At the heart of “Home Improvement” is Tim Taylor’s home improvement show “Tool Time,” hosted by Tim and his long-suffering assistant, Al Borland. Though Al appears as a congenial and friendly sidekick to Tim throughout the series, it’s made very clear that Tim doesn’t feel the same way. Over the course of the series, Tim routinely mocks Al for virtually every aspect of his character or personality, no matter how small. Frequent targets of mockery are Al’s weight, the flannel shirts he always wears, his beard, and any number of what Tim believes are Al’s “sissy” hobbies, such as cooking or participating in a women’s book club. If that isn’t bad enough, Tim also makes barbed comments about Al’s mother, frequently making fun of her weight to Al’s face and in front of “Tool Time” viewers.
Tim’s poor treatment of Al is one of the main recurring gags on the show. Whenever Al tries offering advice or input, Tim always snaps, “Shut up, Al!” All-around good sport that he is, Al never voices a word of complaint about Tim’s constant abuse. However, it remains a huge mystery as to why Al chooses to grin and bear such unforgiving slander. Does Al believe Tim is making friendly banter or is simply trying to be funny? That question may have no answer, but it’s easy to see that Tim’s comments about Al are closer to full-on bullying than lighthearted jokes between close friends.