Why Home Improvement is the Most Popular Least Jewish American Sitcom Ever

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:

Movie Guy, at Your Service: The Social Network (Plus, Which Actors are Jewish)

The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years (Plus, Who Did the Voice of Kevin Arnold as an Adult?)

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld (Yes, Most of Them are Jewish; Even Matthew Perry)

The Jewish Influence on American Entertainment

Free Marriage Advice

In the past year and a half since I’ve been married, I have gained valuable knowledge, and therefore I live by it.  And now as I pass it on, it now becomes advice.

Back before my wife and I were even engaged, we decided to use Everybody Loves Raymond as the prime example of what our relationship would not end up like.  Because by default, maybe it would.  But through daily conscious effort and with an intentional mindset to be counter-cultural, I am convinced that marriage can be better than the mundane and miserable American stereotypes.

We subconsciously decided that if we were to model our marriage after a married couple from a sitcom, there were some better options out there.  The Huxtables from The Cosby Show.  The Keatons from Family Ties.  And the Seavers from Growing Pains.  Heck, even Mork and Mindy.

Though I hadn’t read a book since college, it was the months leading to our marriage that I suddenly became interested in soaking in as much advice and knowledge as I could from the professionals.  Books like For Men Only, For Women Only, Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat?, Yup Nope Maybe, and Men are Like Waffles-Women are Like Spaghetti.

I don’t know how men and women could begin to truly understand each other and point out the differences between them before these books came along.  But I was born in the right year, so I got to benefit from them.  The core of what I learned and what I’ve applied since reading them is this:

Men can really only focus on one task at a time; they are not multi-taskers.  They are problem-solvers.  What men want more than anything from their wives is to be respected (to be privately and publicly acknowledged as a good man, not a bumbling fool).

Women are multi-taskers.  They are better equipped to handle all the detailed parts in life that men to tend to neglect.  What women want more than anything from their husbands is to be loved (to feel cared for and understood, listened to, and to be reaffirmed of their beauty).

Being aware of these differences, my wife and I both understand that being wired differently, our wires will get crossed occasionally, leading to a classic misunderstanding involving hurt feelings and/or pride.  We know not to assume that either of us is wrong or right, because that’s what leads to an argument.  It’s not a contest, a game, or a battle; it’s a matter of getting on the same page.

We know not to raise our voices, not to be sarcastic, not to talk over the other person, not to interrupt, and not to leave the room as a means of escaping or trying to gain control by getting the upper hand.  We know to say “I feel and I think” instead of “you are or you did”.  And we always know to never say “you never” or “you always”.

Another thing we decided back when we were just dating was that we would become like those old couples we see sometimes that are still in love.  Not just still married, but still in love.  Being affectionate throughout the day is of upmost importance for us to become one of those old, sweet married couples.

“Just you wait, that’ll all change…” That is what I am told from the Nay Sayers.  The ones who say that I’ll stop randomly buying flowers for my wife once we are “out of the honeymoon stage”.  The ones who say that my wife and I will stop being affectionate once the kids come.  Once “life happens”.

I’m sorry that those people have settled for the Everybody Loves Raymond standard in their marriage.  I guess it works for them.  But I see it as a set-up for potential failure.

A couple years ago I heard my pastor say something I’ve never heard before.  In the countless couples he has counseled where one of the spouses cheated on the other in the marriage, he said that it’s almost never over sex, though sex is what makes it official.  Instead, it was about companionship.  Friendship.

The cheating spouse was not getting something from their marriage partner, so they found someone who would give them what they craved.

Often it’s attention.  Often it’s someone who will not make them feel judged.  Often it’s positive reinforcement.  Simply put, it’s someone who lets them know everyday they are special.

A healthy marriage means that the husband and wife never stop dating.  It means the honeymoon isn’t over, despite the year of the wedding.  It means that the wedding was the beginning, not the end, of true romance.

The Books

Sweaters are the Shirt

“If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away.”
– “Undone- The Sweater Song” by Weezer

I have found a way to get away with wearing a sweatshirt in public and still have people think I’m dressed nicely. It’s called a wearing a sweater. While a sweater is definitely made of better quality materials than a sweatshirt and looks classy, it’s still just a classy sweatshirt at best. And no one seems to realize it but me. So I will reap the benefits.

When a sweater is worn over a tucked-in, button down, collared shirt, then I can see how it looks professional. But I’ve pushed the envelope. To work and to church I have been wearing sweaters over colored t-shirts, along with nice pants and nice shoes, and I evidently look professional. No collared shirt is necessary with the sweater.

It’s a sweatshirt, people! But fine, I’ll go along with it. In fact, I can’t wait until right after Christmas when I can buy like 6 sweaters for 70% off at Gap so I can wear a sweater every day of the week.

I really hate having to tuck in my t-shirt. With a sweater, I don’t have to. Wearing a sweater as opposed to a nice collared shirt is totally cheating the system. I love it.