Home Improvement

After Rocko, Home Improvement was my favorite show. It was the show I listed in my 4th grade portfolio under "favorite show," so I guess that makes it official. Every few weeks I tuned in to ABC to see what crazy shenanigans Tim could put his house through again and again, and I don't know if it was all the unbridled guy-isms on display, but something about it just "spoke to me." From that intercom, to the exploding dishwasher, to the always-disastrous rooftop Christmas light displays, something had to break to keep that unbridled machismo in check.

Even the opening used to get me with the grunts, the fake video game with the kids getting chased by power tools (seemed like a pretty cool game!), and the fact that the house logo always turned into some flying contraption. I remember thinking about how cool it would be if they actually did make the house sprout propellers and take off! Speaking of which, what was with all those surreal logo guys running around between scenes? I kept waiting for one of the people to just look down and go "what the heck is that thing?" or even just acknowledge that a little Home Improvement logo guy just jumped off the counter, or swung on a light fixture, or painted the screen blue... but I don't know, I guess they were all blind to it.

In any case, Home Improvement taught me that being a man is all about blowing stuff up, trying to hide it, and saying something funny when people get mad about it. I blame Tim for all the bone-headed stuff I've tried to get away with or just barely escaped from in one piece over the years, like this cautionary tale. Unlike me though, his poor choices were always rectified by going out to the fence to seek the wisdom of their wacky neighbor without a lower face, stomping back only to fumble at an explanation, and setting it all right somehow just in time for the end of the episode. To say that this show was "formula" is just too formulaic at this point in the description.

More importantly though, to say that this show had me grunting along in total amusement is just too... absolutely correct, I'm afraid. People still say I grunt, but it's more like a lazy "uh...", which is just Manspeak for "uh-huh." Grunting is a language all its own that only guys really get, you see, because when a grunt is less belch and more nasal, it's a "yes". When it's more belch, it's a "what?". And when it's a deep throated "oh no!"... well, that's self explanatory. Besides that, I also thought the Tool Time "Man's Bedroom"/ "Man's Kitchen"/ and "Man's Bathroom" segments were pretty cool, and quite accurate. What man wouldn't want a bed that becomes a pool table, a dirty-laundry compactor to make room for ever-more dirty laundry waiting for a "10th of Never" wash, or a toilet you could recline on?

There were other characters besides Tim though, like the nagging wife who had this inability to cook like it was a genetic dysfunction and those hot toolgirls on Tool Time who just... handed Tim power tools. There was also that wacky neighbor Wilson Wilson who was smarter than everyone combined but had no lower jaw for all I knew. Then there was Tim's sensible and slightly effeminate sidekick mama's boy Al with his typical 90s flannel shirt, but all he seemed to do was wait for Tim to say something stupid, wait for the audience to pipe down, and then deliver the five words we ALL knew were coming: "I don't think so Tim."

I am not Mark...
oh wait, I am!
There's no question which of the brothers I related to: the dork, the punching bag... the one who is unfortunately also named Mark. Coincidence? Are Marks just doomed to be dorks? At least I wasn't like the oldest one, Brad, who got all the worst lines and then got dumber as the show went on... but Mark was no smartalec like Randy (who got all the best lines and then got whinier as the show went on). Mark only got creepier. JTT (Randy) was HUGE in the mid-90s, and I can't express this enough. Girls loved him. I even once heard a girl in my (4th grade!) class say she wanted to touch his butt! I was never able to figure out exactly why, but I had other reasons to want to be him. I remember in one episode Randy went to a monster truck show and, according to Tim, "let out a burp so big one of the drivers thought he blew a tire!" Now that I had no trouble getting behind.

Like I said, most of the show was either built around corny jokes-- the only ones I was capable of getting... ("what rhymes with matrimony? schmatrimony!")--  or blowing things up like a 21-nail-gun salute gone wrong, or a whole house-- or dropping a beam on a car, or driving a riding mower at highway speeds (cutting many lawns in the process), or dancing a washing machine across the garage, or launching a BBQ grill into orbit (all thanks to Tim's "improvements"). The other part of the show was built around pure Stooges-style slapstick, usually involving Tim gluing something to his forehead. And while there was always some kind of life lesson tacked on somewhere, some moral, and even a couple "Very Special Episodes," those parts were the "talky bits" as far as the 8yo me was concerned, and this little man's mind was eagerly awaiting the next random explosion or mechanical malfunction.

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