Home Improvement always kept kindly neighbor Wilson’s face hidden for comic effect, but here’s the reason behind this odd creative decision.
A recurring gag on Home Improvement is that Taylor’s friendly neighbor Wilson’s face is never shown fully, but here’s the real reason this choice was made. Tim Allen had few acting credits to his name before Home Improvement. It was thanks to the success of Allen’s stand-up special Men Are Pigs that ABC became interested in developing a sitcom tailored to him. After turning down TV adaptations of Dead Poet’s Society and Turner & Hooch, the concept for Home Improvement was born.
This cast Allen as Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, the host of a DIY series called Tool Time. A key running gag is that while Taylor is obsessed with power tools and other “manly” pursuits, he’s actually not that great with tools or handiwork. The formula for Home Improvement typically saw Taylor do something to upset his wife or children, and relying on his neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman) to dispense sage advice to help him defuse the issue. While Home Improvement had several audience favorite characters like Tim’s assistant Al (Richard Karn), Wilson was the sitcom’s breakout.
In addition to Hindman’s warm performance and soothing voice, part of Wilson’s appeal was his mystique. From his very first appearance on Home Improvement, the bottom of his face was often obscured by the privacy fence in the Taylor’s backyard. As the series wore on and Wilson was seen outside of the yard, Wilson’s face had to be obscured in ever more elaborate ways. The idea to obscure Wilson’s face originated from Allen himself, as it harkened back to his childhood.
Wilson Is Based On Tim Allen’s Childhood Memories
Growing up, Allen had a neighbor whose face he could never fully see, as he was too short to look over his family’s fence. Throughout Home Improvement’s – where Pamela Anderson played Lisa for two seasons – run, Wilson’s past was gradually fleshed out, revealing he had a Ph.D. in Forgotten Languages and Cultures and was a widower. The fact his face was always covered led to a popular fan theory he was actually in Witness Protection from his wife’s “killers,” though naturally, the sitcom never hints at this,
It was a canny choice on Allen’s part to keep Wilson’s face hidden, which only appeared to add to the character’s popularity. Home Improvement stayed true to this bit right until the very end, where the show’s final episode “Backstage Pass” – which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the series – saw Hindman reveal his face to the audience at the recording.
Next: The Home Improvement Episode That Finally Showed Wilson’s Face
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