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DVD Review: The Red Green Show: The Infantile Years – Seasons 1991-1993

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If Barney Fife and Home Improvement'sTim Taylor had a pair of love children, they might have turned out something like Red Green and his nephew Harold. This was the first thing that struck me about The Red Green Show.

I had not heard of Red Green prior to sampling the DVD set The Red Green Show: The Infantile Years. Strange, since the show ran for 15 seasons, from 1991 through 2006. Three hundred episodes aired in Canada (where it originated), on PBS, and now on Comedy Central. There were several specials, a weekly syndicated news column, three books, and a feature film. In short, it was a pop culture phenomenon.

Where have I been?

If you’re like me and are clueless about what The Red Green Show is about, "The Infantile Years" is an excellent introduction to the craziness. The set contains every episode of the first three seasons: “When Possum Lodge first opened its doors…(and couldn’t get them shut again).”

The title character, Red Green (played by former teacher and the show’s originator, Steve Smith), is a lazy, somewhat inept handyman, complete with requisite grey beard and lumberjack shirt. His look belies a folksy charm and a dry wit; the twinkle in those blue eyes says don’t judge a book by its mountain man cover. He is smarter than he looks.

The show takes place mostly in the Possum Lodge and is produced by Harold, Red’s goofy but extremely bright nephew (played to geeky perfection by Patrick McKenna). Harold wields his “special effects axe” (an old Commodore 128 keyboard attached to a two by four dotted with strange looking dials and doo-hickeys) like a talisman. He is a computer geek; the instrument is his power and protector. With his overbite, slicked back hair, and Barney Fife bravado, he has all the makings of an easy mark. Red takes advantage of him every so often, but his need for the kid’s expertise outweighs the temptation to spew out cruel barbs. His attempts to treat Harold with as much goodwill as he can muster are sometimes painful-yet hilarious-exercises in restraint.

These three seasons are a good indication of how the show was able to change and grow during its formative years. The first season introduces us to segments that would be associated with the show for the duration of its run. “Adventures With Bill” has the semi-regular character, Bill, attempting to accomplish a deceptively simple task such as hitching a sailboat to a truck, with unfortunate results. The segment is filmed as a home movie to which Red supplies the narration. It is campy, rife with slapstick, and it made me laugh.

“The Winter Of Our Discount Tent” (Red reading his own poems aloud in the subfreezing Canadian winter), “Handyman’s Corner” (think Home Improvement with a somewhat cruel twist), and “The Experts” (guys who are anything but) are amusing as well.

The set is comprised of 72 episodes on nine discs. The extras include an introduction by star and creator Steve Smith, Red and Harold character profiles, and biographies of stars Steve Smith and Patrick McKenna.

By the way, if you haven’t already guessed, there isn’t a woman in sight. Rumor has it a couple do brave the testosterone-riddled landscape to eventually make an appearance in later seasons.

For the second season, Red Green the sketch show was replaced by Red Green the sitcom. Although not nearly as fun or clever, the presence of Red and Harold saves these shows from descending into contrived tripe.

It is the third season where the show truly finds its comedic chops. A live audience makes all the difference. In these episodes Red and friends make an energized and inspired return to the humorous promise of the first season.

If you like your comedy folksy but with a sly wink at the absurd, you’re sure to enjoy The Red Green Show: The Infantile Years.

The Red Green Show: The Infantile Years – Seasons 1991-1993 will be available on January 26, 2010 from Acorn Media.

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