in Shocktober

Home Improvement – “Haunting of Taylor House”

Season 2, Episode 6
October 28, 1992

I do not have a ton of nostalgia for Home Improvement or Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, but this episode did bring me a comforting sense of nostalgia nonetheless. For as many hokey jokes you see here and there, there is something about this episode that feels very close to a kind of middle-class suburban version of Halloween that I remember as a kid. I wouldn’t say this is a great episode of television or anything, but it does capture the harmless fun of Halloween quite nicely. I’d say the low stakes comedy of Home Improvement feels pretty well-suited for a holiday where both kids and their parents get to embrace their inner trickster.

As you might expect, “Haunting of Taylor House” begins with a snippet of Home Improvement‘s show within the show, Tool Time, which ends with Tim launching pumpkin innards onto his assistant Al’s head. Ha. There really isn’t a ton of plot in this episode, as most of it revolves around Tim and his wife Jill throwing a Halloween Party at their house. The only real conflict revolves around eldest kid Brad dressing up as Raggedy Andy, which his dad makes fun of him for, which Brad says he’s only doing because his friend Jessica is dressing up as Raggedy Ann. Brad then gets totally bummed out when he finds that Jessica has decided to dress up as something else.

Tim then talks to Brad out back about the girl and basically tells him the key to pleasing women is using the phrase “I understand”. Brad (and his terrible baby mullet) tries this out to little success, before Jessica admits that she’s mad at Brad for not picking her for his basketball team in gym. Then they quickly patch things up. As I said, it’s pretty low stakes, but I guess that’s what being a kid is like. While all of this is going on, Tim is perfecting all of the different scary surprises that he’s putting into the haunted house that he’s built in the basement. The so-called tough kid at the party, Danny (played by Rider Strong from Boy Meets World) is skeptical of how “scary” Tim’s haunted house is. However, Tim (dressed as a Franken-granny) ends up scaring Danny with a series of spooks that include Al dressed up as a severed head and Tim’s mostly-obscured neighbor Wilson as a mummy (of course).

As someone whom Home Improvement has very little appeal at this point in my life, it is easy for me to ask “who was Home Improvement for?” From watching this episode, the answer seems pretty clear – goofy dads and their kids who find their goofy antics amusing. This episode of Home Improvement (and from what I can remember, probably most of the show) is composed of dad jokes. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for dad jokes, since some of them can be funny (in an eye-rolling kind of way), while if sitcoms like Home Improvement taught us anything, dad jokes are what bring middle-American families together.

I can’t really say I had a dad like Tim Taylor, but I still for some reason found the dad antics in “Haunting At Taylor House” to be relatable. I suppose when you’re growing up, you see your parents as authority figures day after day, but Halloween and Christmas are these rare instances where they connect with their inner child a little bit. Granted, this is a show where Tim Allen seemed to act like a manchild about 80% of the time, so maybe that’s not something this episode was intentionally doing. But perhaps this episode does help illustrate why for a few years there, Tim Taylor was one of America’s premier sitcom dads.