A slew of new sitcoms were beamed into American living rooms in the 1990s, and while many of them have long since been forgotten, others — like Tim Allen’s "Home Improvement," which aired for eight seasons between 1991 and 1999 — live long in the memory. Fans have been waiting patiently for the ABC show to appear on Disney+ (a legal dispute between the House of Mouse and Wind Dancer Productions appears to have put a spanner in the works, per The Hollywood Reporter), while Tim Allen remains open to the idea of reprising the role of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. He briefly revived the iconic character on his show "Last Man Standing" in 2021, and the actor told TV Line that he would love to see "Home Improvement" make a comeback. "I always think about it, because I still talk to everybody involved," he said. "I like the idea of doing it as a one-off, like a one-hour movie […] I just think it’s a marvelous idea, and all the actors think it’s a great idea."
If "Home Improvement" was to return for a one-off special or even a brand new season, it would have to do so without a number of beloved characters, something that Allen acknowledged in his TV Line interview. It’s been three decades since he made his debut as Tim Taylor, and we’ve lost several members of the "Home Improvement" family in that time.
Art LaFleur was Tim Allen’s Tooth Fairy
Character actor Art LaFleur was one of the celebrities we lost in 2021. He died after "a 10 year battle with A-typical Parkinson’s," his wife, Shelley LaFleur, revealed in a Facebook post. "He was a generous and selfless man which carried over to his acting but more importantly it was who he was for his family and friends," she said. He was 78.
Most people will remember LaFleur for portraying baseball players (he took on the role of Chick Gandil in "Field of Dreams" and famously played Babe Ruth in "The Sandlot"), but to Tim Allen, he will always be the Tooth Fairy. LaFleur appeared as a very different version of the legendary figure in Allen’s "The Santa Clause" franchise, featuring in the second and third installments. Allen called him "a kind and gifted actor, husband and father" in a tribute tweet. "Peace to you our beloved tooth fairy. And prayers to your family. Santa."
Before they were Santa and the Tooth Fairy, Allen and LaFleur worked together on the "Home Improvement" Season 1 episode "Nothing More Than Feelings." LaFleur played the gum-chewing construction worker Jim (aka Jimbo), a "Tool Time" audience member who bonds with Tim over shared marital grievances. He regularly played up his tough-guy persona for laughs (one of his final appearances was in a 2015 episode of "Key and Peele"), but he was genuinely fearsome in a number of his roles. Other notable feature films include Sylvester Stallone’s "Cobra" and the ’80s remake of "The Blob."
Wendie Jo Sperber was Marty McFly’s sister
Actor and comedian Wendie Jo Sperber, who played Marty McFly’s sister Linda in the "Back to the Future" films, died of breast cancer in 2005, her publicist confirmed (via the Los Angeles Times). She was 47.
Sperber made her feature-length debut in 1978’s "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," a ’60s-set Robert Zemeckis movie about some Jersey girls who embark on a journey to meet The Beatles. In 1980, she began a run as Amy Cassidy on "Bosom Buddies," a short-lived sitcom starring Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks. She worked with Hanks again a few years later, playing Dr. Tina Gassko in the film "Bachelor Party." Hanks called his former co-star "a walking inspiration" in a statement (via Entertainment Weekly). "She met the challenges of her illness with love, cheer, joy and altruism," he said.
Sperber only appeared in two "Home Improvement" episodes, but they were important ones — she played Sue in the first and third parts of "The Long and Winding Road," the show’s three-part finale. In "Part 1," an episode of "Tool Time" takes a Jerry Springer-style turn, and Tim is furious when he discovers that the show’s new producer organized the whole thing. He wrests control back in "Part 3," ignoring the insane demands of his boss and bringing a bunch of special guests on to "Tool Time" instead, ending the show on his terms. Sperber also appeared on "Married with Children," "Will & Grace," and "8 Simple Rules."