The Reason Wilson From Home Improvement Never Showed His Face

For eight seasons between 1991 and 1999, Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor (Tim Allen) could count on his next-door neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman) to offer him sage and amazingly specific advice on the hit ABC sitcom "Home Improvement." Wilson was a fascinating character; over the course of the series' run, it was revealed that he'd been married, but lost his wife; he was apparently highly educated, well-read, had traveled extensively, and he may or may not have been the cousin of Dennis and Brian Wilson of the iconic pop band the Beach Boys.

If we're being literal, said audience never saw anything but the top half of Wilson's head, obscured as his face always was behind the privacy fence separating his yard from the Taylors'. The running gag evolved in "Home Improvement's" later years, with Wilson venturing outside the confines of his backyard from time to time, only for the bottom part of his face to still be hidden from the audience through some convoluted means. While the joke was inspired, fans have long wondered why this choice was made.

The answer is surprisingly simple: as a child, Tim Allen would hold regular conversations with his neighbor next door. Of course, they were separated by just such a fence. Since Allen was only a wee tyke at the time, all he could ever see was the top of his neighbor's head. The guy must have made a pretty strong impression on the young Allen because he proved to be the inspiration that would one day hand an amazing character actor his signature role. As for Hindman, his full visage can be witnessed in a number of great performances throughout his career.

But Home Improvement fans had some wild theories why...

Well, just because "Home Improvement" went off the air right around the time the internet was beginning to pick up steam doesn't mean there haven't been myriad fan theories concerning the matter. Why does Wilson hide his face? One theory suggests that Wilson is remiss to show his face to anyone because he is in the witness protection program.

Sure, it might seem on the nose, but there's a surprising amount of evidence to support this theory. Wilson was born in Chicago, which was a hotbed of criminal activity in the '80s and '90s. Wilson's wife, Catherine, died under mysterious circumstances. His next-door neighbor is a local celebrity to whom Wilson pointedly never shows his face when speaking to him — just in case, the theory presumes, there may be stray paparazzi around. Not convinced? Well, consider that Wilson's full name is "Wilson W. Wilson." This is a fake name if we've ever heard one — unless Wilson's parents were huge fans of the 28th U.S. President?

Another theory also documented on's website suggests that we never see Wilson's face because he is the biological father of one of Tim's children, and Wilson doesn't want the kids to notice that they kind of look like him. Honestly, we don't give this one much credence: We just thought it deserved a mention because it's uncomfortable and messed up — none of which are descriptors that leap to mind when thinking of "Home Improvement."

Earl Hindman was once a soap opera star

Before his passing in 2003, Earl Hindman was featured prominently in a number of films and TV shows throughout the '70s and '80s. He is likely best known to viewers from that era as Lieutenant Bob Reid on the ABC soap opera "Ryan's Hope." In the series, which follows the titular Ryan family as they try to make a life for themselves in New York's culturally vibrant and diverse Washington Heights neighborhood, Hindman appears in over 500 episodes across thirteen seasons.

On film, Hindman's exploits were even more thrilling. In "Silverado," an American Western film written and directed by "Star Wars" legend Lawrence Kasdan ("The Empire Strikes Back"), Hindman played J.T. opposite Patricia Gaul ("Road Trip") as Kate. Ten years earlier in "The Parallax View," he played the antagonistic Deputy Red to Warren Beatty's Joseph Frady. Arguably his greatest turn can be seen in the critically acclaimed 1974 crime-thriller "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," in which Hindman stars as the dastardly and enigmatic train hijacker Mr. Brown. If the film were remade today, Mr. Brown would have all the trappings of a classic Tarantino-esque antihero.

Sadly, "Home Improvement" was one of the final projects Hindman had the chance to work on before his death. He left an indelible mark on the series' many fans. Of course, star Tim Allen, paid touching tribute to him after his passing.

Last Man Standing delivered a creative and heartfelt tribute to Wilson

In 2011, Tim Allen began starring in a new television project with a similar vibe to "Home Improvement." Titled "Last Man Standing," the series follows a marketing director for a large outdoor and sporting goods chain as he navigates life as the "last man" among his wife and three daughters. The series ran for nine-seasons, surviving the COVID-19 pandemic and a network transition from ABC to Fox — and in its final outing, Allen bent the boundaries of his universe to pay tribute to Earl Hindman's Wilson.

In "Last Man Standing" Season 9, Episode 2, "Dual Time," Allen does double duty (for the first time since "The Santa Clause 2") in order to finally deliver on the "Home Improvement" and "Last Man Standing" crossover fans wanted. As Tim Taylor opens up to Mike Baxter (Allen's "Last Man" character), a serendipitous facial-cover-divider reminds the former of his friend and neighbor Wilson — whom Tim confirms passed away in the years since "Home Improvement's" end. It's a heartbreaking acknowledgement, rendered all the more impactful by what Tim says to Mike on his way out: "I miss Wilson... I miss a lot of stuff."

This surprisingly somber moment will surely have any "Home Improvement" fan aching to revisit the show — here's how you can watch all eight seasons of Tim and Wilson's wise conversations.