Are there any Jews in Home Improvement? I don’t think so, Tim.
Did you know that May is officially Jewish American Heritage Month? On April 20th, 2006 (my 25th birthday), President George W. Bush proclaimed that the month of May would be Jewish American Heritage Month from then on. So this year for the 5th ever Jewish American Heritage month, I’ve decided to highlight America’s least Jewish sitcom ever, in order to contrast just how much Jewish people have affected our cherished American entertainment.
Obviously, the most Jewish American sitcom is Seinfeld. And Second Place goes to Friends. But on the opposite side of the spectrum, one might expect the least Jewish American to be an African-American sitcom- like The Cosby Show. But of course, Lisa Bonet (who played Denise Huxtable) is half Jewish. Coincidentally, she was briefly married to Lenny Kravitz, who is also half Jewish and half black. Even more coincidental is the fact that Lenny Kravitz’s mother is Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the sitcom The Jeffersons, who in the show was married to a white man, just like she was in real life (to a Russian Jew, Lenny’s father).
But other popular African-American sitcoms were still largely created and carried out by Jews. Like Family Matters: no Jewish actors, but the show’s producers were: Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett. Not to mention the fact that Family Matters was a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, a sitcom about two unlikely roommates and cousins, who in real life are Jewish. So even if none of the actors in a sitcom are Jewish, you still have to consider the producers, the writers, and even the origin of the sitcom.
After much exhaustive research, I have discovered that the most watched yet least Jewish sitcom was definitely Home Improvement (1991-1999). None of the actors were Jewish. Not Tim Allen (nothing about him is Jewish), not Jonathan Taylor Thomas who played Randy (physically he could almost pass as a Jew), not Taran Noah Smith who played Mark (Jewish sounding first and middle name), not Earl Hindman who played Wilson, nor Richard Karn who played Al. The main creators/writers were not Jewish. Home Improvement was not a spin-off of a Jewish influenced show.
There was a close call, however, in the casting of Tim’s Tool Time co-host. Originally, there was no “Al Boreland”, but instead, “Glen”, played by Stephen Tobolowsky, who was definitely Jewish. But his prior commitments caused him to lose out on the role. Sure there were special guest stars that were Jewish, like Rodney Dangerfield and Penn & Teller (Teller, not Penn, is Jewish). And Brad’s character briefly dated a character named Jessica Lutz (assumed Jewish because of the last name), though played by non-Jewish actress Michelle Williams. Lastly, one of the executive producers was Jewish; Elliot Shoenman, but he was only there from seasons 4 through 8.
But if it’s that much trouble to point out any Jewish influences on a sitcom as popular as Home Improvement, then I see no way around it: Home Improvement is the most popular least Jewish sitcom ever. And making that discovery is one of the ways I can help celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month. I’ll leave it to all the other bloggers to point out the more obvious, influential Jewish Americans like Albert Einstein and Mark Zuckerburg. As for me, I’m here to focus on the petty stuff.
Below are some more exciting and entertaining posts I have written about Jewish entertainers: