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1950's Saturday Morning ShowsHome Improvement: The Complete Eighth Season

A fine farewell to a great series from the 90’s!
by L. B. Bryant

The Story
Originally airing in 1998-1999, the final 28 episodes of ‘Home Improvement’ follow the Taylor family through a whirlwind of change that starts with a laugh and ends much the same way. In “Adios”, Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) leaves the family to work and study in Costa Rica for a year. In the annual Halloween episode, “Bewitched”, its Wilson’s (Earl Hindman) turn to try to out prank Tim (Tim Allen) with a murder mystery. In “Home Alone” Allen performs most of this episode solo as Tim is spending the weekend alone but he owes Binford the first three chapters of a book. This episode is filled with cameos including Jay Leno, Oprah and Leeza Gibbons all playing themselves.

Brad’s soccer scholarship is put at risk when he takes a fall in “Knee Deep” (which features a cameo from Penn and Teller) and sticking with health, this season also contains the two part episode ‘Love’s Labors Lost’ in which Jill has to go in for a hysterectomy. The build up towards the big finale begins in ‘Trouble A-Bruin’ when management decides to make some changes with the show including a new rule forbidding the use of any tool that isn’t a Binford. This takes away Tim’s car shows for good and then uniforms on set. Meanwhile, Brad has a soccer scout who wants to watch him play but his knee isn’t fully recovered forcing him to risk his health for his future.

The series also manages to have some fun with the episode ‘Mark’s Big Break’. Mark (Taran Noah Smith) is given a job working on a big project to highlight the completion of Tim’s latest hot rod. While things are rough at first, the final product is a great ‘Greased Lightning’ routine that fans have talked about for years afterwards.

Finally the series wraps up with a three part finale. In “The Long and Winding Road”, Jill is offered a chance to get her psychologist career off to a great start but it would involve a move to Indiana right at the same time as Tim quits Tool Time after management turns the show into trash TV. While meanwhile, Al is getting married to his fiancée Trudy. Though keeping with style, the series wraps up with final moments that include the big move in the style that only Home Improvement could’ve delivered.

As a final treat for fans though, there is a special extra episode that was originally aired with the finale. The special is a backstage pass into some of the outtakes from the series and footage from the final curtain call for the cast along with the big reveal of Wilson’s entire face.

Good and the Bad

Lasting through eight seasons, it was common knowledge that ABC was quite anxious to get a ninth season of this series before ultimately it was decided that this was to be the final season. In 28 episodes, this series manages to do many things that other series rarely ventured. In ‘Home Alone’, audiences have to be impressed with Allen’s ability to carry almost an entire episode by himself. While the comedy was never particularly strong, the strong use of voiceovers to provide the humor while Allen does his best to follow with physical comedy creates a strong mix.

Also very strong in this season was Patricia Richardson who had to go to some very emotional places for her performance in ‘Love’s Labors Lost’. The performance here was very strong and the writers did a great job of going to a serious place without losing the humor along the way.

The series certainly hits bumps along the way. The side story with Tim’s brother Marty continues to drag the series in places as the conflict continues to feel very manufactured. This was an issue that marred the latter episodes of the series as there was never any real resolution to his story.

The season opener was also a very weak episode as Jill takes Tim white water rafting for his birthday. The series has done much better in previous seasons.

The packaging for this set I found to be awkward. Packaged on four discs in one standard case, the four are layered on each other. On one side you have disc one which is placed on the lower half of the left side with disc two placed on the upper half of the case. On the right side of the case, it is the same case for discs three and four which causes a slight issue as if you want to remove disc two or four, you have to remove another disc first.

While this may seem like a small complaint to lodge, just having to go through the process once of removing one disc, removing the one that I wanted to play, replacing the first disc and then repeating the process when I wanted to put the second disc away again felt like a little extra work and effort. An additional problem that this presented was that the stacking of the discs completely obscured the producer’s liner notes written on the inside of the cover. In order to read them you have to remove the cover from the case entirely or remove the DVDs and try to read through the case. Separate pages within the case for each disc or even just splitting the set into two cases would’ve been a much more effective way to deal with this.

The menu screens on the discs are as expected with a blueprint theme with various parts of the theme song (it varies per menu) playing in a perpetual loop in the background. I found that my menu screens sometimes loaded a little slowly but for the most part didn’t find anything particularly ill designed about them.

Extras

On disc four, audience members will find two extras included with the set. The first is a blooper reel lasting for six minutes. I found these to be a real treat as I actually expected them to just pull a few favorites from the ones that we’d already seen during the closing credits of the episodes. Instead we get to see brand new bloopers including some great ones of Tim digging into his cast mates after they flub a line. It was a little disappointing that we didn’t see many of Allen messing up and getting dug into by his cast mates but still a great collection.

The second extra is the special ‘Tim Allen Presents: Home Improvement, The User’s Guide’. The User’s Guild, for those unaware, was a special reunion special which aired in 2003. This 42 minute special was taped live (which is still the stupidest phrase in existence) at the Wadsworth Theater, located in Los Angeles. Hosted by Tim Allen and Richard Karn, the two relive old memories through clips while Allen delivers some of his stand up. It’s mostly a clip show which is disappointing if you were hoping to see more of the cast coming on to say hi but if you were a fan of this show, you’re going to be a fan of this.

Overall

I remember being an avid fan of this program when it first aired and seeing the final season replayed for me was a great way to spend my weekend. The episodes are still strong now and it remains a strong choice to sit down and enjoy with friends and family.

Final Grade: B+

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Review by L. B. Bryant

1950's Saturday Morning ShowsHome Improvement: The Complete Eighth Season

Product Description:
After eight unforgettable years of sidesplitting laughs heartwarming family moments and the never-ending quest for "More Power" one of the most popular shows in the history of television bids a final farewell. Relive some of the Taylors' most memorable episodes in HOME IMPROVEMENT's remarkable eighth season. Randy and Brad set off on their own paths Tim quits his job at "Tool Time" and the family makes the ultimate decision to move from their beloved home. Experience all 28 episodes of this Golden Globe(R) and Emmy(R) award-winning sitcom in this spectacular 4-disc DVD set.

The show's final season ratchets up the star power with a host of sensational guest stars including Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Fairchild and Mario Andretti.

On top of that don't miss the exclusive DVD bonus features -- all-new bloopers and the hilarious live reunion special TIM ALLEN'S USER'S GUIDE TO HOME IMPROVEMENT. It's the perfect way to say goodbye to an all-time TV classic.System Requirements:

Running Time: 621 minutes

Format: DVD MOVIE

Genre: TELEVISION/SERIES & SEQUELS

Rating: TV-PG

Actors: Tim Allen
Format: Box set, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 4
Studio: TOUCHSTONE / DISNEY
DVD Release Date: June 10, 2008
Run Time: 621 minutes

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