27 October 2013

DVD Set Review: "Home Improvement": The Complete First Season

Rated: TV-PG for language and violence (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Tim Allen, Patricia Richardson, and Richard Karn
Released: 1991-1992 (original ABC premieres) / 2004 (DVD)
Synopsis: One of the best-loved television series of the 1990s, Home Improvement is about Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor (Tim Allen, The Santa Clause), host of the local access TV show Tool Time, and his family: his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson, The Jensen Project) and three sons, troublemakers Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan) and Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Tom and Huck), as well as innocently naive Mark (Taran Noah Smith).  Though Tim is all about working with tools, he is also prone to accidents, which leads him and his family into many a debacle.  With his much-loved Tool Time assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn, Family Feud), the beautiful "tool girl" Lisa (Pamela Anderson), and the Taylors' wise, advice-dispensing neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman), it's a recipe for love, laughter, and more power!
Based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen.

Artistic Merit

Plots: 3.5/5
Sitcoms have existed pretty much since the dawn of television, so, there's little ground that hasn't been trodden previously within the genre before this series came out.  Though the stories contained within are standard fare, they are made more fun because of the off-beat approach; you can definitely tell the stars were having fun while filming the series.  Still, beloved secondary characters such as Harry and Delores, Al's love interest Ilene, Tim's brother Marty, and Bud, the owner of Binford Tools, are nowhere to be seen.

Production Values: 3.5/5
One of the hallmarks of this series is the fact that, during the credits, you can see the bloopers from the filming of the episode; that, unfortunately, is mostly absent here.  The acting isn't perfect, but, any fan of the show knows that's to be expected from this show.  Though the scene transitions are clever, they aren't as funny or advanced as the ones in later episodes.  Still, this was the first run of the series, so the makers deserve a little credit.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 4/5
Tim and Jill both impart words of wisdom to their sons, and Wilson also gives Tim great advice, even quoting 1 Corinthians 13:11.  It is also mentioned briefly that the Taylors attend church.  Most of the episodes feature Tim making a mistake, and learning the error of his ways by the time the credits roll.  When a guy makes romantic advances on Jill, she sends his away.

Sexual Content: 1.5/5
There are times where the ratings people get it wrong, and this is one such case.  While watching the episodes within this set one after another, I was surprised how much subtly sexual banter there was between Tim and Jill.  Though each remark by itself would only get a "PG" from the MPAA by itself, when put together, it made it a bit too much.  I think this deserved a "D" under the "TV-PG" for off-color dialogue.

Nudity: 4/5
Tim and Mark are seen shirtless a time or two, and Jill wears a low-cut dress.  She also is seen in a bathtub, but all you see are her face and her bare shoulders.  A scantily clad woman is seen in an image from a car magazine.

Language: 2/5
D-words, h-words, and misuses of God's name appear anywhere from one or two times to as many as seven times, depending on the episode.  Milder expressions such as "darn," "heck," "butt," and "shut up," as well as some name-calling, appear a little less often.  A character is stopped short of saying a profanity at least twice.

Violence: 4/5
All the violence contained within this season is slapstick and played for laughs.  Most of it is a product of Tim's mishaps, whether on Tool Time or at home; still, there isn't any blood or gore to be seen.

Drugs: 3.75/5
Tim and/or Jill drink beer or wine a few times, and one episode features guys smoking cigars.

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 4.5/5
The episode where Tim and Jill pretend to be aliens to get even with Randy and Brad is slightly freaky.

Other: 3.25/5
Bodily functions are referenced fairly often.  Also, Tim pokes fun of Al for being single, and it isn't always vilified.

Final Score: 2.25/5
Out of all the shows I have watched over the years--and, believe me, there are many--Home Improvement is probably the one I have watched more than any other, mostly thanks to reruns airing on various cable channels.  Though the series originally ran on ABC from 1991 to 1999, I can still remember watching a syndicated episode on our local CBS affiliate on Christmas Day 1995; since then, it has been shown on channels ranging from The WB to Nick at Nite to, currently, the Hallmark Channel.  However, since the DVD has the original broadcast episodes, I felt like I was watching them for the first time.  Though each of the episodes has a core plot that is at least decent, the profanity, innuendos, and crude references ruined things for me.  Was I immune to such content all this time? One wonders.
A post-script: Though I have nothing against Canada, I don't know what the Canadian raters are thinking.  They rate this "G," yet they take a seven-episode DVD of Shake It Up and rate it "PG" and say it is "Not Recommended for Young Children"?  Are they confused, or do they just hate the Disney Channel? Again, one wonders.

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