Wilson From ‘Home Improvement’ Was Based on Tim Allen’s Real Neighbor
If you grew up in the 90s, your childhood almost definitely includes memories of Tim Allen‘s TV sitcom, Home Improvement. The show became extremely popular in the United States, running for a total of eight seasons. Kids everywhere imitated Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor’s manly grunts and calls for “More power!”
But as much as Home Improvement integrated itself into our childhood, it turns out the show is actually a big reflection of actor, Tim Allen’s own childhood — including everyone’s favorite character, the friendly, advice-giving neighbor, Wilson W. Wilson.
Tim Allen only wore Michigan shirts on ‘Home Improvement’
Promotions for Home Improvement often state the show was based around the stand-up comedy of its star actor, Allen. But it was also based in large part around Allen’s life in general. He was born in Colorado but moved to Michigan as a child, and so Allen considers the Great Lakes state his home.
In the show, Allen’s character, Tim Taylor, reflects this by only wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts with Michigan school logos. Colleges and Universities from the state actually received free advertising by sending in shirts for Allen to wear.
Only once did Allen accidentally wear a shirt from a non-Michigan school. In the season six episode, Workshop ‘Til You Drop, Allen wears a Wofford College sweatshirt, which is a school in South Carolina.
The shirt got past the Home Improvement wardrobe department by accident.
‘Home Improvement’ viewers loved the character of Wilson
Another big part of the show, which originates from Allen’s childhood, is the family’s neighbor, Wilson. The character was a fan favorite, although viewers never actually saw his face. Throughout the show, it was a running gag that Wilson’s face was always hidden behind an object, so that only his fisherman-style hat, and eyes could be seen on-screen.
The only time fans saw Wilson’s face was in the show’s finale, when actor, Earl Hindman finally stepped out from behind the fence.
Allen’s character would turn to Wilson whenever he needed advice, which was pretty much every episode. And Wilson was always happy to oblige, giving well-thought-out and intelligent guidance, which Allen would usually butcher and misinterpret. It was all part of the gag, and viewers loved it.
But not everyone appreciated the fact that Wilson’s face was never shown. Originally, the show had hired John Bedford Lloyd to play Wilson, but when he found out his character would never actually be seen, he quit the day before filming started. Home Improvement creators scrambled to find a replacement, finally hiring Hindman in his place. Hindman went on to play Wilson throughout all eight seasons, and was much loved by fans.
Wilson was such a big part of the show, that the other characters won’t even consider doing a reunion without him. Unfortunately, Hindman passed away in 2003 from lung cancer. Ten years later, when Patricia Richardson, who played Jill, was asked by TMZ about a reunion, she refused without Hindman.
“Never,” Richardson said. “No, Earl died. We can’t have one without Earl.”
Wilson is based on Tim Allen’s childhood memories
Cast and viewers alike loved Wilson, but he never would have been a part of the show without Allen’s childhood memories. According to Collider, the character is actually based on a neighbor Allen had growing up, who he would often talk to through the fence in his backyard.
Because Allen was only a child at the time, and still rather short, he couldn’t actually see his neighbor’s face through the fence. Hence, the joke was created when years later, Allen remembered those discussions and wrote them into Home Improvement.
We wonder if the original Wilson, Allen’s childhood neighbor, is out there somewhere laughing along to the gag with millions of other TV viewers?