The holiday season was often an important event on “Home Improvement.” Halloween and Christmas were the most significant holidays on the show. However, Tim Taylor made sure Thanksgiving was a giant feast and time to connect with friends and family. Tim and the Taylor family and their friends celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, often in a big way, every year.
When we looked back at Halloween on Home Improvement, we discovered that they emphasized the holiday some years more than others. Thanksgiving is no different during the 8 season run of the series. Some years, like Season Seven, Thanksgiving was the central focus of the episode. Others, like Season Eight, there was barely a passing mention and served only as a backdrop to the story.
In continuing my “Holidays on Home Improvement” series, we’ll take a look back and see how they touched on Thanksgiving each season. So get ready to deep fry that turkey because here comes “Thanksgiving on Home Improvement!”
Season One: “Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble” (November 19, 1991)
Much like Halloween, there was no mention of Thanksgiving during the first season of the show. The would-be holiday episode, “Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble,” sees Tim try to get a free bathroom renovation by inviting “Tool Time” into his own home. He hopes that by having the show film the renovation, he hoped to write off the cost as a business expense. Unfortunately, the renovation takes over 18 days and causes more damage to their house than planned.
Season Two: “Let’s Did Lunch” (November 25, 1992)
This is another episode in which the Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t mentioned, except for a few lone food items on the counter in an early scene. Judging by the cans and boxes’ contents, I can only assume that they will be used later to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.
In “Let’s Did Lunch,” Tim and Jill’s friends come over to visit, but Dave soon puts Tim in an awkward position. Dave has started dating another woman and asks Tim to lie about going to lunch the day before. Karen (the great Betsy Randle) is Jill’s best friend, and this new turn of events puts Tim and Jill are at odds.
Season Three: “A Frozen Moment” (November 24, 1993)
Jill and the boys carry in groceries at home, and one asks why she purchased such a large turkey this year for Thanksgiving. Jill informs them Al has decided to bring his new girlfriend Eileen, the dentist. Tim rushes in, excited about his new “vision” for their Christmas card picture that came to him at the lumber yard. He plans to build a replica of The North Pole and dress in costume, much to the rest of the Taylor family’s chagrin.
In one of the most memorable scenes in the whole series for me, back on “Tool Time,” Tim unveils ‘The Man’s Bathroom.’ The Man’s Can. John’s John. It’s complete with stainless steel, spray nozzles for mouthwash and hand soap, and a reclining toilet. I loved it when they did gimmicks like this. They repeated it throughout the series with the stereotypical “Men’s” version of closets, kitchens, and more.
Tim prepares for the family photo, complete with the boys in elf costumes, Jill in a Mrs. Claus outfit, and Tim dressed as a slightly out of place Canadian Mountie. His snow-making machine goes haywire (after he hot-wired it), and it breaks the window in the backdoor. Upset, Jill goes in to find that her pies have all burned. Al and Eileen arrive, with Al’s “baked rutabaga” dish that gets passed around the table like a hot potato. Before they begin the meal, Tim suggests they all say what they are thankful for. Eileen goes on a very long but sickeningly sweet monologue that she’s grateful for Al. Tim is thankful for his hot rod and power tools but quickly remembers to mention his family. Jill gives a touching little speech about Tim and all that he does for the family. She includes a funny little quip that Tim has even had his tongue frozen to a hammer, blown out every window in the house, or gone off, through, or hung upside down from the roof.
Season Four: “My Dinner with Wilson” (November 22, 1994)
When Tim gets home from work, he and Jill discover the smell of a dead rat in their kitchen walls. Tim gets excited, and Jill asks what good could come from a dead rodent in the walls of their home, to which Tim responds, “I get to put a hole in the wall!” While Tim and the boys are digging through the wall, a home appraiser arrives, but Jill discovers that he was looking for Wilson next door. Tim and Jill get worried that Wilson might be moving and decide to find out at Thanksgiving the next day.
Thanksgiving Day arrives, and the Taylor’s make their way over to Wilson’s for dinner. This scene is also the first time in the series that we get to see inside Wilson’s home, full of artifacts and other knick-knacks from around the world. Wilson has cooked them a traditional Pilgrim Thanksgiving, complete with a grotesque eel pie. Jill dances around the topic of Wilson moving until Tim finally blurts it out, causing Wilson to announce that, yes, he’s moving. He wants to fulfill a life long dream to “settle in the Mindo-Nambillo Rain Forest of Western Ecuador.”
Tim and Jill are devastated as they go home to their rat-stink house. While Tim finally finds the dead rat, they discuss how much they’ll miss Wilson and begin to reminisce how they first met him. The next day, Tim is eavesdropping in the backyard as Wilson is showing potential buyers the house. The husband quickly recognizes Tim as “That guy with the tool show on Channel 122!” Kids today likely wouldn’t get the joke when you live in a world of 100 streaming services, and even DirecTV has over 1000 channels today. Back then, though, cable companies rarely had more than 50 channels, and usually, the higher the channel number, the less relevant the content. Tim passes on the opportunity to wreck the sale, but he does try to get the buyer to act like Wilson.
A few days go by, and Tim and Wilson run into each other in the back yard. Tim helps Wilson mix cement for his driveway, and they get to talking about life. It turns out that Wilson purchased the house just before his wife passed away and that the two had met in Mindo-Nambillo. He’s beginning to worry his memories of her are fading, so he wants to return to where they first met. The roles reverse as Tim uses famous quotes to teach Wilson a lesson, and he decides to stay. Tim becomes excited that Wilson won’t be moving to “Bobo Brazil” and asks Wilson about his late wife. He intends to show Wilson that he is loved and cared for and that they will keep her memory alive by talking about her more often. In the final gag, Wilson shows Jill a photo from his wedding. He and his new bride are holding the cake in front of their faces. That’s so Wilson.
Season Five: “Chicago Hope” November 21, 1995
Season Five’s would-be holiday episode does not have any Thanksgiving references, despite airing only two days before Thanksgiving.
Jill and Tim’s relationship is in a rut. Jill is worried that Tim has grown too focused on work now that Bud from Binford Tools is trying to syndicate the show nationwide. Tim has been very focused on an upcoming meeting in Chicago. He hasn’t been paying attention to Jill for weeks now. Jill plans a romantic getaway with Tim, but Tim, Bud, and the Chicago TV agent have all planned a weekend at the same time. The double-booked Tim is constantly dodging Jill’s phone calls while trying to appease the Chicago sales agent. Running around the hotel for things like massages or spending time at the bar, things finally unravel when Jill finds them all singing Karaoke.
Season Six: “The Wood, the Bad, and the Hungry” (November 26, 1996)
In this episode, Thanksgiving is finally the central focus. Wilson has dropped off his “Traditional Pilgrim Eel Pie” in a callback to Season Four but won’t be attending dinner this year. Randy reminds everyone he’ll be down at the Soup Kitchen, feeding the homeless. Jill compliments his selflessness just as Tim enters the house with the largest turkey in the store, bragging that it’s all “Mine! Mine! Mine!”
The next day, Tim is at Harry’s Hardware. He tries to avoid inviting his friend Benny for dinner by saying this year it’s family only. Al spills the beans that he (not family) will be at Tim’s house, and Benny storms off. Later on, Jill sends Tim down to the Soup Kitchen to pick up Randy, but they see Benny in line for food. The chef tells Tim that Benny has been coming in an awful lot lately, and he must be down on his luck. Tim feels terrible and later calls Benny to invite him to dinner.
When Benny arrives, Jill and the boys treat Benny as a guest of honor as everyone pretends to be happy to see him. However, as dinner wears on, Benny reveals he has expensive new clothes, a new watch, and a brand new cell phone. The phone rings, and Benny places a bet with his bookie for $200 on the Kansas City Chiefs. When Jill points out that people down on their luck shouldn’t gamble, Benny questions what that has to do with him. Tim admits he saw Benny at the Soup Kitchen, and Benny claims he just likes the soup. Everyone is outraged that he would take food from the homeless shelter when he doesn’t need it, and he grows upset and leaves. Tim’s conscience forces Tim to go after Benny, who is still sitting on the stoop of his house, having nowhere else to go. After a long talk, Tim invites him back inside before the entire group goes to the Soup Kitchen to volunteer.
Season Seven: “Thanksgiving” November 25, 1997
This Thanksgiving celebration begins with Jill in the backyard talking with Wilson. His “free-spirited” niece Willow comes out with a soy turkey, and the two are very excited; the entire Wilson clan is in town. Wilson, Willow, Uncle Wilbur, Aunt Willamena, Cousin Willford, Uncle Willard, Grandma Wilma… and Bob.
Meanwhile, Tim comes home from “Tool Time” and says that the owner of the Detroit Lions is a fan of the show and has offered him one of the luxury boxes at the Thanksgiving Day game at the Pontiac Silverdome. Tim is a little nervous to tell Jill, but surprisingly, she’s excited at the thought of not having to cook the Thanksgiving dinner and is eager to be served this year.
As the family enjoys the suite and the game gets going, Tom Poston guest stars as Ted, the suite butler. He informs Tim that later on, he’ll take him on a tour of the stadium’s electric and plumbing nerve center, which excites Tim more than the game. Randy is upset and busy “tsk-tsking” the luxury box’s opulence when Alex Rocco appears as the abrasive and rude “Hollywood Super Agent” Irv Schmayman. The family is upset at the intrusion on the family dinner, but Irv insists the Lion’s management assigned him this box and introduces his two young beautiful blonde assistants. Suddenly, Jill is the only one left upset at the intrusion.
Tim leaves on his stadium tour despite Jill’s protests of being left alone with Irv. Tim weasels his way into the stadium control center and winds up on the JumboTron screen while on the tour. He notices the picture quality could be a little better and hops on a computer and starts mashing buttons. Before long, Tim blows circuits and knocks power out to the entire stadium.
Sitting in the dark and annoyed at Irv, everyone is surprised when Rodney Dangerfield walks in. Mark, the youngest child, asks who Rodney Dangerfield is, which causes Rodney to start tearing down the three boys with his trademark biting humor. The way the cast was laughing, you could tell Rodney was just riffing and ad-libbing off the cuff. The luxury box turns into an all-out party as Irv and Rodney call in their friends as everyone begins to celebrates in the dark. Even Jill is having a good time.
Back in the control room, Tim fixes the electrical problem by accidentally banging on the counter. He is happy the lights are back but is worried his family will be mad that he ruined their Thanksgiving. With the lights on, the party begins to break up and everyone, including Irv, leaves. Tim shows back up in the suite and is extremely embarrassed, but everyone had the time of their lives and is in a great mood. Tim doesn’t believe them until Rodney comes back to give Jill his phone number if she’s ever in California.
Season Eight: “Thanks, but No Thanks” November 24, 1998
Tim’s brother Marty has been sleeping in the backroom of Harry’s Hardware Store since separating from his wife. When Tim arrives, the younger Taylor runs off to work quickly, and Harry and Benny cover for him. Benny lets it slip that he’s riding with Marty to Harry’s for Thanksgiving, and Tim grow suspicious. Tim tempts Benny with a donut, and he quickly spills the tea that Marty and Nancy split up and that Marty had been sleeping in the store’s stockroom.
At home, Jill is boxing a Thanksgiving meal to send to Randy in Costa Rica while an upset Tim tells her about Marty. He decides to head down to the hardware store that evening to talk to Marty, at Jill’s insistence. Marty says his wife was upset with how little money he made and his lack of ambition and the love had just run out in their marriage. Marty says he’s worried about his two girls because he’d reached an agreement to take them for a week every other week and can’t have them living in a hardware store.
The Tool Man is quick to invite his little brother to stay with them in Randy’s old room and tells him his daughters are welcome too. Marty eagerly accepts, as long as Jill is ok with it, and Tim assures him she is. When Tim gets home, he tells Jill and the two boys that Uncle Marty is moving in until he can get back on his feet, and the response is all groans. Marty has never held a steady job and be there forever. Jill relents and says he can sleep in Randy’s room, but Tim sheepishly says he thought he could have Brad’s room because after all, the girls will want to be close to their Dad since they’ll be in Mark’s room. The two boys grow irate at the thought of having to give up their rooms, and they storm off. Jill reminds Tim what an inconvenience the three new people in the house will be, but Tim promises he’ll pick up the slack and not let it all fall on Jill.
As the days wear on, Tim becomes a fantastic caretaker for the children. Marty is working a lot and growing frustrated, having to rely on Tim to make breakfast and lunch for the girls, drive them to school, and help them with homework. One afternoon, Tim brings the girls onto “Tool Time.” Marty, who happens to be at the Hardware Store, is surprised and angry to see his daughters having a good time with Uncle Tim on TV.
Marty comes home with a chip on his shoulder while Tim and Jill are having a great time playing with the kids. Angrily, he announces he’s moving the girls back home with their mother, and he’s going back to the Hardware store. He no-shows their Mother’s house for Thanksgiving a few days later, and Tim goes looking for him at Harry’s Hardware.
Marty explains he feels like a loser because he’s unable to keep a good job and feels like a failure working sixty-plus hours a week at multiple stupid jobs just to buy clothes and food for the girls and has nothing else to show for it. Now, he even feels like an even bigger loser because he sees how good Tim and Jill are at raising his kids. Offering some brotherly advice, Tim reminds him that there is no such thing as a stupid job when you spend the money you earn on your children’s needs. Marty feels better when Tim mentions that he and Jill admire him for being so selfless.
Marty sort of feels better, but there is no real resolution to the story here. Where does Marty end up? Does he spend Thanksgiving night alone in the Hardware Store without his girls? The two just start sharing some turkey leftovers, and that’s all she wrote except for a joke about Wilson’s basement being a large cave during the closing credits.
Do you have some favorite Thanksgiving memories of Home Improvement? Or any Thanksgiving memories, in general, you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!!