Long before HGTV and its plethora of home renovation-centric shows, fans might have relied on “This Old House.” The show premiered in 1979 and placed the camera on real-life carpenters and contractors as they guided fans with their wealth of knowledge on in-home renovation projects. Shortly after its premiere, PBS picked up the show for syndication and is still showing it today (per The Atlantic).
If “This Old House” sounds familiar to fans of “Home Improvement,” it might be because of “Tool Time.” As the book “TV in the USA: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas” notes, “Tool Time” was widely considered to be a parody of “This Old House” and its iconic hosts, Bob Vila and master carpenter Norm Abram. Vila eventually confirmed this in Country Living, saying, “The Disney people contacted me before ‘Home Improvement’ premiered. I think there was some concern in the legal department about whether I was being ripped off. The fact is, it’s a sitcom based on me and Norm, you know?”
Vila didn’t seem to have any hard feelings about “Home Improvement” or its fictional meta series meant to parody him. In fact, Vila even guested on a few episodes of “Home Improvement” as himself, acting as something of a rival to Tim. This rivalry was on great display in the Season 2 episode “The Great Race” (via YouTube), in which Vila challenged Tim to a lawnmower race for charity.