Friday, September 6, 2019

TV Show Review: Home Improvement - Season 5

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: 26 laugh filled episodes
Cons: The Vasectomy One
The Bottom Line:
Sitcom Improvement
As writers find new stories
And fill them with laughs

“Someday, You Are Going to Turn into Me.”  “I’m Going to Need a lot of Medical Insurance.”

I started watching Home Improvement late in its run, so as I’ve gone back and watched the earlier seasons, I’ve been wondering if my take on the show from 20 years ago was accurate or not.  I’m happy to say that watching season 5 showed the show shifted to more what I remembered.

Not much has changed in the basic set up of the show.  The sitcom follows the life of Tim Taylor (Tim Allen).  At home, he’s married to Jill (Patricia Richardson), and they have three kids, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith).  He works as the host of Tool Time, a home improvement show that is local to their home town in Michigan where he works with his assistant Al (Richard Karn) and the “Tool Time Girl” Heidi (Debbe Dunning).  Rounding out the cast of regulars is the Taylor’s neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman).

Over the course of these 26 episodes, Tim tries to work as much fun as possible into a family reunion for Jill’s side of the family.  Brad starts high school, gets a fast-talking girlfriend, and hosts a party at the Taylor home.  Randy, meanwhile, starts having some trouble in school and spends a day waiting for some medical news.  Over at Tool Time, Binford Tools, the sponsor, is sold and the new owner wants to expand the show’s reach, with possible bad repercussions for Al.  Wilson starts to get out of the backyard set more, even directing Randy’s school production of Romeo and Juliet.

The earlier seasons of the show had a very set formula – Tim did something to make Jill mad.  He didn’t see how what he’d done was wrong.  Wilson gave him some advice that Tim didn’t quite understand, but it helped him patch things up.  These seemed to be the majority of the episodes of the early seasons, and I found them annoying because they were repetitive and because I don’t appreciate the depiction of a man as completely and totally clueless all the time.

This season definitely got away from that.  Yes, there are some times that Tim messes up.  He’s human, I get it.  And Tim isn’t necessarily the smartest character, but he is smarter than he was.  However, as you can see above, we get a greater variety of storylines that don’t focus on Tim messing something up.  It helps that the boys are older and can handle more screen time.  While Mark doesn’t get any major storylines this season, there are episodes that really focus on Brad and Randy.  They also give episodes to everyone else.  The writers were clearly trying to up their game this season, and it worked.

And, of course, the show is still funny.  Tim still has classic accidents as he either ignores safety warnings or tries to give stuff more power.  The dialogue is witty.  Yes, I can often predict where a punchline I going, but the actors deliver it with such perfect timing that it works.  As I mentioned, Wilson gets out of the backyard more than ever this season, and the things they use to keep his mouth hidden from us are creative, fun, and create some fantastic laughs.  This is a fun running gag.

The actors are all at the top of their game, bringing their characters to life perfectly.  They’ve learned how to play off each other well, milking the scripts for every laugh they can get.

I mention Randy’s health scare earlier.  While a bit more serious, they still had some good laughs in the episode.  The one episode I could have done without was one involving Jill wanting Tim to get a vasectomy.  Some of the dialogue didn’t seem appropriate for a family sitcom.

Season 5 consisted of 26 episodes, and they are all part of the three-disc DVD set.  The full frame picture and stereo soundtrack won’t challenge your system, but they are consistent with a 1990’s sitcom, and that is all we really need.  The only extra is a season long blooper reel that includes some moments already shown in the individual episodes but plenty of new material.

Speaking of bloopers, the episodes don’t all have bloopers.  Some do, but some have tag scenes or a combination of the two.

Season 5 reminds me why I enjoyed the episodes of Home Improvement I’ve watched in the past.  I’m looking forward to finishing out the show.

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