With winter just around the corner, I cannot think of a better way to spend the dark nights than with The Red Green Show. The half-hour Canadian comedy series ran on public television from 1991-2006. When imported into the United States, it took off on PBS, and has been in syndication all over the world ever since. The Complete Red Green Show: High (Quality) Quantity Collection box contains all 300 episodes of the series, five feature-length specials, plus plenty of extras. It is a treasure trove of comedy, and one of the coolest sets the Acorn Media Group have ever released.
Back in 1991, the idea of “men’s” comedy really took off. In addition to The Red Green Show, Tim Allen found great success in the field with Home Improvement. The idea that guys were beer-drinking louts who lived to fix things, go fishing, watch sports, and hang out was nothing new, but this kind of humor was finally ready for primetime. Not to dismiss Home Improvement, but that sit-com was pretty much focused on Tim’s family life. Red Green was not, and the show took the whole thing to another level. For me, The Red Green Show is the greatest Canadian export since Molson beer.
Although the two programs were developed independently of each other, there was common ground. In Home Improvement, Allen played a guy who had his own handyman TV show, Tool Time. On Red Green, Steve Smith stars as Red Green, host of The Red Green Show. It is also a low-budget handyman program, and we are privy to a behind-the-scenes view of it being made. The stuff these guys get up to is hilarious, and it was all there right from the beginning.
“The Big Inboard” was the title of the very first Red Green Show. It looked like what it was, a low-budget public television show about a bunch of crazed Canadian outdoorsmen. Very little changed over the years, which was perfect. Steve Smith knew exactly what he was doing, and the biggest mistake he could have made would have been to have the show “grow.” Even as the characters themselves aged, the Red Green Show stayed true to its roots.
The character of Red Green started out as something of a homage to the real-life Canadian “Red” Fisher. He hosted The Red Fisher Show, (1968-1989), a long-running outdoors program. One of the more notable pieces on Red Fisher was the silent footage of fishing trips from “Scuttlebutt Lodge,” that were shown with commentary. Red Green’s “Adventures With Bill” was directly inspired by it. In fact, a great deal of the series can be traced back to Fisher. The program emanates from the “Possum Lodge,” at the fictional town of Possum Lake in northern Ontario, near the equally fictional, (and intriguingly named) town of Port Asbestos.
Over the course of 15 years, the show changed very little from that first episode. Some elements were added, dropped, or improved, but overall things pretty much remained the same. There were three basic plot segments, interspersed with various bits. Besides the previously mentioned “Adventures with Bill,“ these included “Handyman Corner,” “The Possum Lodge Word Game,” “North of Forty,” “Buddy System,” “Male Call,” and “The Experts,” and others. The most frequent and popular segments were “The Possum Lodge Word Game,” “Handyman Corner,” and “Adventures with Bill.”
Besides Smith as Red Green, the main characters on the series were Harold Green (Patrick McKenna), Dalton Humphrey (Bob Bainborough), Mike Hamar (Wayne Robson), Winston Rothschild, III (Jeff Lumby), Bill Smith (Rick Green), Ranger Gord (Peter Keleghan), Edgar K.B.Montrose (Graham Greene), Hap Shaughnessy (Gordon Pinsent), Ed Frid (Jerry Schaefer), Buzz Sherwood (Peter Wildman), Bob Stuyvestant (Bruce Hunter), Dougie Franklin (Ian Thomas), and Kevin Black (Paul Gross).
Of all these characters, nephew Harold Green had the most to say to Red about the show, even if his advice was usually ignored. It is explained early on that Red had borrowed a lot of money from his brother once, and had hired Harold as a form of repayment. The two trade insults and poke fun at each other in most episodes, and the nerdy nephew served as a great foil.
Although Bill Smith only appeared on the set of the Red Green Show twice, he was the star of the silent slapstick “Adventures With Bill” bits, which were among the most popular of the series. Edgar “Ka Boom” Montrose is another character whose appearance signaled hilarity to come. Edgar is Possum Lodge’s resident explosives enthusiast, and much like Red with duct tape, Edgar believes that just about anything can be fixed through the magic of dynamite.
The Complete Red Green Show is a 50-DVD set which contains all 300 episodes of the series, five feature-length specials, and extras. The specials are: Hindsight is 20/20; Duct Tape Virtuoso Deluxe; We Can’t Help It, We’re Men; The Red Green Story; and It’s a Wonderful Red Green Christmas. The extras (called “Extra Junk”) are: Red Green’s of Cars and Men; A Merry Red Green Christmas; behind the scenes commentary; a hilarious tour of a duct tape factory with Red; fan made duct tape creations; extended footage; introductions by Steve Smith and Patrick McKenna; Red and Harold character profiles, and more.
The low-budget look of The Red Green Show perfectly matched the often corny humor. But that was intentional, as the slapstick “Adventures with Bill” made clear. There was a steadiness to the series that balanced two poles. It was as hip as anything on TV, yet never seemed to be aware of it. This is not easy to maintain for long, let alone for 15 years, yet The Red Green Show somehow managed to do it.
Five box sets containing all of the 300 episodes have previously been released by Acorn, but this is the first time all of them have been together in one place. The Complete Red Green Show is an incredible budget-priced package, and one which I think any fan would love to wake up and find underneath the Christmas tree.