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Advent Calendar 2016 Box 16

Home Improvement
Season 1 Episode 12
"Yule Better Watch Out"

Originally broadcast December 17, 1991

I want to try to keep this one short, because these things have been getting longer and taking up more of my valuable sleep time. Also, let's face it, we aren't exactly talking about the richest chestnut on the fire with this one. That's not to say that it is any less relevant or qualified for the list. In fact, it's almost one of my favorites.

What is the show?

Tim Allen plays Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, star of a popular cable show called "Tool Time" which is a general Bob Vila style home improvement talk show. He embodies and caricaturizes the classic man, with all the power tool wielding, grunting, and muscle car obsession therein. He bumbles his way through his show, because minor burns and electrical accidents are pretty much the height of 90's sitcom humor. Most of Home Improvement sees Tim at the titular home, though, dealing with his longsuffering wife and three sons. They all experience the regular trials of a suburban middle American family (albeit with the occasional minor electrocution). Most episodes show Tim getting some sage advice from his neighbor, Wilson, whose face we famously never see, and Tim learns a little about what it means to be a father, husband, and man. It's really about as vanilla as a sitcom can be.

There's nothing wrong with vanilla, though. I would call this show a guilty pleasure, but that would imply that I feel guilt about liking it - which I don't. You always know where you stand with Home Improvement, which means (at least for me) it's a nice, warm, cozy place where I can just shut off my brain for 20 minutes and watch some regular people being regular. Especially compared to some of the wacky, fast-paced, and simply "out there" stuff on this list, it's kind of interesting to take a look at something so incredibly "normal."

I actually kind of like Tim Allen, too. Clearly I'm not alone, as he was the top of Disney's food chain for at least a year in the 90's. Let us not forget that he starred in probably the best Christmas movie of all time, even though since it isn't a TV show it doesn't qualify for this list. I think he was at his best in Galaxy Quest, which is also not relevant to this list but I still want to mention it because it's great and you should watch it.

Anyway, all this is to say that not everything has to be moving, brilliant, or miraculous. Sometimes we can just sit back and have some vanilla.

What is the episode?

Christmas is big in suburban middle America, which means it was almost as much a part of Home Improvement's DNA as power tools and handyman slapstick. This is the first Christmas episode of the show, so we get introduced to the recurring annual storyline. The Taylor family's neighborhood has a decoration contest every year which is usually won by an elderly proctologist down the street. Of course this is an endless source of personal humiliation for Tim, and every year he goes even more overboard trying to outdo his neighbors. Meanwhile, the youngest of the family, Mark, has that classic crisis of young children who are growing up - he begins to question the existence of Santa (helped in no small part by his older brothers).

I know there's another Christmas episode of Home Improvement that is usually listed as one of the best Christmas shows of all time. I would probably agree that the other one - "Twas the Flight Before Christmas" from Season Five - was probably a better episode of TV. However, I think "Yule Better Watch Out" is a better episode of Home Improvement. We see the family together, and most of the episode takes place inside (or on top of) the house. We don't have any guest stars or visiting relatives or contrived plot devices to try to spice things up. We just get the family, together, doing Christmas the Home Improvement way - with minor electrocution.

Where can you watch it?

It's really about time ABC pulls Home Improvement out of the vault and offers it up on Netflix or something. For now, we can sate ourselves with the DVD's or Amazon Video.

Last week I was up on the roof of my own Middle-American home installing (albeit modest) Christmas decorations of my own. My neighbor came home with his two kids. I waved to him, he waved back, and we exchanged Merry Christmases. Somehow, for that moment, I felt more Holiday Spirit than perhaps ever before in my life. It felt like such a nice, gentle world to live in. It was such a simple gesture, but it made me feel like I was part of a real community, and I didn't even have to electrocute myself. Maybe that's what Christmas is all about. It's the world that Home Improvement offers, and I'm happy to partake.

And speaking of TV shows that are about a dude who makes TV shows . . .

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