Ever Wonder Why The Mom From Home Improvement Was Recast?
Decades after we first met the Taylor family, it’s impossible to picture Tim Allen’s overambitious handyman-slash-TV-host Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor married to anyone but his smart, cool, vest-wearing wife Jill, played by Patricia Richardson. Years after the show’s end in May 1999, Richardson recalled that the pair’s chemistry on the show was instantly clear, telling HuffPostLive,
“Tim was so hilarious and we just clicked right away. It was a really fast five or six days [when] we did the pilot.”
Even after the Home Improvement series finale, the actress found it weird watching her co-star with his other on-screen wives. Richardson once joked,
“Whenever I see him with other people I think, ‘Well, he was mine first.'”
Bolstered by an actress with whom he had a natural rapport, Allen captivated audiences on Home Improvement, which served as his big Hollywood break, propelling him from stand-up comedian to the lead of the Christmas classic The Santa Clause in 1994. He went on to voice Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story a year after that, all while continuing to film the sitcom. Richardson became beloved amongst viewers of the time, and maintains a steady career to this day.
All this considered, one might assume that Allen and Richardson were the obvious perfect TV couple match from the get-go. But the truth is that Richardson wasn’t Tim Taylor’s first on-screen wife. Before ABC executives begged her to play Jill, they actually cast someone else in the role.
On paper, ABC’s first pick for Jill seemed sound. The first version of the Home Improvement pilot starred dramatic actress Frances Fisher as the Taylor family matriarch. At the time, Fisher’s most famous on-screen role was her five-year stint as Detective Deborah Saxon in ABC’s long-running crime drama soap opera The Edge of Night.
Off screen, for a time, she was best known in the headlines as Clint Eastwood’s girlfriend. Fisher dated the actor-turned-director for almost six years after meeting him on the set of the film Pink Cadillac in 1989, in which she had a small part.
Despite Fisher’s stellar dramatic record, her talents didn’t quite translate to the boisterous jokes of Home Improvement. Richard Karn, who played Tim’s long-suffering Tool Time co-presenter Al Borland, said the Home Improvement writers changed their minds about Fisher just three days into rehearsals. After the pilot didn’t fly with audiences, the creative team scrambled to replace Fisher with a different star.
And former Walt Disney Television President Dean Valentine told the Archive of American Television that Fisher’s comedic skills simply weren’t up to the task of competing with Allen. Keep watching the video as we answer the question: ever wonder why the mom from Home Improvement was recast?