Jonathan Returns To Home Improvement

Credit: Entertainment Weekly

Teen star Jonathan Taylor Thomas returns to 'Home Improvement'

Teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas has taken on a new role, at least in the eyes of his onetime TV dad, Tim Allen. The "Home Improvement" patriarch thinks young J.T.T. would be a good candidate for the series' prodigal son.

Thomas, 17, who quit the show two months ago to focus on his studies, is back on the set of the series to tape a Christmas episode. But Allen apparently is miffed over Thomas' extracurricular activities. "I love the kid, but he said he was leaving to study for college," Allen tells syndicated columnists Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith. "Instead, he's been making movies. I don't know why he just didn't tell everyone what he was planning to do. It's been a shock to me."

Since leaving the show, Thomas has been busy updating his image, playing a romantic lead in "I’ll Be Home For Christmas" and signing up for the dramas "Speedway Junky" and "Walking Across Egypt."

Not surprisingly, the Christmas episode delivers a somewhat pointed dig at Thomas. While his character, Randy, has been attending a work-study program in the Costa Rican rain forest, the family has gone on quite nicely without him, thank you. Allen admits that Thomas' departure initially hurt the show’s dynamics, but he is quick to point out that young actors Taran Noah Smith and Zachery Ty Bryan have picked up the slack for their absent on-screen brother in the show's final season.

Still, it's doubtful that either actor will match Thomas' popularity. "Early on it was really evident that Jonathan was going to be the breakout star of the three boys," says Cathee Sandstrom, editor of BOP and BB magazines. "Which is to say nothing of the other boys' talent, but our young readers were drawn to Jonathan from the beginning. People in the industry picked up on that, which accounts for the extent of his feature-film career."

There's still some proving left to do, however. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" finished a disappointing seventh this weekend ($4 million gross), badly trailing other teen favorites "The Waterboy" and "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer." 

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