Peruse any list of top television shows of the early 1990s and you are almost certain to see Home Improvement somewhere around the top of the list. Largely unexpectedly, the show that came on the air in 1991 went on to garner exploding viewership and rapidly became a family favourite. It ran for eight seasons, comprising of a total of 204 30-minute episodes. The show came to an end in 1999.
Originally created with the title Hammer Time, the show was one of the most watched situational comedies in the United States and clinched over 40 awards and more than 60 nominations. Stars like Pamela Anderson and comedian Tim Allen also owe the success of their careers largely to the sitcom. For the former, it was her debut television appearance and for the latter, it marked the launch of his acting career.
The show tells the story of Tim Taylor, his wife Jill, and their three mischevious boys as they wade through life’s trials and tribulations. Tim, who is the lead character, is also a hardware enthusiast and television show host. They are also joined by two other members of the main cast: their weird neighbour and Tim’s loyal television co-host.
So, what has happened to the ensemble cast of the show since it bowed out? Where are they now? Let’s find out.
Home Improvement Cast Members: Where Are They Now?
Tim Allen – Timothy Taylor
The backstory here kind of makes it sound like Allen made his own opportunity and took it. Before his time on Home Improvement, Allen did not have an acting career. He was trying to make a living as a stand-up comedian. One of his frequent characters on his comedy sets was what led to him being cast on the television show.
Allen’s character, Timothy Taylor, is the main character on the show. Taylor lives with his wife and three kids in Detroit, Michigan. On the show, he is painted as the traditional American male who is fond of hardware and power tools. He is also a huge fan of the sports teams in Detroit. Taylor also hosts a television show titled “Tool Time” where he proves to be a disastrous handyman prone to accidents while handling his tools.
During and since the curtain came down on the show, Tim Allen has gone on to have a decent acting career. He has been in movies like For Richer or Poorer (1997); Christmas with the Kranks (2004); Crazy on the Outside (2010). He was also Santa Claus in The Santa Clause series of comedy films and voiced Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story franchise. In 2011, he started playing the role of Mike Baxter in the sitcom Last Man Standing.
Patricia Richardson – Jillian Taylor
Patricia plays Jillian Taylor, the wife of Tim Allen’s character. She was initially reluctant to accept the role because she was concerned that her character was going to be another television pinup mom, kind of like The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable. She only reconsidered after she was satisfied with the amount of imperfection the role would require her to exhibit. This is seen in her twin personality on the show where Jill Taylor is the voice of reason in the household and understanding to a fault, while also being meddling, and showing instances of poor judgment amongst other things.
Before the show, the actress was on other projects like You Better Watch Out (1980); The Cosby Show (1987); Quantum Leap (1989); and Lost Angels (1989). Since Home Improvement ended, she has been on films like Blonde (2001); California Dreaming (2007); The Jensen Project (2010); and County Line (2017). Her television appearances include Strong Medicine (2002 – 2005); and The West Wing (2005 – 2006). She also joined her on-screen husband Tim Allen on the set of Last Man Standing for two episodes.
Zachery Ty Bryan – Bradley Michael “Brad” Taylor
Bradley Taylor is the first born child of the Taylor household. He has the most in common with his father. Brad does not excel at school work, but he makes up for this with his athletic build and participation in sports, especially soccer. He also applies his physical attributes in other ways like bullying his brothers, especially Mark. His father Tim Taylor can relate to him better than the others because of their shared interests. However, he is also the only member of the family to have had run-ins with the law for various reasons – from crashing a greenhouse to peddling marijuana.
Zachery Ty Bryan did not have an acting career before Home Improvement. He had already appeared in a few television and print commercials before he was scouted by a talent agent in New York. This led to him joining the cast of the show. While on the show, Zachery made appearances on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1995); Big Foot: The Unforgettable Encounter (1995); and First Kid (1996).
Since the end of the show, he has slowly transitioned from acting to producing. However, he has made appearances on Promised Land (1997); Buffy The Vampire Slayer (2001); Smallville (2003); Veronica Mars (2005); and Syfy’s THOR: Hammer of the Gods (2009). His production credits include Trunk (2008); Prowl (2010); Rogue River (2012); and The Grief Tourist (2012).
Jonathan Taylor Thomas – Randall Williams “Randy” Taylor
Randy, like his older brother Brad, has a mischievous streak too, but he employs it in a more cerebral manner. Unlike Brad, Randall excelled in his academics. At the beginning of the series, he had a lot of things in common with Brad and Tim. But as the series unfolded, he continued to evolve and started caring about things like the environment, the threat of organized religion, human rights, and animal rights. In the eighth season, Randall would leave for Costa Rica with his longtime girlfriend Lauren.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas‘ first appearance on television was in 1990 as Kevin Brady on The Bradys. The 1990s show was a spin-off of the popular 1970s shows The Brady Bunch. Besides his involvement with Home Improvement, he was also involved in possibly the most successful animated movie of the 90s, The Lion King (1994). The then 13-year-old voiced the character Simba. Jonathan joins the list of Home Improvement cast members who have appeared together on other shows. They include Smallville (2002, 2004) and Veronica Mars (2005). He also reprised the role of Randy on a total of 7 episodes of The Last Man Standing from 2013 to 2016, joining his onscreen parents Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson on the show.
Taran Noah Smith – Marcus Jason “Mark” Taylor
Taran Noah Smith plays Mark Taylor, the youngest of the Taylor children. Mark is nothing like his parents. He is sensitive, has a wanting sense of humor and displays a serious lack of mischievous talent. That last one, coupled with the fact that he is the youngest and smallest of his siblings often made him the target for Randy’s and Brad’s mischief. Mark is closer to his mother than the rest and has little to nothing in common with his father or brothers. He passes through a social withdrawal phase on his way through adolescence.
As the series unfolds, Mark’s talents eventually shine through. He falls in love with music, filmmaking, martial arts, and even trains as a culinary expert. Mark who eventually grows taller than Brad and Randy developed a close relationship with Brad after Randy leaves for Costa Rica in the final season.
Taran says of his time on the show that the greatest lesson he learned while shooting the series was that he did not want a life as an actor. Years later, he appears to have held fast to this lesson. His final involvement in a movie or television film came in 1999 when he voiced Rat Boy in the animated movie Batman Beyond. He had appeared on Ebbie four years prior.
Taran got married to a woman 16 years older than him in 2001. He was just 17 years old at the time. They stayed married until their divorce in 2007.
Richard Karn – Albert “Al” Borland
Perhaps the reason why Al Borland made so much sense alongside Tim Taylor on the show is that both characters are nothing alike. Al is anti-social and does not show much enthusiasm about anything. The only thing he knows more about than anyone on the show including Tim is how to use handyman tools. On the show, he is the very plain sidekick to Tim on his Tool Time show. It is also revealed that Tim earns significantly more for their handyman show.
Al is almost always seen wearing flannel on Home Improvement as a tribute to his father who gave birth to him when he was almost 60 years old. He would eventually begin to make his own money after he invented a board game based off of the Tool Time show, using Tim, their show anchor Heidi, and himself as playable characters.
Karn who had previously appeared on a Super Bowl XIV commercial learned about Home Improvement while doing penance for a traffic violation in Los Angeles. He successfully prised the role of Al Borland from Stephen Tobolowsky who had already been given the spot but was busy on another movie set. He started out as a guest appearance but was moved up to a regular after the series was picked up by ABC.
During the show and since then, Richard Karn has also done work as a host for game shows like Family Feud (2002 – 2006) and Bingo America (2008).
Earl Hindman – Wilson W. Wilson
Earl plays Wilson who is a neighbour to the Taylors on the show. He is a wise and well-travelled man. On the show, his wisdom is used to its capacity as he is always seen giving advice to Tim, Jill or the boys. Wilson is generally a good person who loves to look out for his neighbours. His “neighbourly” attitude stems from the fact that as a child, his parents never let him communicate with, much less visit their neighbours. Wilson is well read and has a doctorate in Cultural Studies. Throughout the series, Wilson’s face is never fully seen. It was always obscured by anything and everything from a fence to a full beard or a mask or paint. He finally shows his face in the final episode of the season finale.
Earl Hindman was already a television and film regular before he joined the Home Improvement cast. Starting his career in the 1960s, Earl was on Who Killed Mary What’s ‘Er Name? (1971); The Parallax View (1974); The Brink’s Job (1978); and Silverado (1985). His longest ever television film was Ryan’s Hope. He was joined by his wife Molly McGreevey on the set of the show. It lasted for 13 years, premiering on ABC in 1975 and ending in 1989. He portrayed the character Bob Reid on the show for 459 episodes.
Painfully, Home Improvement was his penultimate project as an actor before he passed away. He died in December 2003 after being diagnosed with lung cancer earlier in the year due to his long-standing obsessive smoking.
Debra “Debbe” Dunning – Heidi Keppert
Keppert is initially only seen around the “Tool Time” segment of the series. She is the announcer of the show and helps Tim and Al with their tools. She is also a capable hand as an electrician. Keppert was initially only seen during Tim and Al’s show, however, as her personal life intersected with Tim’s and Al’s, she became a series regular in the third season. By the seventh season, she was moved up to ensemble cast status. On the show, Heidi gave birth to Amy, her first daughter while also having problems with her marriage throughout the show.
Debbe Dunning wears many hats: actress, model, comedian, spokesperson, host, and executive producer. Her credits before her time on Home Improvement include Dangerous Curves (1988) and Married… with Children (1990, 1991). Tales from the Crypt (1994); Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997); The Spiral Staircase (2000); Now You Know (2002); and Wicked Wicked Games (2006) are also part of her works.