What the Hell Happened to Tim Allen?
It may seem odd to ask “what the hell happened” about a guy who is currently starring on a network sitcom. Tim Allen definitely didn’t disappear. He’s still a decent-sized TV star. But once upon a time, Allen was more than that. At the peak of his career, Allen had the number one book, movie and TV show in the United States. Since that time, his track record at the box office has been spotty. He hasn’t starred in a mainstream movie in nearly a decade!
What the hell happened?
Timothy Alan Dick was born June 13, 1953 in Denver, Colorado. His father died in a car accident when he was young, and soon after, his mother moved him and his siblings to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Allen remains closely intertwined with the state of Michigan including doing voice overs for the state’s tourism department.
Allen graduated from high school with a love for the arts (specifically classical piano), and went on the graduate from Western Michigan University. His career in show business began on a comedy club dare from friends. His first stand-up gig proved successful so he pursued comedy and gained enough local recognition to make the move to LA.
Before that, however, a wrench was thrown into Allen’s plans. He was arrested at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for cocaine possession, 1.43 pounds of it. Meaning he was dealing. With a possible life sentence looming, Allen pleaded guilty, and ratted on some fellow dealers in exchange for a mere three-year sentence. It makes for one of the more surreal celebrity footnotes.
Newly released from Sandstone Federal Correctional Institution, Allen became a standup staple in the Los Angeles area, and steam was gathered for a television pilot. It was in vogue at the time for a network to commission an entire show based solely on a comedian’s standup material, to simply take what was there, and broadcast it.
Allen’s act was mostly based upon the male/female dichotomy. It was intentionally regressive. He portrayed himself as a macho man, a “male pig” and proud of it, and supported the associated positions for comedic effect.
This was the basis for his ABC pilot, Home Improvement. His “male pig” character is given the additional dimension of being a caring family man, simply stuck in a 50s-era mindset. Allen played the host of a do-it-yourself handyman show. At home, he’s a goofy dad raising three young boys.
Home Improvement was a runaway success. Debuting in 1991, its first season was a ratings juggernaut. The show peaked commercially in the fifth season and trailed off until season eight which was its last. While Seinfeld appealed to the adult demographic, Allen’s show was aimed at family viewers.
While Home Improvement was never a critical darling, both the show and its star did receive some recognition. Allen was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1993. He lost to Ted Danson who was nominated for Cheers. He fared better at the Golden Globes where he was nominated five consecutive years from 1992-1996. during that time he lost to John Goodman, Jerry Seinfeld, Kelsey Grammar and John Lithgow. But in 1994, he took home the statue.
Ashley Judd auditioned for the role of the Tool Time girl. Series creator Matt Williams was so impressed with Judd’s audition that he refused to cast her in such a small role. Instead, Pamela Anderson was cast as the jiggly Tool Time girl. Williams went back to Judd’s agent and offered to create a bigger role specifically for her. If she had accepted, Judd would have played Allen’s sister. Ultimately, Judd passed in favor of a smaller role on the dramatic series, Sisters.
Home Improvement ended its run in 1999. By then, Allen had already diversified into movie stardom. He was earning $1.5 million per episode making him one of the highest paid actors in TV history. Reportedly, Allen was offered $50 million dollars to return for a ninth season.