“Does everybody know what time it is? Tool Time!” That was oftentimes the opening line to the sitcom Home Improvement starring stand-up comic Tim Allen. For eight seasons beginning in 1991, the series was not only a fan favorite, but it also launched Tim Allen’s and other cast of Home Improvement stars’ acting careers.
The series centers around accident-prone Tim Taylor and loving wife Jill (Patricia Richardson), along with their two older sons, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan) and Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), who take great joy in tormenting younger brother Mark (Taran Noah Smith).
They all live in suburban Detroit, next door to the only partially seen Wilson (Earl Hindman), who offers desperately needed sage advice to Tim. On top of that, Tim hosts the Binford Tools-sponsored Tool Time series alongside co-host and friend Al Borland and the Tool Time Girl. So basically Home Improvement was a show within a show, and all of it made millions of viewers laugh out loud on a weekly basis.
If you’ve ever watched PBS’ This Old House, you know there weren’t many laughs, but Home Improvement was conceived as a parody of the PBS show, even having Tim parallel Bob Vila with Al as carpenter Norm Abram. So popular was the sitcom that Vila actually appeared as a guest on several episodes while Tim and Tool Time girl Pamela Anderson both appeared on Vila’s show, Home Again.
See the cast of Home Improvement then and now
So where did the cast of Home Improvement end up? Let’s take a look.
Tim Allen as Tim Taylor
Timothy Allen Dick was born in Denver, Colorado, but moved with his family to Birmingham, Michigan after his mother remarried. Not surprisingly, Tim excelled in shop class in high school and after graduation, he attended Western Michigan University, graduating in 1975 with a degree in Television Production.
Three years later, he was arrested on drug charges and spent two years in jail, but incarceration gave him a new outlook on life and, on a dare from a friend, he participated in a comedy night at the Comedy Castle in Detroit. Loving the recognition, he began appearing in local television commercials and cable comedy shows.
Hearing the laughs and applause, Tim went on to do several cable specials, including comedies Dirtiest Dozen (1988) and Tim Allen: Men Are Pigs (1990), while his feature film debut was as a baggage handler in Tropical Snow (1988). Having found his true calling, he packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles where he became a regular performer at the famed Sunset Strip Comedy Store and doing his stand-up comedy on late-night talk shows, including Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show.
Then came Home Improvement, a sitcom based on his stand-up routines. “It’s true, I have a skill and it’s not related to acting. It’s not related to auditions. It’s not related to studios or public whim. It’s whether I’m funny or not and whether I can entertain people.”
Parlaying his small screen fame into feature films, Allen starred in a string of blockbuster movies, among them The Santa Clause (1994), Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 and Galaxy Quest (both 1999), Joe Somebody (2001) and Big Trouble (2002). From 2011 to 2017 he starred as Michael Martin on the sitcom Last Man Standing.
Away from the bright lights, and using his “Tool Time” fame, he developed and launched his own signature line of power tools in 1996. Always a car enthusiast, he competed in endurance racing and also owns an extensive car collection that includes a ’56 Ford F-100, custom made by McLaren; a 1965 Shelby Corbra and a 1966 Ferrari 330 GTC that some claim is valued at over $3,000,000. Putting his celebrity to good use, Allen is also involved in philanthropic efforts to help reduce homelessness.
Patricia Richardson as Jill Taylor
Known for her whiskey voice and role amongst the cast of Home Improvement as Jill Taylor, Patricia Richardson was nominated for 2 Golden Globes and 4 Emmy Awards. Prior to her role as loving and sophisticated mom and wife, Richardson also starred in two other comedies: Eisenhower & Lutz alongside Scott Bakula (1988) and FM (1989), both only lasting 13 episodes each. “I always hated perfect TV moms, because I always thought that was unrealistic and Jill was not perfect. She is not exempt from dumb moves herself.”
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, Patricia Castle Richardson attended multiple schools and graduated in 1972 from Southern Methodist University. “I admit I had been a real problem child,” she says. “But once I got into acting, my parents never had any more trouble with me because all of that energy was directed in a positive way.”
Richardson began her career as the understudy for the role of Gypsy Rose Lee in Angela Lansbury’s Broadway production of Gypsy in 1974. She also played several small chorus parts. For the next 10 years, she worked in regional theater, commercials and other Broadway and off-Broadway plays. Episodic TV programs such as The Equalizer, Spenser: For Hire and Kate & Allie came and went.
In 1991, three months after giving birth to twins, Patricia became a last-minute replacement for Frances Fisher, who was deemed too serious to play Jill Taylor. “People see me as being this Super Mom on TV who also can more than handle a difficult husband, and they assume I’m going to be just full of wisdom as a mother and wife myself.”
While working on her breakout role, she hosted the Emmys, starred in the miniseries Undue Influence, Sophie and the Moonhanger; and earned an Independent Spirit nomination for her first major film role in Ulee’s Gold (1997).
After three seasons on Lifetime’s medical drama Strong Medicine, she was cast in a recurring role as Sheila Brooks in the final two seasons of the political drama The West Wing. Made for TV movies, television appearances and small indie films rounded out her small and big screen projects. But Richardson never lost her love for theater, returning to the stage in Steel Magnolias (2016) at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, which became the highest grossing show in the history of the Playhouse.
Earl Hindman as Wilson W. Wilson, Jr.
Best known for his role on Home Improvement playing the helpful, kindly unseen neighbor of the Taylors, Earl Hindman played villains in two 1974 thrillers – The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and The Parallax View.
Born in Bisbee, Arizona in 1942, which at the time was a mining city, Hindman studied acting at the University of Arizona. Prior to his famous partially seen face on Home Improvement, Hindman made his film debut in the exploitation movie Teenage Mother (1967) and then found a regular TV role, playing police lieutenant Bob Reid on daytime’s Ryan’s Hope from 1975 to 1984, later returning for its final episodes in 1988 to 1989.
Hindman’s face was finally shown in full view at the end of the final episode of Home Improvement as he and the rest of the cast took a bow for the cheering audience.
Following Home Improvement’s cancellation, Hindman appeared in guest starring television roles such as Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. A long-time chain smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away due to the disease in December 2003 at the age of 61.
Richard Karn as Al Borland in the cast of Home Improvement
Richard Karn landed his breakout role in the cast of Home Improvement after getting a traffic ticket and going to traffic school. Making lemonade out of lemons, Karn unwittingly sat beside an agent who told him about casting for the sitcom.
It all began with his first acting gig in the 5th grade in Seattle, Washington which led to his being very active in drama in high school. After graduation from the University of Washington Professional Actor Training Program, he gained drama experience in Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival. Moving to New York, in less than a week he was hired to do a commercial for Michelob beer that had a plum placement during Super Bowl XIV. Then it was on to Los Angeles in 1989 at the urging of his wife. There he found a place for them to live by managing an apartment complex and catering events at a Jewish synagogue on the side.
Born Richard Karn Wilson, he shortened his name after finding out there was already a Richard Wilson in SAG. His filmography boasts 11 feature films, and several made for TV movies and series. In 2002 Karn made an appearance in The Strokes’ music video for “Someday,” while also replacing Louie Anderson as host of Family Feud. Although he left the show in 2006, two years later he replaced Patrick Duffy on Game Show Network’s Bingo America. But no matter what, he’ll always be Al Borland to fans.
Pamela Anderson as Tool Time Girl, Lisa
In the first two years of the show, Pamela Anderson played the part of Tim’s Tool Girl, Lisa, but left the show to focus on her role in a red bathing suit, as lifeguard C. J. Parker on Baywatch, which cemented her international recognition as a sex symbol.
(Click through to see the original Baywatch cast then and now!)
Prior to Home Improvement and Baywatch, Anderson came into view, pun intended, as the February 1990 Playboy Playmate of the month, which followed her initial appearance on the cover of the mag’s October 1989 issue. In all, Anderson appeared 14 times in the magazine. Ironically, when Playboy first rang her up at home, she said no, that she was too shy, but during a fight with an ex-fiance she decided to spontaneously accept the offer — for only a cover.
“I hate when people say bad things about Hugh Hefner,” she said in 2018. “I believe he empowered women and I believe he did so many great things for civil rights. I say Playboy was my university. I learned about activism, art, artists, and there were always really colorful people there.”
With success from Playboy, Anderson moved from Canada to Los Angeles in 1990. She became known to a wider, more conservative audience when she joined the cast of Home Improvement. In Hollywood fashion, Anderson bought a Malibu home, but later rented it out for $50,000 per month so that she could live on the French Riviera. Ultimately Canada was home and she moved back to reside on Vancouver Island, making it her permanent home in 2021. At that point she sold her Malibu place.
Born in Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada, Pamela Denise Anderson was an acrobat and gymnast from 7 years of age to 12, but remained an accomplished athlete throughout her high school years. Starting at age 16, Anderson spent three years waitressing and was first “discovered” at a British Columba Lions football game in Vancouver, where she was featured on the jumbotron while wearing a Labatt’s Beer T-shirt.
Fans went wild and cheered her image, so she was brought down to the football field. The brewing company hired Anderson as a spokes model inspired by the event. More advertising assignments quickly followed and her now legendary association with Playboy was next.
Anderson’s big screen debut was in Raw Justice (1994). That same year, she met Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and married him two months later, stunning fans and media alike.
Rocky marriages, sex tape, motherhood, activism, some lesser commercial hits and covers of fashion magazines (Elle, Marie Claire, W) have rounded out Anderson’s diverse resume.
She also released the book Star in 2004, about a teenager trying to become famous. That same year, she launched her vegan clothing line and in 2005 starred in a new Fox comedy, Stacked, as party girl Skyler Dayton.
Departing the U.S. for India in 2010, Anderson appeared on season 4 of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of the Big Brother franchise. For her 72 hour stay in the house, she received $550,000. On to the U.K. where she took part in the 12th season of Big Brother in 2011, followed by being a Special Houseguest on VIP Brother, in Bulgaria.
Branching out, Anderson made her Broadway debut playing Roxie Hart in Chicago in 2022; it was her first time performing since 2019 and she received both critical and audience acclaim.
Zachary Ty Bryan as Brad Taylor in the cast of Home Improvement
As the eldest brother in the cast of Home Improvement, Zachary Ty Bryan has experienced the highs and lows of life. After the series ended in 1999, he appeared in multiple shows, including ER (2001), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2002) and Smallville (2003).
After many years in front of the camera, Bryan transitioned to the production side of things, producing a number of films, including The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.
In 2007, Bryan married high school sweetheart Carly Matros and they had four children — twins Taylor and Gemma, daughter Jordana and son Pierce. Unfortunately, the couple announced they were getting a divorce in 2020. Nearly a year later, in November of 2021, Bryan announced that he was engaged to Johnnie Faye Cartwright, with whom he has three children — daughter Kennedy and twins Parker and Sequoia.
But things started to go badly for Bryan and Faye right from the get-go, as he was arrested for allegedly strangling her in 2020 when they were only dating. In 2023, Bryan was arrested again for a similar incident with another woman, involving assault, robbery and harassment. In October of 2023, he was sentenced to 7 days in jail plus probation.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Randy Taylor
The middle child of the Taylor family has done quite well for himself, Jonathan Taylor Thomas playing some notable roles, including voicing Young Simba in Disney’s The Lion King (1994).
Thomas remained with his Home Improvement family until the 8th and final season, which he left early on. His character was said to have gone to Costa Rica, but in real life Thomas wanted to focus on his education.
Thomas has appeared in series like Veronica Mars (2004) and Smallville (2001), and in 2013 made an appearance on Home Improvement co-star Tim Allen’s series, Last Man Standing (2011) as John Baker.
He came back for a total of four episodes over the course of several seasons. Last Man Standing was his last acting gig and he hasn’t been in the public eye much since then. After a childhood in the spotlight, Thomas decided to take a step back.
Taran Noah Smith as Mark Taylor in the cast of Home Improvement
The youngest sibling of the Taylor family has had a surprising life since the end of Home Improvement. Although during the show’s run he made an appearance on 7th Heaven, after Home Improvement ended, he left acting behind.
In 2001, Smith did another surprising thing by marrying Heidi Van Pelt when he was 17-years-old and Van Pelt was 32. The two had a child together as well, but underwent a messy divorce in 2007.
Today, Smith is a technical manager for Community Submersibles.
More cast of Home Improvement fun facts
Early on, Tim Allen would deliberately misquote lines in some scenes to help child actors so that they would feel less pressure about getting their own lines wrong.
The Tool Time audience was the actual live studio audience
In the episode “The Eve of Construction,” former President Jimmy Carter appears in a videotaped segment regarding Tim and Jill’s participation in a Habitat for Humanity building project.
Ashley Judd auditioned for and won the role of the Tool Time girl, but her agent urged her to pursue movies instead of TV, so she pulled out a few days before the original pilot, resulting in the casting of Pamela Anderson.
Patricia Richardson brought her twins to her initial interview and the producers built a nursery in the studio for them.
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