Why Tim Allen And Richard Karn’s Home Improvement Relationship Was Key For Their New Show

tim allen richard karn assembly required history channel
(Image credit: history channel press)

Even though Tim Allen and Richard Karn hadn't worked together on a full-time basis in over 20 years prior to 2021, it was already obvious that the relationship they built up on Home Improvement's eight-season run was one to last a lifetime. The evidence was on display during Karn's pair of Last Man Standing episodes, and it's one of the biggest selling points behind the duo's new History Channel series Assembly Required.

To be sure, Assembly Required definitely isn't an attempt to simply ape Home Improvement's "Tool Time" segments, but the competition series definitely does derive a lot of its enjoyment from the actors' dynamic as they witness and judge a slew of home builds from its batch of contestants. During this year's Television Critics Association panel for Assembly Required, Tim Allen talked about how his longtime relationship with Richard Karn was a pretty essential piece of the puzzle, even though he initially didn't think Karn would do it. In his words:

I could tell you that none of this would’ve happened when I was coming unglued on the set. I’m not used to being – as the director said: ‘You haven’t done this before, have you?’ I’m used to – I've done a lot of movies; I’ve of course done television and concerts and theater. I’ve never been in this live format, and Richard was able to go, ‘Okay, okay, okay.’ He’s a consummate professional and a genuinely calm-hearted person, and it was a perfect match to pull me out of having to go insane. We’re on freakin’ camera for nine hours, and this is the most unusual experience, but Mr. Drama here was able to bring it back down and be exactly like we were in ‘Tool Time.’ It’s amazing how this is an expansion of that relationship.

That all sounds right on par with expectations. A lot of Tim Allen's characters are the type who seem like they'd mentally snap after being stuck in an unfortunate situation for slightly too long, so it's understandable that Allen himself would have a more limited cache of patience than some of his co-workers. Especially when compared to someone as effortlessly affable as Richard Karn, who could be a figure in Mount Nice-more alongside Mr. Rogers and Jim Henson. Opposites do attract, after all, and it's awesome that Allen and Karn's personalities fell right back into that balance for Assembly Required.

Ever the gentleman, Richard Karn didn't take full credit for keeping the show on the rails, and pointed to the magic of television for why the show looks as presentable as it does.

It’s editing. It’s all about editing. If we could have editing in our world, in our lives, I mean things would go so much smoother, or things would come to a head much quicker.

One can only hope there are some outtakes out there during which Tim Allen appears ready to blow a gasket, only to have Richard Karn magically step in as the Grunt Whisperer to reverse his co-star's frustrations. And I can't quite explain it, but I'm also picturing a lawnmower being involved.

Producer Brent Montgomery was also on hand for the panel – as was Tim Allen and Richard Karn's co-host April Wilkerson – and he gave an outsider's opinion about why Allen and Karn's friendship was such a big win to everyone behind the scenes.

For us on the production side, we never get the kind of chemistry that these two guys have. That never happens. And so to start sort of above base camp, I think, allowed this show to kind of go into uncharted waters for us. So that chemistry is undeniable, and fun, and I think they also did a very good job of opening up to April, who really added her own flair as well. So we were very lucky to have the chemistry, and it was really unique to see Tim and these guys react to authentic makers who, you know, the first time I talked to Tim about it, he was speaking about these people like these people would speak about him. And so that, I thought, was a really unique sort of experience. It inverted the process.

While Home Improvement's Tim Taylor was usually more quick to one-up someone's handiwork rather than show genuine appreciation for it, Tim Allen is often very visibly impressed by the things that contestants are putting together on Assembly Required, and fans are as well. So check out all the cool creations Allen and Richard Karn are judging – when they're not playfully judging each other – when Assembly Required airs Tuesday nights on History Channel at 10:00 p.m. ET. Will this series get viewers any closer to a legitimate Home Improvement revival?

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.