The end of `Improvement'

TV: There was no place like `Home,' Patricia Richardson says, but the time had come to leave it.

May 19, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Eight seasons was plenty for ABC's "Home Improvement," says series co-star Patricia Richardson.

"I think it's absolutely the time" to stop, said Richardson, who plays Tim Allen's wife on the popular sitcom, which ends its run Tuesday on WMAR, Channel 2. "I always had a really hard time the last couple of years knowing where to take the characters. The hardest thing about a sitcom or a long-running series is that the characters can't really grow very much, because if they do, there's no show, you lose conflict."

"You take a character like the character of Tim Allen, who started out as such a macho-camacho sort of male, and we have evolved him over the years. He can't get too evolved, or we have no more show. But then after awhile, it becomes kind of like butting your head up against the wall ... I think that the writers did an exemplary job of still finding things to write about within the family life, but it was getting harder and harder."

During a conference call with TV writers, Richardson said she was proud the show had been such a people's favorite during its run, noting it's the first sitcom since "I Love Lucy" to finish in the top-10 seven years in a row. Comparing "Home Improvement" to both "Roseanne" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," she said viewers were able to see some of themselves in the show.

"People felt that a lot of the time we managed to be like we were in their own living rooms," she said. "They'd say, `You've been watching through our windows. Your relationship with Tim, the fights you guys have, the concerns that go on in your family ... this is so much like our lives.' They recognized something. I feel good about the reality that we managed to achieve, whether the critics may have noticed that or not."

That lack of critical recognition, both by the press and the industry (the show was never a favorite at Emmy time) has rankled Allen. But Richardson says she understands why critics never fully embraced the show.

"My guess to some extent is that people saw the show as too milquetoast, too sweet, too soft," she said. "That was my [problem] with the show, too, so I can't really argue with that very much." Richardson said, she often pushed the show's writers to make the show a little edgier. She didn't always succeed, but won often enough to value her experiences on the show.

"It requires a lot of extra work to get that kind of stuff into that show," she said. "But I think a lot of times people in the industry turned it off because it wasn't what they called witty, in the same way that some [other] shows were, i.e., cruel. Our show was never that, and I can't say that was what I wanted either."

`Homicide' mourners

A few more thoughts on the cancellation of our beloved "Homicide: Life On the Street," from those who will miss it the most:

"I feel the people are so used to watching people getting shot and raped, that they don't like to watch anything with intelligence. It was one of the better intellectual shows. There was a lot of research that went into each script."

-- Ralph Tabakin, who has played medical examiner Scheiner in about 50 episodes of the show

"It's the one other show I make sure I see every week. I'm surprised NBC would do that. ... From a story-telling point of view, it's certainly in the top three."

-- Meredith Stiehm, writer for ABC's "NYPD Blue"

"I just heard on Baltimore talk radio that `Homicide' is canceled. Let the NBC boycott begin."

-- Susan, a participant in a "Homicide" Internet chat room Friday afternoon.

New digs for AM stations

WCBM-AM (680) and its sister stations, WWLG-AM (1360) and WASA-AM (1330), officially christen their new studios tomorrow.

Located at the Hilton Plaza Pikesville, the three Nick Mangione-owned stations moved into the new location earlier this month. The grand opening is being held at the same time WCBM is celebrating its 75th year on Baltimore radio.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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