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Questionable Things We Ignore In Home Improvement

"Home Improvement" is one of the mainstay examples of a successful 1990s sitcom. Throughout its eight-season run, the ABC series garnered significant acclaim from viewers and critics alike, earning several Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, and People's Choice awards and nominations. Today, the series remains a beloved relic of 1990s television, with scores of fans having grown up watching the various trials and tribulations of the Taylor family in the Michigan suburbs.

"Home Improvement" may be fondly regarded today, with many nostalgic fans crediting it with kickstarting Tim Allen and Pamela Anderson's careers — not to mention paving the way for the rise of teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas (affectionately known as "JTT"). However, the series also contained plenty of elements that have aged poorly since the show's original run. Most of these things may appear innocent or played for jokes upon first glance, but with closer examination, they reveal some dark truths fans often ignore in regards to the series. Here's a look back at the questionable things we ignore in "Home Improvement."

Tim bullies Al relentlessly

At the heart of "Home Improvement" is Tim Taylor's home improvement show "Tool Time," hosted by Tim and his long-suffering assistant, Al Borland. Though Al appears as a congenial and friendly sidekick to Tim throughout the series, it's made very clear that Tim doesn't feel the same way. Over the course of the series, Tim routinely mocks Al for virtually every aspect of his character or personality, no matter how small. Frequent targets of mockery are Al's weight, the flannel shirts he always wears, his beard, and any number of what Tim believes are Al's "sissy" hobbies, such as cooking or participating in a women's book club. If that isn't bad enough, Tim also makes barbed comments about Al's mother, frequently making fun of her weight to Al's face and in front of "Tool Time" viewers.

Tim's poor treatment of Al is one of the main recurring gags on the show. Whenever Al tries offering advice or input, Tim always snaps, "Shut up, Al!" All-around good sport that he is, Al never voices a word of complaint about Tim's constant abuse. However, it remains a huge mystery as to why Al chooses to grin and bear such unforgiving slander. Does Al believe Tim is making friendly banter or is simply trying to be funny? That question may have no answer, but it's easy to see that Tim's comments about Al are closer to full-on bullying than lighthearted jokes between close friends.

Tim and Jill are a terrible couple

Like most couples, Tim and Jill are prone to bouts of bickering and arguing, mostly played for comedic effect. However, Tim and Jill seem to argue far more regularly than many other sitcom couples, and often display very little emotional connection or support for one another. More often than not, this trait can be more directly applied to Tim, who makes little to any effort to hide how seemingly little he cares about his wife's feelings or their marriage in general. He appears unsure of how many years they've been together, and is prone to simply walking away or ignoring his wife whenever Jill begins telling him heartfelt stories about her childhood. However, Jill is not without her fair share of blame. In one particularly problematic episode, "Unchained Malady," she even punches Tim in the face in front of the children, giving him a large black eye.

In terms of personalities, Tim and Jill couldn't be more different, as Tim shares none of his wife's hobbies or interests. Whether it's going to the opera or simply having an emotional conversation, Tim shows little inclination to spend time with his wife or open up to her. On the few occasions Tim decides to try to do something nice for Jill, such as making her breakfast or arranging a dinner date, his sons ask him if it's because he did something wrong or upset Jill in some way. This is problematic in and of itself, as it sets a very harmful example for what the Taylor children envision as a "normal," healthy relationship.

Jill basically pretends to be a psychiatrist

Jill's attempts to secure a PhD in her chosen field of psychology is one of her long-running narrative arcs. Jill's end goal is to eventually become a psychiatrist, though she begins practicing her chosen career without an official license.

Jill may have good intentions when she tries using her psychology background to help others, but this usually causes far more issues than resolving any. Perhaps the biggest example of this comes when Jill nearly ruins Al's mother's funeral as she tries to comfort grieving family members and friends, only to make everyone feel worse. At one point, Wilson even asks Al's brother if he has anything to say about his mother, to which he replies, "I did ... until I talked to Jill." Through pursuing her dream of becoming a psychiatrist, Jill pretends she already is one, irresponsibly practicing her craft without the proper qualifications.

Tim constantly tries to prove that he's the best at everything

Most of the negative aspects of Tim's personality stem from his continuous need to prove he's the best at absolutely everything he sets out to do. His extremely vain nature and his belief that he's an experienced craftsman are illustrated throughout "Home Improvement," as is his desire to prove himself a "man's man," sometimes to dangerous lengths. On "Tool Time," he's known for calling for "more power" whenever he works with some appliance, usually triggering some kind of accident or mishap in the process.

Tim's desire to prove himself skilled in every activity is also evident through his competitive nature. He's known for trying to beat his neighborhood rival, Doc Johnson, in the annual Christmas decoration contest, only to lose every year. Additionally, Tim's harebrained inventions (such as attaching jet engines to lawnmowers or building a gas-powered wheelchair) often cause damage to property or other people. In spite of how often his inventions fail, though, Tim is undeterred in his attempts to build dangerous contraptions to affirm his self-professed engineering prowess.

Tim is insanely jealous about sharing the spotlight

Tim's obsession with proving himself the best at every activity is likely rooted in his own personal insecurities and raging ego. A recurring joke on "Home Improvement" is the fact that Al is actually a better craftsman than Tim, and is often mistaken by fans of "Tool Time" as the actual host of the show. Whenever Tim hears these fans refer to Al as the host, he grows visibly annoyed and curtly reminds everyone that Al is his assistant, rather than the other way around.

Tim is also prone to referring to himself as a celebrity, seeing himself as better than the average person. When introducing himself to the Beach Boys as they visit their relative Wilson, Tim comments that he's famous in his own right, comparing his status to that of the band's.

There are numerous examples of Tim growing defensive when his self-perceived "celebrity status" is undermined by someone else, such as when Jill becomes a magazine writer. Reinforcing his tendency to hog the limelight for himself, Tim appears despondent over Jill's new job rather than supportive, feeling threatened by having two media personalities living in the same household.

Tim promotes toxic masculinity

As the patriarch of the Taylor family, Tim prides himself on performing very masculine activities, such as fixing old cars or hosting "Tool Time." While Tim's preference is innocent enough, the attitude he holds toward these hobbies is very problematic. For example, he repeatedly expresses sexist views, including his belief that men are naturally better at home improvement than women. When it comes to hobbies, Tim views non-masculine activities such as art and opera as "girly" and therefore a waste of time. In the show's early seasons, he asserts that Jill's role should be working within the Taylor household, expressing numerous misgivings about her returning to school and studying psychology. 

In front of his sons, Tim constantly offers harmful lessons about "manly" activities, usually pressuring them to conform to gender stereotypes and disparaging when they appear to display "feminine" characteristics. For example, in the episode "Groin Pains," when Randy tells his father he'll be prancing onstage in his school's production of "Peter Pan," Tim sternly tells him that "Men don't prance."

Altogether, it isn't surprising Tim holds such outdated views on gender, given how consistently he refers to himself as a "man's man," even omitting ape-like grunts whenever he hears, does, or says something he considers masculine.

Tim holds his sons to unhealthy standards

Tim is known for holding himself to extremely competitive standards, ceaselessly trying to prove that he's better than everyone else. Unfortunately, he passes this unhealthy characteristic on to his sons, setting the bar unattainably high for each of them.

In order to meet their father's high standards, all three boys push themselves to extreme physical lengths, sometimes with Tim's help. In the episode "Overactive Glance," Tim notices Randy having trouble catching a football. His solution? Have Randy use super glue on his hands so he'll be able to hold on to the ball. Even when Randy points out that glue isn't meant for human skin, Tim dismisses him, saying the label warnings only refer to "pretty little pink girl's skin," not "man skin." Not only does Tim reinforce negative stereotypes regarding gender, he also encourages his sons to be the absolute greatest at everything they do, no matter the physical consequences or how unsafe it might be.

Brad and Randy are terrible older brothers

Mark is the youngest of the Taylor children, shown to be far more gentle and sensitive than his two older brothers. Because of his shy nature and small stature, Mark becomes a frequent target for bullies at school. As depressing as his treatment at the hands of other kids is, though, it's nothing compared to the years of torment dished out by Mark's own brothers.

Mark's relationship with his siblings grows better over time, but the initial seasons of "Home Improvement" show just how cruel Brad and Randy's treatment of Mark could be. Time and time again, they trick Mark into believing lies deliberately made up to hurt his feelings, such as telling Mark he's adopted, Tim and Jill's parents are aliens, or that he was meant to be born a girl. In fact, the years of bullying may even be the primary cause for Mark's personality change in his teenage years.

Mark's dramatic personality change

While Mark is initially portrayed as the sweet-natured and perhaps most easygoing son of the Taylors, his character goes through a sudden and dramatic change in the show's final season. Shedding his once innocent personality, this new Mark appears as a goth teenager, someone who is far more mean-spirited, rebellious, and rude to his parents.

Throughout most of Season 8, Tim and Jill worry about Mark's new attitude and mental state — which may well be due to his poor treatment at the hands of his brothers and his father's unreasonably high standards. At one point, Wilson even theorizes that his new look is a sign of depression and social isolation. Eventually, Mark returns to his friendly self. However, there are several instances in the series when it looks as though he might turn self-destructive, with Tim and Jill worrying he'll use drugs as Brad had earlier. In one particularly dark episode in Season 7, Tim and Jill discover a homemade film by Mark that features the main character murdering his parents, leading them to believe that Mark is secretly planning to kill them.

Tool Time itself should be canceled

"Tool Time" is a show beloved by many within the universe of "Home Improvement." However, from a practical standpoint, it's a series that almost certainly would've been quickly canceled. For starters, Tim is an incredibly unsafe host, known for causing a wide variety of accidents on the show. At one point, Jill even mentions that Tim has "higher insurance rates than the Knievel family." If that isn't enough, the advice Tim irresponsibly offers has been known to cause some viewers to injure themselves at home. Miraculously, no one on the show is ever seriously hurt, but given Tim's dangerous work ethic, it's very unlikely any real-life producers would continue to allow such a dangerous host on television.

 In the earlier seasons of "Home Improvement," Tim also makes numerous offensive remarks about women on "Tool Time." In fact, Tim makes these comments so regularly that Al begins holding up a large address card for viewers who want to mail in complaints whenever Tim expresses his sexist opinions. With how many negative comments Tim has made over the years, there's no question he routinely upsets parts of his audience, alienating his viewership and decreasing the program's ratings.

Al's wardrobe may have a dark explanation

Another recurring gag on "Home Improvement" is Al's lack of wardrobe options, with Al almost always wearing a flannel shirt. Unsurprisingly, Al's penchant for wearing flannel is a common target Tim's jokes. However, Al's decision to wear what appears to be the same shirt over and over again may hint at a dark theory fans have proposed in recent years: Al might in fact be homeless.

According to the theory, Al wears the same shirt regularly because he can't afford any new clothes, nor does he have any place to store them. Furthermore, Al's beard provides him with additional warmth to brave the bitter Michigan winters. Al's willingness to pine after any woman that shows even the slightest interest in him also supports this theory — by romantically pursuing these women, Al is ensuring that he'll be able to sleep in a warm bed every night. Some fans also believe that Al simply sleeps on the "Tool Time" set at the end of each day, waking up in the same clothes every morning. This also helps explain why Al puts up with so many negative remarks from Tim: He has nowhere to go at night and can't afford to be thrown out if he defends himself.