Tim Allen and Richard Karn weren’t just toolin’ around on “Home Improvement.” They actually do like tinkering in a workshop.
“I like taking stuff apart,” Allen says by Zoom from his expansive home shop. “I’m pretty good, but I’m very confused about plumbing.” Karn is equally at home in a shop but, like Allen, says, “Plumbing is a little bit out of my reach.”
Now, sans plumbing, the two are joining forces for “Assembly Required,” a 10-part reality competition that pits builder against builder, repurposing household items.
It’s “Tool Time,” you might say, for experts.
Because the coronavirus pandemic didn’t allow contestants to gather at a studio, they had to work from home. Allen and Karn, meanwhile, Zoomed in.
“You realize the ability to access the outside world is not as easy for everybody,” Karn says. “We, on some level, had to wait a while to make sure that the Wi-Fi and cameras were feeding us back all the information.” Something that might look good on camera didn’t necessarily translate on screen.
Not so the Allen/Karn relationship. When they started “Home Improvement,” “our relationship kind of happened before we knew what it was,” Karn says. “We took our cues from audience reaction to us, but we didn’t know there was anything really outstanding about how we’re playing off each other.” Writers followed their lead and a television team was born.
Now, they’re able to slide into those roles for “Assembly Required.”
Allen says he’s not comfortable doing Zoom hosting. Karn, however, was a “consummate professional.”
“We’re on freakin’ camera for nine hours and it was the most unusual experience,” Allen says. “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.”
Helping explain builds: Expert April Wilkerson who, yes, watched “Home Improvement” but was more interested in Allen’s TV son Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The “Tool Time” girls were fine, she says, but “it’s really cool that shows these days are incorporating women to be more than just beautiful. Having the opportunity to also put some of my knowledge out there as a teaching resource I think is really cool.”
At his home shop, Allen restores cars, most recently a 1966 Corvette. “We’ve been working in my car shop from the day this pandemic started,” he says. “The auto business never really shut down and this has been a three-year build and we’re coming to the end of it.”
He was always drawn to shop class in high school because it married art and design.
“You build stuff with the artistic head in mind,” he says. “But I always loved how things were put together, primarily because my grandpa always said, ‘If you can afford quality, buy quality.’”
Karn also gained a love for construction through his family. “My dad was a builder. My grandfather was a builder. I’ve always really respected that part of our society.”
Together, the two talked about somehow converting that interest into a television series after “Home Improvement” ended.
Years passed because “there was a hesitation on my part,” Allen says. But, then, the concept for “Assembly Required” emerged and the wheels started turning.
Now, the two have found their groove and are interested in seeing how they can incorporate Zoom technology in a post-pandemic continuation of the series.
“It gives us an incredible foundation to maybe do some new and cool stuff in subsequent seasons,” says Brent Montgomery, the show’s executive producer.