Commercial behemoths like “Home Improvement” are frequently either overlooked or taken for granted creatively, which makes it worth noting that even in its fourth season — with “Frasier” stealing some of its thunder, as well as a small portion of its audience — the show continues to exhibit a genial, almost effortless charm.
This Super Bowl-themed episode is a perfect example of the dynamics that have made the show such a hit, which go well beyond all the grunting and posturing associated with Tim Allen’s he-man act.
More than anything, Allen’s character provides a surrogate for all those insensitive, little-boy-in-an-adult’s body characteristics to which most men at least occasionally plead guilty, with wife Jill (Patricia Richardson) serving as the periodically aghast voice of all the women who live with such men.
In this episode, Tim hosts a Super Bowl party for his boorish friends while Jill is upstairs, laid low by the flu. Tim seeks to tend to Jill as sparingly as possible while still watching the game and playing host, only to have the whole balancing act, as usual, blow up on him.
At its best, “Home Improvement” represents a highly evolved conventional sitcom, with virtually all the characters — including Earl Hindman’s hidden sage, Wilson, and particularly Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the middle son — capable of generating laughs.
Still, it’s really the relationship between the central couple, breezily played by Allen and Richardson, that’s made the show such a hit, with a genuine warmth that consistently wins out despite Tim’s “I Love Lucy”-esque harebrained escapades.
Credit Howard J. Morris and Rosalind Moore with a particularly sharp script, dwn to Wilson’s amusing puns about a homemade bee-derived tea.
Living up to its emphasis on tools and “More power,””Home Improvement” remains a well-oiled machine.