using set-designer (Tim).

24. Shopping Around (23:02) (Originally aired May 7, 1996)
At dinner, Tim and Jill spot Tim's old shop teacher with a woman, which might be okay if he wasn't already dating Tim's mom. This episode marks the first of six appearances made by Vasili Bogazianos as the insolent waiter Antonio.

25. Alarmed By Burglars (23:02) (Originally aired May 14, 1996)
After Wilson's house gets broken into, Jill gives Tim free rein to spend on a state-of-the-art home security system and film a "Tool Time" on it. Brad tries to buy a final exam from Jason.

26. Games, Flames & Automobiles (23:00) (Originally aired May 21, 1996)
With his 37th birthday approaching, Al decides to take action by pouring his life savings into selling his "Tool Time" board game and planning to propose to Ilene.

Tim recounts tank-riding in California to the Taylor boys. Wilson stays tactfully shrouded even when he crosses the fence, as he does here to console Jill in "The Longest Day."

VIDEO and AUDIO

Of course presented in its original 1.33:1 "fullscreen" aspect ratio, "Home Improvement" continues to look very, very good. It's nearly perfect, but its origins as a tape-based sitcom reveal some minor limitations. They are not a fault of the DVD transfer, though, which enables the show to shine.

Again, the series is equipped with a two-channel Dolby Stereo soundtrack. It's what you would expect from a major studio sitcom produced last decade. Dialogue is sharp, the rare pieces of transitional music are undistorted, and every "Tool Time" snafu resonates just as it should. There are a few cases where the volume levels seem to fluctuate, but this seems a result of how the show was recorded rather than how it was transferred to DVD.

Tim Allen and Richard Karn crack up while filming a public service announcement on seatbelts, as seen in the Season 5 blooper reel. Patricia Richardson makes a goofy face in... the blooper reel. How'd you know? Oh right, it's the only extra.

BONUS FEATURES

The package and press release proclaim this set "The 10th Anniversary" of Season 5,
which may lead you to believe that the box's claim "complete with hilarious bonus features" actually means there will be better supplements this time around. That's not really the case. (For that matter, Season 5 took place eleven seasons ago, but I guess Disney was so eager for a milestone that they jumped the gun. Maybe they should have started releasing this and other series earlier in the decade when TV-on-DVD was fully hip, new, and popular.)

As on Season 4, the only bonus feature is a blooper reel (7:28). It presents an assortment of botch-ups and hijinks from the filming of Season 5. A lot of this footage can be seen in the end credits, but it's amusing to see it all together and without credits overlaid. Plus some of it -- like Tim's banter on weather outside Wilson's fence and outtakes from a couple of on-set public service announcements taped during the season -- never aired. It's too bad we can't see the final versions of the on-set PSAs that the select bloopers come from. And a minute of it is just montage or computer-animated hijinks. So while it's far from a fully-satisfying bonus features menu on its own, it's definitely better than nothing, and the air-worthy picture quality is an improvement over the previous season's reel.

But, now comes time for my usual rant... More than half of "Home Improvement" has now been released to DVD and there has yet to be one set that really deserves praise for bonus features. I hate to keep saying the same things about these sets, but they constantly apply. The show was one of the best-rated on television for nearly a decade straight. Obviously, there's a wealth of material related to the series which would make wonderful bonus inclusions. There's A&E specials, E! specials, behind-the-scenes footage, no shortage of talk show appearances, episode promos, commercial break interstitials, and much more readily available. Yet, the studio keeps on thinking fans wouldn't want to see this stuff. Then there's the potential for commentaries, which seems great based on the surviving cast/crew's presumably open schedules and Tim Allen's ongoing Disney relationship. The sad thing is that sales would surely be higher were some worthwhile bonus features included. It becomes a make-or-break issue now, based on how conservative Disney is on releasing TV series, that the remaining three seasons could be in jeopardy if sales aren't high enough. If you're dissatisfied with the bonus features, make sure you express that disappointment to Disney's customer hotline at 1-800-477-2811 or if you don't like the phone, e-mail Disneyinfo@Disneyhelp.com.

Disc 2's Main Menu spruces up its blueprint with some Christmas decorations in red. This Episode Selection Menu should look plenty familiar to anyone who owns Season 4.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The DVD's menus are identical to Season 4's (aside from the season number), with each disc's main screen depicting an animated blueprint accompanied by a brief stretch of the theme tune. That same stretch joins the Episode Selection and Set Up menus, making it sure to drive anyone
leaving the DVD going crazy. Gladly, each episode is again broken into about 5 chapter stops, enabling quick scene access.

Disc 1 opens with previews for The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, "Alias": The Complete 5th and Final Season, and recently-released "Scrubs": The Complete Fourth Season. The Sneak Peeks menu on the same disc holds additional promos for Invincible, "Grey's Anatomy": The Complete Second Season, "Lost": The Complete Second Season, "Desperate Housewives": The Complete Second Season, and "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC.

The box show a lot less inspiration in its design. For the first time, there's no clever openings or embossing. There's just a glossy slipcover with assorted colorful cast pictures inside. The Digipak inside has a pocket for an insert, but as usual, there is none, not even the obligatory company ads. One side of the Digipak's sides features a new note from writer-producer Elliot Shoenman on some of the challenges and triumphs of Season 5. It's not much, but it's one of a few appreciated small touches about the set.

Tim and Jill embrace. The Toolman gives his best Garfield impression.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In its fifth season, "Home Improvement" mixed things up a bit, while still remaining true to itself. The ratings dipped slightly but they still remained high and with good reason, as the show stayed fresh and satisfyingly developed nearly all of its personalities. This season may be the show's best and it certainly seems to be its most comfortable, existing as a happy middle between the series' promising start and its dropped-off end. Supporting that argument is the fact that this season produces several of "Home Improvement"'s very best episodes.

If all you care about is having The Complete Fifth Season of "Home Improvement", then this release is pretty perfect. Picture and sound are commendable and the blooper reel, if nothing extremely special, is a welcome bonus. The episodes themselves are presented in a flawless fashion, with no music replacements, syndicated cuts, or playback problems to hinder one's enjoyment of a largely terrific season. Bonus features, while heartily lacking, are just the gravy, so the continued disappointment in this arena can be forgiven again enough to appreciate another fine season of the '90s premier family sitcom. Still, it's disappointing that, with the show unlikely to be revisited again anytime soon, the studio isn't taking efforts to get these DVDs right in the extras department.

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Page 1: Show and Season 5 Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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 15, 2006.