Why Wilson Never Showed His Face on ‘Home Improvement’

HOME IMPROVEMENT, Tim Allen, Earl Hindman, 1991-1999
Everett Collection

If you’ve ever watched Home Improvement, you’ve likely wondered why the Taylor family’s neighbor Wilson never shows his face. Tim Taylor is often seen chatting it up with Wilson by the fence and he became a beloved character on the show. Turns out, it was Tim Allen’s idea based on his real-life Michigan neighbor. Allen revealed on a podcast that Disney wanted to work with him to create a new show, but initially offered him half of what he was making on the road doing comedy.

He further explained, “I went back to Michigan. I’m on my outdoor mower. I loved mowing my own lawn with a big John Deere. I’m sitting on my lawnmower, my wife called and she said, ‘Jeffrey Katzenberg’s on the phone.’ I get there, he goes, ‘I’m stunned that you went back to Michigan.’ I said, ‘We had this conversation, I don’t want to do [those projects like Dead Poets Society].’ He never had been said ‘no’ to like that.”

So, he pitched an idea that was very much like his home life in Michigan. He said he wanted to “make a parody of This Old House with Norm and Bob Vila and have a neighbor that I can’t see. And I pitched it. I want three boys; I never really see my neighbor, I just wave at this figure and I want to do that. And then have a show within a show where I break stuff all the time.” Writers ran with his idea and it became a huge success.

HOME IMPROVEMENT, (from left): Richard Karn, Debbie Dunning, Earl Hindman, Taran Noah Smith, Zachery Ty Bryan, Tim Allen, Patricia Richardson, 'The Long & Winding Road, Part III', (Season 8, ep. 827, aired May 25, 1999), 1991-99

Touchstone Television/Everett Collection

While Wilson was supposed to be a very minor character in the beginning, based on Allen’s real-life neighbors, he eventually evolved into a more meaningful character who was always willing to listen and give some advice. The writers also found some funny new ways to hide his face, including during the Thanksgiving dinner episode where his face was hidden behind some art during dinner. The late Earl Hindman, who played Wilson, only showed his face during the final bow after filming the finale episode.

Tell us, who is your favorite character on Home Improvement?

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