"Home Improvement - Season 8" DVD Review
June 10, 2008 by Zach Demeter
After eight seasons on the air, Home Improvement drew to a close in May of 1999. Nearly a decade later the series has been released in whole on the DVD format, allowing fans of the show to relive all of their favorite moments at the click of the remote. Of course the show has since joined the ranks of Nick at Nite, where fans can also get their full dosage of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, but with a steady release schedule and a selection of extras, fans can get more out of Home Improvement on DVD then they could on TV. Plus…there are no commercials.
With this final season of Home Improvement came a smattering of changes for cast and crew. Actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas left the show, setting in motion the necessary plot points for both his character of son Randy and for Zachary Ty Bryan, as other son Brad, to move out of the house. As if that wasn’t enough, Tim quits his job at Tool Time and the remaining family members of Tim (Tim Allen), Jill (Patricia Richardson) and Mark (Taran Noah Smith) make the decision to move from the historic house that Tim has destroyed on so many occasions.
It’d been awhile since I’d see Home Improvement last, which seems odd to me. The show was always a weeknight staple in the house, as the entire family always made sure that all homework and chores were done so we could gather around the TV to watch that night’s episode. I don’t have any real clear memories of watching any specific episodes, just the general family atmosphere of watching the series together in the same room. The ending of the series was bittersweet, as it was one of few television events that every member of the household watched. What seems odd to me about not seeing the series for so long is I obviously have some measure of attachment to it…yet I never made any effort to reconnect with it.
Regardless of my childhood connections to the show, the show itself manages to hold up after all these years. The twenty eight episodes in the final season are all a treat to watch and while I vaguely recall the majority f them, a few of them here and there are new. I will say that the later episodes when the trio of Taylor boys is older make it less of a joy to watch as there is a smattering of over-emotional plot points that take some of the fun out of the series. That’s something the series did change over the years—it started out as a straight up comedy show with the occasional drama, but the more it went along the more drama began to infuse it. Not that that should be surprising, drama is a natural progression in life but when it starts to mix in with a comedy show it begins to feel a little off-kilter.
Without digging into specific episodes it’s hard to comment too much on this final season, although the twenty-eight episode on the set, the “Home Improvement: Backstage Pass” extra with interviews with the cast reminiscing about their time on the set, as well as a mixture of behind-the-scenes clips and segments from the show, is especially difficult to watch. While I may have grown up with the TV show for thirty minutes each week, it’s interesting to note that the three boys on the show spent their entire childhood on the show. While Smith doesn’t look too shaken up, Bryan seems to have an especially hard time coping with the departure, as does Richardson. It’s a moving “episode” and the final reveal of actor Earl Hindman’s (Wilson) face was surprising as well.
Overall Home Improvement remained strong throughout its entire run and while some of the best moments of the show many not have come from this final season, there are still many laughs to be had throughout the twenty-seven episodes included here. The finale may choke you up a little with emotions running high with every scene the actors push out, but the main goal of the show, to make the viewer laugh, is never forgotten. The series started out as strong as it was in its early years, and that’s always a good thing. Recommended.
The final season arrives in a standard size amaray case, with two discs on either side of the casing. I really enjoy these slimmer packaging styles, it takes up a lot less shelf space in the end; the only downside is it can make the flow of seasons look strange if you own the entire series. Still, with its reflective foil slipcover and double sided insert, the packaging does what is needed in the most efficient way possible. There’s an insert for Good Morning America inside the casing as well, but its pretty beat up just because it’s sandwiched between four discs.
Menus for the DVDs are simple and easy to navigate, with video and audio replicating the original broadcast well. The video is interlaced and has its fair share of grain, but it’s nothing that isn’t expected and it still looks better than what you’d get over your basic cable signal. Audio is an unobtrusive Dolby Digital Stereo mix which remains clean and clear throughout the set. Overall there isn’t anything here that’ll turn anyone off, although watching an interlaced transfer on a high-definition set is less than ideal, but you can only do much with the source material unless you want to spend an enormous amount on restoration.
The extras on the set are minimal, but are worth watching. The first is a blooper reel (6:08) which is flat out hilarious to watch as the actors continually flub the same lines over and over. Most of the comedy, as expected, comes from Tim Allen, but everyone of the cast gets a good laugh in as well. The other extra on the set, “Tim Allen Presents - The Home Improvement User's Guide” is much longer in its runtime than I originally expected. Running 42:38, this plays out as a stand-up special with Tim Allen leading and Richard Karn and Debbie Dunning making appearances occasionally. Essentially it’s a tiny bit of Allen making the audience laugh and tying in clips from the show into his routine. This special originally aired in 2003, but surprisingly Karn and Dunning look relatively the same, with Allen the only one really change appearance. For what amounts to a clip show essentially, it’s a fun little extra and a nice “recap” of some of the funnier sequences in the film.
Overall this eight season is a bit light on extras but still worth checking out. I’m kind of bummed there was no commentary on the final episodes, but, again, I guess that’s too much money to invest at this stage of the game. While you could probably easily catch these episodes in syndication, like any good comedy show they’re always worth watching more than once so this set comes Recommended.
Home Improvement - Season 8 is now available on DVD.