‘Home Improvement’: Here’s Who Nearly Played Al in Place of Richard Karn

by Caitlin Berard

The beloved 90s sitcom Home Improvement follows Tim “The Toolman” Taylor and his family, which included his wife, Jill, and three sons, Mark, Randy, and Brad. Though he was still a budding actor at the time, Tim Allen is now the series’ biggest star by far. He’s the show’s main character and synonymous with both the series and his fictional show within the show Tool Time.

Yes, when you think Home Improvement, Tim Allen undoubtedly comes to mind. There’s another character, however, without whom the series simply wouldn’t be the same. And that character is Tim Taylor’s best friend and Tool Time co-host, Al Borland. Like Tim Allen, Richard Karn is inseparable from his character, Al. It may be shocking to learn, then, that the character very nearly had a different face entirely.

Ahead of production, Groundhog Day star Stephen Tobolowsky was very close to agreeing to the role. In a 2012 interview with Vulture, the actor revealed the circumstances surrounding the audition and his subsequent refusal of the role.

At the time, he explained, Tobolowsky and his wife were expecting a child, making the payday of $16,000 per episode even more attractive. Ultimately, however, Tobolowsky passed on the role, deciding the contract was too restrictive. As Al Borland, he would’ve been unable to portray any other TV or film characters. And, as he was awaiting callbacks from two film auditions, he felt Home Improvement would be a bad career move.

At the end of the day, this was probably the right call. By saying yes to the sitcom, he would have missed out on Groundhog Day. As such, he has no regrets about turning down the now-iconic series.

‘Home Improvement’ Stars Reunite in New Series ‘More Power’

One of the main components of Home Improvement was Tim Taylor and Al Borland’s DIY series Tool Time, the show within the show in which Tim and Al educated their audience on home repair and renovation. Now, more than twenty years later, Tim Allen and Richard Karn have reunited for a real-life Tool Time.

Rather than discussing home repair, however, the two will delve into the tools themselves in their nonfiction series More Power.

“Albert Einstein once said, ‘I’m not a genius, I’m just passionately curious,'” Allen said in a statement. “Having the opportunity to explore my curiosity in-depth and really get to know more about the people and things that make us what we are today gets me excited.”

“And what better pal to have at my side than Richard Karn?” he continued. “We both share a great appreciation of people who can solve a problem not by talking about it, but by ‘doing’ it with creativity and amazing skills.”

“My friendship with Tim has lasted over 30 years… in a row!” Karn added. “The chance to do a show like Tool Time was unquestionably exciting. We may not have Binford [Tools, the fictional Tool Time sponsor] but we still will have a world of fun!”