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Tim Allen brings 'Tool Time' persona -- and Al -- to new reality show

Richard Karn (L) and Tim Allen reunite to host Assembly Required. Photo courtesy of History Channel
Richard Karn (L) and Tim Allen reunite to host "Assembly Required." Photo courtesy of History Channel

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Tim Allen and Richard Karn, who played co-hosts of fictional show Tool Time on Home Improvement, are reuniting as hosts of History Channel's Assembly Required -- as much the same characters.

"This is an expansion of that relationship," Allen said on a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel ahead of Tuesday's premiere. "We're very similar to the characters we play in that show."

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Allen and Karn, with co-host April Wilkerson, assign contestants historic items to build like fire extinguishers, leaf blowers, flame throwers and recliners. The History Channel filmed the contestants in their own shops under COVID-19 safety protocols.

"I just really appreciate people that, instead of throwing stuff out, fix and repair and make things better," Allen said.

Karn and Allen began Home Improvement in 1991. Karn recalled how quickly they found chemistry.

"Our relationship kind of happened before we knew what it was," Karn said. "We took our cues from the audience's reaction to us."

Home Improvement established an adversarial relationship between Tim Taylor (Allen) and co-host Al (Karn). Taylor was more of a bumbling handyman and the competent Al would always show him up.

Allen said he hesitated to ask Karn to co-host Assembly Required with him, as he was afraid Karn would say no and embarrass him.

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"He jumped at the chance," Allen said. "All of a sudden, it became a live version of Tool Time."

There was one difference between the fictional Tool Time and the reality competition Assembly Required: Allen relied on scripted lines for Tool Time, and said he struggled coming up with something to say for nine hours of unscripted competition.

"I was coming unglued on the set," Allen said. "[Karn] is a consummate professional and a genuinely calm-hearted person. It was a perfect match."

Allen was also reluctant to pick winners. He said he admired all of the contestants who could build the assigned items.

"I'm not a big fan of judging art, movies or anything," Allen said. "However, we set the show up to have a winner and it got very difficult for me personally."

Since Home Improvement, Karn has hosted the game shows Family Feud and Bingo America. Returning to the tool world, Karn said he was grateful Allen created a show to celebrate builders.

"My dad was a builder [and] my grandfather was a builder," Karn said. "I've always really respected that part of our society. It's really neat to get that message out."

Allen said he developed his interest in building things from his family, too. His father, Gerald M. Dick, sparked Allen's interest in auto mechanics. Allen also credited his grandfather with telling him, "If you can afford quality, buy quality."

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"I always loved how things were put together," Allen said. "I've always loved shop class."

However, as hosts, Allen and Karn will leave the building to the contestants. Both said they stumble over their own handyman projects.

"Over on my workbench there's a whole bunch of stuff that I got halfway started with, small stuff," Allen said. "I just took it apart and now I really don't know how to put it back together."

Karn agreed with Allen. Karn also keeps broken items for the possibility that he can one day figure out how to fix them.

"It might be just a little, tiny thing that'll fix it and it'll work perfectly, instead of going into a trash heap," Karn said.

Assembly Required premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST on The History Channel.

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