On the surface, ABC’s hit '90s sitcom Home Improvement is wholesome family entertainment. The show follows the tool-obsessed Tim Taylor (Tim Allen), who instructs the viewers of his TV show, Tool Time, how to fix things around their houses - even though he continuously destroys his own home with a series of overpowered gadgets while his wife and sons look on. Peer a little deeper, though, and the disturbing hidden meanings of the show become clear.
The Home Improvement cast wouldn't admit this, but it's obvious throughout the show that Tim Taylor has lost his damn mind. If you spent the '90s watching Tim Taylor try to keep his family from falling apart, then you no doubt realize that Home Improvement is an existential hellscape. Home Improvement isn’t the only piece of popular entertainment with a potential dark side, but it is one of the few that seems to wear its contempt for its characters on its sleeve.
The horrifying things about Home Improvement not only stem from Tim’s apparent hatred for his family and paranoia about his wife’s desire to find a life outside the home, but also from the possibility that the events of the plot were all imagined as part of Tim's mental collapse. Out of all the sitcoms stricken with ennui, Home Improvement may be the most existentially frayed, and its self-destructive nature is well worth exploring.
All of the signs of Al's homelessness were obvious from the onset: he always wore the same shirt, grew out his beard for warmth, and jumped at the chance to enter a relationship with someone, no matter how demeaning she was towards him, all so he could sleep in a warm bed before returning to the warm lights of the television studio.
If only Tim and Jill had paid attention to their friend's plight.
Tim and Jill seem to dislike each other, and it's possible that disdain curdled into full-blown hatred at some point. Tim's frustrations boil over in every episode; one time, he even destroys a piece of their furniture to work out his personal demons - a textbook sign of something worse happening in the home.
And the series doesn't shy away from showing Tim and Jill arguing over his lack of desire to go to the opera or complete their will.
Tim Taylor always seems destined for a gruesome death caused by one of his crazy contraptions. His character is presented as being accident prone, but people aren't made the host of long-running, popular home improvement programs if they're that clumsy. It seems clear that Tim has some sort of death wish.
What better way for the tool man to pass beyond this mortal coil than being destroyed by one of his own machines?
Even if you've only seen a handful of episodes of Home Improvement, you're aware of the disgust that Tim Taylor feels towards his family. All he wants to do is work on his hot rod and be applauded on his show. But day in and day out, he's forced to pretend to care about the issues his family faces.
Jill, his wife, constantly asserts her independence: first, she leaves the house to continue her education, then she begins to work for a magazine, which puts her in direct competition with Tim's identity as the media personality in the home. And out of his three children, none of them have ever shown interest in their father's world. Even Brad, the sporty son, fails to show any enthusiasm for tools.
Maybe their lack of interest in fawning over Tim drives him to his attempts to control every appliance and machine around him.