The Real Reason Home Improvement Ended Had To Do With An Upset Tim Allen, A Fed Up Patricia Richardson And $2 Million Dollars: ‘I Was Working My A--Off’

Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson argue in the garage in Home Improvement.
(Image credit: ABC/Disney)

You think you know the story, but do you? After eight years on the air Home Improvement ended. It was sudden, and while not at the height of its popularity, tens of millions of viewers were still tuning in each week. If things had gone just a bit differently, the ABC sitcom could have been renewed for a ninth season. It all boiled down to behind-the-scenes power and egos on set, as well as a cool $2 million per episode. Here’s the real reason Home Improvement ended.  

Patricia Richardson is probably most known for her work as the longtime matriarch on Home Improvement and Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor’s wife Jill. During Home Improvement’s run, Jill was unlike a lot of other sitcom wives at the time. She had a serious voice on the show and was a fully fleshed out character, capable of both making wise choices for the Taylor family and mistakes in those dynamics, as well --one reason the actress feels Home Improvement doesn't get enough credit years later. 

Per Richardson, her character was a “big reason why women were watching” the comedy throughout its run, but she was paid far less than her TV husband on the series. This didn't really sit well with her, and by the time the show was ready to wrap, she was ready to say goodbye.  

$2 Million Dollars, Or How Patricia Richardson Tried To Renegotiate Her Contract To Make A Point

By Season 8 of Home Improvement, teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas had left Hollywood and the series, and it seemed as if the show would be ending. Then, the network had a change of heart just a few months before the finale that year. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Richardson recalled head honchos at ABC offering her $1 million per episode, while Allen was offered a cool $2 million. 

This was a lot of money, and previously, she said she’d only been paid ⅓ of what Tim Allen made during their run on the show. $1 million per episode would put her at ½ of Allen’s pay – but it was still quite a large discrepancy. Yet, if she’d taken it, there would have been a 25-episode Season 9 of the hit series and she would have been among the highest paid actresses on TV ever.  

Now, you could argue Home Improvement was largely Allen’s show. You could argue that Richard Karn’s Al was the second or third lead on that show as well, and that the kids in the Taylor family got a chunk of screen time, too. However, for Richardson, the discrepancy with what she felt was her co-lead was too much. She was ready to leave the show after working her “ass off,” and she told the outlet the only way she wanted to stay was if the network threw her equal pay. She said she knew they wouldn't go for it. 

I knew that Disney would in no way pay me that much. That was my way to say ‘no’ and was a little bit of a flip-off to Disney. I’d been there all this time, and they never even paid me a third of what Tim was making, and I was working my ass off. I was a big reason why women were watching.

She was right the network didn't want to pay her that much, and she was OK with the show ending. But she also said it made her the "bad guy." 

Why Tim Allen Was Allegedly Upset 

On paper, $2 million dollars per episode for 25 episodes is a huge deal. In fact that's more than the behemoth $1 million per episode salaries the cast of Friends and, later, The Big Bang Theory garnered headlines over. Before taxes, the deal would have netted Allen $50 million dollars, while Richardson got $25 million for less than a year's work. Because of that, the later Last Man Standing actor was reportedly down to continue with the show into Season 9. Richardson disagreed, and It led to problems between the comedian and his TV wife. The actress was candid about what happened next, noting:

I was mad at Tim because he was leaving me alone being the only person saying no, which made me feel terrible and like the bad guy. And he was upset with me for leaving.

So, the show was officially ending. Could it have gone on without Patricia Richardson? Of course. Two and a Half Men famously went on after Charlie Sheen exited for a while, killing off his character and signing on Ashton Kutcher in his stead. But it’s not something the producers really considered, per Carmen Finestra, who felt like the relationship dynamics were key to making the comedy work. 

Some shows would have had the mom die. I don’t remember one discussion where we said, ‘How can we keep this going without Pat?’ It just couldn’t have worked.

The sitcom wrapped just a couple of months later, and Allen and Richardson left the money on the table. Years later, there was a bit of public discord again when the former TV mom spoke about how Allen had posited there could be a Home Improvement spinoff when she felt that absolutely couldn't be the case. She has said it's "weird" the actor has been open to talking about a reunion, when he's never, ever said anything to her about it. For his part, Allen has spoken about doing a show featuring the kids' kids called Home Re-improvement, so there is a fully fleshed out idea. 

Allen has not commented publicly on this reported brouhaha or his lack of harmony with Richardson over a maybe, one-day possible spinoff. In fact, most of his comments about his time on Home Improvement have been positive. Without his perspective, it may all go down as a bit of a mystery, like why Wilson always hid his face behind the fence on the series. But it absolutely sounds like a case of could have, would have. 

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.