It was the show that propelled Tim Allen to fame, launched Pamela Anderson’s acting career and turned a guttural grunt into one of the nation’s favorite catchphrases. And 25 years after it first aired on ABC, here’s 20 things you may not know about the much-loved family sitcom Home Improvement.
20. A traffic violation helped Richard Karn get the part of Al
Richard Karn, who played Tim’s deadpan sidekick Al, found out that (minor) crime does sometimes pay when a traffic violation helped him land his most famous role. Indeed, the actor only discovered that auditions for the show were being held after meeting an agent at the traffic school he was forced to attend for ignoring a stop sign in L.A.
19. Ashley Judd missed out on a role for being too talented
Turns out that being super-talented can sometimes be a hindrance in the casting process. Ashley Judd was considered to be too strong an actress to play the minor role of the glamorous Tool Time girl, and was subsequently turned down in favor of the slightly less accomplished Pamela Anderson.
18. Tim Allen’s clothes came from colleges and universities
Home Improvement may have been one of the most popular sitcoms of the ’90s but that didn’t mean it was averse to the odd freebie. In fact, much of Tim Allen’s wardrobe didn’t cost a cent thanks to the generosity and marketing nous of various colleges and universities from his Michigan home state.
17. The Tool Time audience was also the Home Improvement audience
Those lucky enough to get a ticket to the taping of a Home Improvement episode also got the chance to watch the show within the show. The live audience that the sitcom was filmed in front of was also used as the live audience for Tim’s small screen DIY masterclass, Tool Time.
16. Hillary Clinton almost made a cameo
Home Improvement had become such a national institution by the mid-’90s that even the First Lady showed an interest in making an appearance. In a 1995 memo released 20 years later, Hillary Clinton’s press secretary enquired about the possibility of a guest appearance, but although producers were open to the idea, it sadly never came to fruition.
15. Tim Allen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas had a major falling out
14. Taran Noah Smith sued his parents
At the age of 17, Taran Noah Smith – who played Tim and Jill’s youngest son Mark – took his parents to court to gain early access to his trust fund after claiming they were frittering away much of the $1.5 million he’d made during the show. Despite the lawsuit, Smith wasn’t able to get his hands on his earnings until he turned 18.
13. ABC weren’t keen on the cancer-themed episode
The episode featuring Randy’s cancer scare, The Longest Day, was one of the highest-rated in Home Improvement history. However, the ABC network were initially reluctant for the show to tackle such a heavy-handed issue and hoped that by moving it to a different time slot would save it from being a complete disaster.
12. Tim Allen turned down $50m for a ninth season
Tim Allen proved that he isn’t all about cold, hard cash when he turned down an astonishing $50m offer to film a ninth season of Home Improvement. His on-screen wife Patricia Richardson also declined a significantly less, but hardly paltry, $25m figure and so the show ended after a whopping 203 episodes.
11. The show was originally going to be called Hammer Time
Both Home Improvement and the show-within-a-show were originally going to be called Hammer Time, a reference to the MC Hammer hit of the early ’90s. Thankfully, however, producers decided against a name which would have instantly dated the sitcom by the time its first episode aired in 1991.
10. There was a real Klaus
Tim could often be seen asking someone called Klaus to play some music during the taping of Tool Time. In a case of art imitating life, the unseen character in question was Klaus Landsberg, a sound engineer who not only worked with Allen on Home Improvement, but also on his other hit sitcom, Last Man Standing.
9. The cast loved cursing
Home Improvement may have been a wholesome family sitcom, but that didn’t stop its more mature stars from turning the air blue once the cameras stopped rolling. In a 2011 interview, Patricia Richardson admitted that her young on-screen sons heard a lot of words they perhaps shouldn’t have during the filming of the show.
8. Tim Allen served time for attempted drug dealing
The cast’s liberal use of curse words wasn’t the only thing to threaten Home Improvement’s squeaky clean image. Tim Allen served nearly two and a half years in jail after being found guilty of attempted drug dealing in 1978, and was charged with a DUI in 1997.
7. It spawned the idea for Mrs. Doubtfire
Home Improvement’s viewing figures were so high that producers toyed with the idea of turning it into a film. While Allen eschewed the idea, the concept of Tim posing as a female nanny to take care of his kids after he and Jill split was later adapted for the big screen in Mrs. Doubtfire.
6. Tool Time was a parody
Tim and his Tool Time sidekick Al were reportedly based on Bob Vila and carpenter Norm Abram of PBS show This Old House. Vila must have been fairly flattered by the parody as he later showed up as himself in several episodes as Tim’s arch rival.
5. The show once shut down a Burbank Airport runway
Bob Vila was also involved in one of Home Improvement’s most ambitious action-packed scenes. In the season 3 episode The Great Race II, the real-life DIY star can be seen competing with Tim in a drag race which was filmed at a Burbank Airport runway the show’s producers managed to gain sole access to.
4. Patricia Richardson had to fight for her character
Home Improvement boasted a slew of dominant male personalities, but Patricia Richardson ensured that the mother of the household was just as strong a character as all of the men. Jill was originally written in one-dimensional terms before the actress insisted that the show’s producers make her far more powerful.
3. Richardson wasn’t the first choice to play Jill
Richardson’s power of persuasion is all the more impressive for the fact she wasn’t actually the first choice to play Jill. Best known for her appearances in Titanic and Unforgiven, Frances Fisher was originally cast as Tim’s wife, but was replaced after failing to test well with audiences in the pilot.
2. Richardson was uncomfortable with fame
Although Richardson fought for her character to gain more prominence on screen, she wasn’t comfortable with the attention that came with it. The actress admitted in a 2016 Reddit AMA that she wasn’t particularly keen on doing press, red carpets and the concept of celebrity in general.
1. There was a terrible video game
At the height of the sitcom’s success in 1994, Super Nintendo created a tie-in video game named Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit. Equipped with an instruction manual which read “real men don’t need instructions,” the game flopped. Which, considering it was less about the show and bizarrely more about defeating mummies and dinosaurs, came as no real surprise to anyone.
And Home Improvements isn’t the only vintage sitcom to have harbored secrets. Travel back three decades, and it was sheriff Andy Taylor who was entertaining Americans. The innocent and warm tone of the The Andy Griffith Show made it a popular ’60s sitcom. But behind the scenes, the The Andy Griffith Show set wasn’t quite as sleepy as its Mayberry setting. Here are 20 facts about the show that you may be surprised to know.
20. Andy Griffith had a ferocious temper
Despite his calm on-screen demeanor, Andy Griffith suffered from a short fuse in real life. At least, during one tantrum, he punched a hole in one of his own house’s walls – something that resulted in extensive bandaging to the offending hand. His injury was explained on screen as the product of a scuffle with the Gordon boys.
19. Griffith also knew how to push his co-star’s buttons…
Like their on-screen counterparts, Griffith and Don Knotts – a.k.a. bumbling deputy Barney Fife – had a firm friendship off set. However, Griffith still loved to tease his co-star. In particular, the actor would repeatedly call Knotts “Jess” – a version of his real first name, Jesse, and a moniker the latter thoroughly loathed.
18. …but he often got a taste of his own medicine
It wasn’t just Knotts who fell foul of Griffith’s antics, though. Indeed, the actor loved to pull pranks on everybody in the show’s cast and crew. As a result of his behavior, however, Griffith himself quickly became the target of on-set hijinks. Once he even had his shoes stolen by his vengeful co-stars, forcing him to walk home in a loaned pair from the wardrobe department.
17. Aunt Bee was hard to please
Though most cast members had easy working relationships, Frances Bavier was a different case entirely. In fact, in contrast to her character Aunt Bee’s easy-going personality, Bavier was impersonal and refused to fraternize with co-stars. She also had a strong aversion to coarse language, which once caused her to hit foul-mouthed Mayberry R.F.D. co-star George Lindsey with an umbrella.
16. Frances Bavier later apologized for her behavior…
By all means, Bavier was a difficult actress to work with, but that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t blind to her own steely nature. Indeed, Griffith – who received the brunt of Bavier’s hostile attitude – once recounted to Larry King that she had called him prior to her 1989 death to apologize for her difficult behavior.
15. …but few paid their final respects to her
And, after her death, few involved with the show paid their respects, while all her co-stars even declined to attend her funeral. Despite her attempts to make amends later in life, then, it seems that Bavier still couldn’t mend the bridges she’d burnt with most of her cast mates.
14. Ron Howard didn’t throw the rock in the opening scene
In perhaps the most memorable opening scene of all time, The Andy Griffith Show famously began with Ron Howard’s Opie throwing a stone into a lake. Nevertheless, the unforgettable shot could only be achieved via some studio trickery. That’s because the then six-year-old Howard couldn’t throw the rock far enough, so a props master pitched a similar volley off screen.
13. Floyd had problems standing
During the show’s third year, Howard McNear – who played town barber Floyd Lawson – suffered a shocking, debilitating stroke. Unable to speak or stand properly, McNear faced an uncertain future. Nonetheless, producers created a bespoke stool that gave the actor the appearance of standing and allowed him to continue in his role until 1967.
12. Don Knotts received bullets in the mail
One of the series’ lasting jokes involved Barney Fife’s inability to safely wield a gun. Instead of carrying a fully loaded weapon, in fact, the deputy had to make do with only a single bullet. Consequently, Knotts’ fans would show their appreciation in one alarming way – namely, by sending the actor bullets in the mail.
11. The show inspired one of Nirvana’s darkest songs
While the show has received countless tributes over the years, none are as macabre as Nirvana’s bewildering track “Floyd the Barber.” Released on the band’s 1989 debut, Bleach, the grunge song sees Kurt Cobain imagining a visit to Floyd’s establishment before being molested and murdered by Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee. Now that’s an episode we don’t want to see.
10. Elinor Donahue asked to be released from her contract because of Andy Griffith
When pharmacist Ellie Walker was introduced in the first season, she was intended as a romantic interest for Andy Taylor. However, actress Elinor Donahue asked to be released from her contract after just one year because of her and Griffith’s lack of chemistry. Later, Griffith additionally admitted that he struggled to show any affection for Donahue on screen.
9. Griffith got a little too close to one of his co-stars
Though Griffith had difficulty showing Donahue affection, the actor had less trouble with his last love interest, Aneta Corsaut. According to some, Griffith – then married to Barbara Edwards – had a passionate affair with the Helen Crump actress. In fact, one unfortunate crew member apparently caught the two in the act after delivering food to Griffith’s hotel room.
8. Andy’s deceased wife is hardly ever mentioned
Many women may have walked through Andy Taylor’s life, but one important person was hardly mentioned on screen. Specifically, the sheriff’s deceased wife – and Opie’s mother – was barely discussed throughout the series. Indeed, important facts like her name and how she died were never even brought up.
7. Floyd rarely replaced his calendars
Like most series of its era, The Andy Griffith Show suffered from noticeable continuity errors. One notable example can be found in Floyd’s barbershop, which features a calendar permanently turned to February. And while it’s possible that Mayberry was stuck in Groundhog Day, we’ll wager instead that someone forgot to dress the set properly.
6. The show employed victims of the Hollywood Blacklist
During The Andy Griffith Show’s initial run, America was in the midst of the Red Scare that restricted supposed Communist sympathizers’ ability to work on home soil. In defiance of the status quo, though, the series hired director Coby Ruskin, a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist. This was his first work in the U.S. after a temporary exile to the U.K.
5. Don Knotts left because Andy Griffith told him the show would only last five years…
Upon joining the series in 1960, Don Knotts was told by Griffith that he only intended on making the show for five years. And although the series’ success caused Griffith to change his mind, Knotts still believed that the show was finished after season five and so began looking for work. Thus, he jumped ship from CBS to Universal in 1965.
4. …but Knotts finally fought for a stake in the show
Prior to beginning a lucrative film career, Knotts made one last offer to stay on the show. Specifically, in the middle of season five, Knotts told Griffith that he would stick around in exchange for shares in the program. But Griffith – who owned 50 percent of the series’ rights – refused the offer, and Barney left Mayberry empty-handed.
3. Griffith once sued a man who shared the same name
Following its end in 1968, The Andy Griffith Show became a beloved part of pop culture. In fact, a 2006 candidate for a Wisconsin Sheriff’s office even changed his name to Andy Griffith to capitalize on the show’s reputation. His plans ultimately fell apart, however, when the real Griffith sued over a violation of trademark and invasion of privacy.
2. Griffith and Knotts were firm friends until the bitter end
Despite quarreling over the ownership of shares, Griffith and Knotts remained good friends throughout their lives. And before Knotts passed away from cancer in 2006, his co-star was there to ease him through his final moments. However, even as he lay dying, Griffith still cheekily referred to his friend as Jess!
1. Griffith’s family spared no time in planning his funeral
Six years after Knotts’ death, Griffith himself would depart this mortal coil after suffering a heart attack in 2012. In a peculiar twist, though, he was buried within five hours of being pronounced dead. That’s because, owing to his notability in Hollywood, his quick burial helped avoid unwanted paparazzi intrusion on his mourning family.