Acorn Media has been releasing the complete Red Green series in three season sets, from The Infantile Years to The Geezer Years, released this month. But it’s The Mid-Life Crisis Years that I’ve been revisiting over the last couple of weeks: seasons 10-12, which originally aired from 2000-2002. Each season in this set has a consistent look in its packaging and menu design. DVD extras are limited to some brief production notes from titular series star and writer, Steve Smith, but every episode is present and accounted for, and isn’t that what we really want?
Season nine marked the departure of writer and co-creator, Rick Green from his on-camera role in the Adventures with Bill segments, as well as a story-arc involving star Patrick McKenna’s character, Harold, getting a job in the city. As a result, neither of these actors are seen on-screen during season 10 (with the exception of the Christmas special, when Harold was in town for the holidays). Harold happily returns in season 11, though irregularly at first. Meanwhile, host Red Green (played by Steven Smith) interacts more with secondary characters, who became much more distinguishable to me as a result.
Just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about: Red Green takes the form of a faux low-grade cable access fix-it and men’s interest show, run out of the fictional Possum Lodge. Regular segments include “The Possum Lodge Word Game”, wherein Red’s partners humourously misunderstand every clue he gives them to guess the secret word; a brief monologue Red delivers on life north of 40, delivered deadpan but unerringly hitting its comedic mark; and “Handyman’s Corner”, where Red builds everything from home-made auxiliary window-wipers, to a method of cooking a holiday dinner inside a moving car. Unlike Tim Allen’s Home Improvement escapades, these creative Rude Goldberg contraptions do usually work, after a fashion (no doubt thanks to a talented technical team). Hopefully you don’t mind gravelly mashed potatoes.
The series has really hit its stride in these later seasons, with the contraptions getting bigger and better, though they’re still fresh and original. Each of the short, skit-like segments are consistently funny, and nicely break up the main story of each episode. In fact, said “story” usually takes up the minority of the total running time, but provides a nice continuity to an otherwise ADD format. These stories usually focus on some hare-brained scheme of lodge members (a season 10 episode has them entering a sausage-making competition) failing spectacularly by episode’s end.
It’s no secret that the average Canadian watches much more American television than the home-grown variety. Cultural pride notwithstanding, it’s generally difficult for our stuff to compete. But we have the odd gem, and Red Green is one of them.
After watching so many episodes in such a short time, what sticks out for me the most is that the show is so consistently entertaining while remaining family-friendly and completely apolitical. Anyone can sit down and enjoy an episode, and they do. For 15 years (not counting syndication), this has been the show that channel-surfing Canadian families would often settle on, to satisfy both the kids and grandma.
Never resorting to dirty jokes or profanity, rarely referring more than vaguely to pop culture, and set in a small town that could be almost anywhere in Canada, Red Green is not a show for conservatives or liberals, Albertans or Ontarians, old or young. It’s not even for men exclusively, or Canadians, for that matter. Septic suction segments notwithstanding, it’s good clean fun for anyone who wants to plop down in the living room and have a good time.