There are very few shows that have Halloween based episodes, let alone Halloween based episodes every year. Beside “Roseanne,” Tim Allen’s show “Home Improvement” celebrated Halloween almost every year, and it was almost always memorable. “Home Improvement” is one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, a family oriented laugh aloud comedy about accident pseudo-celebrity Tim Taylor, his very patient wife Jill and their rambunctious trio of sons. “Home Improvement” in its golden age was often hysterical and heartfelt, and reveled in devising new ways to put the characters in to scary situations involving the holiday.
The writers genuinely came up with interesting ideas almost every year, and it was fun watching Tim pull pranks on his family, and watching the pranks unfold in to hilarious reactions. From a head bursting through a wall, to Tim losing an arm while dancing with wife Jill, no one took on the holiday like Tim Taylor. To celebrate an often too overlooked sitcom from the nineties, here is a ranking of the Halloween episodes from the series from the absolute best, to the utter worst. What are some of your favorite “Home Improvement” episodes?
Haunting of Taylor House (1992)
The first Halloween episode is always the best, and “Home Improvement” proves it with an episode that genuinely celebrates the fun of the holiday. The Taylors are big fans of Halloween, and they have a good time terrorizing each other. Their interactions with the kids in their Halloween party are also a lot of fun, as you can tell much of their interactions is improvised. I also really love the visit through the Taylors haunted basement which always manages to get a laugh from me. It’s fun to see Rider Strong in an early appearance before his stint on “Boy Meets World.”
I Was a Teenage Taylor (1996)
A lot of the later episodes were weak, but this battle of pranks between the Taylor family is fodder for some laugh out loud material. Brad and Randy are at the age where they’re old enough to scare their parents, and they have a good time pulling them off. But Tim eggs on Jill and Wilson in pulling an elaborate prank involving a man that used to live in their house and a fake murder. There are some really good moments here, including Tim and Jill changing masks constantly, Al’s weak attempts to get in on the pranks, and the big accident involving the attic in the final scene. I’m a big fan of this episode.
Crazy for You (1993)
Tim is led to believe that he’s being stalked by a fan, thanks to a joint prank by Jill, Al and every one of Tim’s friends. Much of the episode revolves around Tim’s paranoia to being stalked, including having to host “Tool Time” to an audience of women from a sharp shooter’s club, and Tim’s consumption of cookies that he thinks are poisoned. As always this is the result of a prank contest between Tim and Jill, which I think Tim wins thanks to the detached arm gag in the final scene. You also have to love the boys dressing up as Moe from the Three Stooges.
Borland Ambition (1994)
I really like the romance between Al and Ilene. The show lost a lot when she was written off of the cast after their failed engagement. This episode mostly revolves around Harry from Harry’s hardware selling twenty percent of his store to Al, which creates a rift between him and everyone else when he becomes obsessed with the business. The Halloween festivities are mainly in the background this time out with Brad and Randy competing with Mark for candy, which he wins after dressing up as Al. He also wins a costume contest, thanks to Al’s mom being one of the judges.
Let Them Eat Cake (1995)
This isn’t totally Halloween oriented, but it sure is a hilarious episode. Tim and co. have to go to a cable awards show where they’re losing to their rival show “Cooking with Irma” all while trying to make it to a costume party. Meanwhile Brad, and his obnoxious friend Jason begin throwing a party in secret. Most of the Halloween décor is in the background for this episode, but there is a really funny gag where Al appears as a mouse after surprisingly winning an award, and Randy is thrown in to the bushes in his Wolfman costume after being harassed by Brad’s friends. Both sub-plots thankfully are hilarious, especially when Tim and Jill come home during the party dressed as a knight and a dragon.
This is mostly a laughless affair, but gets some consideration since it’s the last Halloween episode of the series. Tim has lost a lot of his scaring power, and tries to concoct new pranks to frighten everyone. Meanwhile Wilson and Jill come up with a prank for Tim, when they convince him that he’s disappeared thanks to his new girlfriend who happens to be a witch. The prank is way too convoluted to buy, and the prank Wilson pulls is much too mean spirited to find at all funny. I don’t find faking your death a funny prank, but hey, that’s me. I do like the way Tim mocks the two detectives investigating his role in Wilson’s disappearance.
A Night to Dismember (1997)
Most of the show’s efforts to give personalities to the boys as they got older were exhausting and often irritating; especially when youngest son Mark became a Goth rocker for some reason. It was wholly unnecessary to make him such a whiny nut case, and this episode mainly focuses around his attempts to film a student movie for his school. For some odd reason Tim and Jill think he’s trying to murder them after watching his very whiny, and badly directed horror movie. I do nothing but avoid the episode whenever it’s on, and it really feels like the writers anxiously trying to turn Mark in to a more complex character and compensate since as a child he never had much personality to begin with.