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Monday, March 21, 2011


Making its TV debut at about the same time as Tim Allen's "Home Improvement", the similarly-themed Canadian comedy "The Red Green Show" (1991-2006) follows the adventures of a not-so-handyman who broadcasts a live-audience TV show from the rustic Possum Lodge somewhere in the Great White North.  But where Tim Allen's character was addicted to shiny, high-tech gadgetry with "more power", Red Green's forte is to fashion elaborately worthless contraptions out of scrap parts and duct tape ("the handyman's secret weapon"). 

Acorn Media's THE RED GREEN SHOW: THE DELINQUENT YEARS contains seasons 7-9 (1997-1999) of the popular show on nine discs and is more unabashedly-goofy fun than you can shake a hockey stick at.  Co-creator Steve Smith plays the gray-bearded Red with a low-key charm and a way with both deadpan one-liners and folksy words of wisdom.  A laidback lug in flannel shirt and suspenders who revels in his "guy-ness", Red is so perversely ingenious with his money and labor-saving inventions that they often go beyond the ridiculous to the downright dangerous. 

He gets this DVD collection off to a good start by duct-taping two junk cars together to create his own budget-priced Hummer.  In another episode, Red turns a full-sized city bus into a cigarette car by putting the steering wheel in the back and sawing off the roof to create a really long hood. 

Transforming his garage into a car wash or turning a washing machine into a homemade bread maker are child's play for this guy.  As the seasons progress, the writers keep topping themselves by coming up with wilder and more mind-boggling inventions, some of which, God help us, actually work if they don't explode first.

Red's co-host is his incredibly nebbishy nephew, Harold, who wields a keytar-like instrument with which he directs the show.  It took an episode or two for me to get used to Patrick McKenna's over-the-top portrayal, but I eventually realized that this guy is a scream and is the perfect foil for the down-to-earth Red.

Sort of a cross between Jerry Lewis and Pee-Wee Herman (with a big nod to Robert Carradine in REVENGE OF THE NERDS), the bucktoothed, bespectacled Harold is often the squeaky voice of reason in the face of Red's outlandish schemes but usually ends up getting caught in the backfire.  Harold helps run the lodge meetings that we see during each episode's closing credits and emcees many of the show's various segments such as "Possum Lodge Word Game" and "Ask the Experts."  His dream girl is Sandra Bullock, but in the meantime he'd settle for any girl.  

Each episode begins in the Possum Lodge and contains some basic storyline upon which to hang a series of recurring comedy sketches.  Whether it's a fishing tournament against a rival lodge, an attempt by Red to turn the lodge into a tax-exempt religion, or an effort to purify the rancid Possum Lake by having each lodge member drink 47 gallons of it in three weeks, the subplots help keep the show moving but rarely get in the way of the random dumb fun. 

Among the many supporting characters are familiar actor Graham Greene (THE GREEN MILE, DANCES WITH WOLVES) as amateur explosives enthusiast Edgar K.B. "Ka-Boom" Montrose, Gordon Pinsent (BLACULA, COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT) as habitual liar Hap Shaughnessy, Bob Bainborough (THE LOVE GURU, DEAD RINGERS) as the grumpy Dalton Humphrey, and Wayne Robson (WRONG TURN, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD) as cheerful, diminutive ex-con Mike Hamar, who just can't seem to stay out of legal trouble.  Comic Jerry Schaefer plays the extremely nervous animal control officer Ed Frid.

Co-creator Rick Green is hilarious in the "Adventures With Bill" segments, which are pure silent-movie slapstick with the accident-prone Bill engaging in delightfully wrongheaded and hazardous pursuits as Red looks on in awe.  Two things always happen during an adventure with Bill--one, Bill gets seriously injured (but bounces back like a cartoon character), and two, he always manages to knock the mirrors off Red's Possum Van. 

Besides Bill, my favorite supporting character is the deceptively normal-looking Ranger Gord.  Gord has spent several years alone in a firewatch tower, which has warped his mind in a variety of ways.  His emotional relationships with the forest animals and even the trees themselves are creepy enough to have even Red and Harold squirming in their seats during one of his bizarre personal accounts.  During the 1999 season Gord starts making his own public service cartoons which are a real hoot.  Playing Ranger Gord is Peter Keleghan, known from such films as SCREWBALLS and COOPERS' CHRISTMAS, along with the "Non-Fat Yogurt" episode of "Seinfeld."

Unfortunately, both Patrick McKenna and Rick Green left the show at the start of the 1999 season and, while some of the lesser characters were promoted to help fill in the gap, the absence of these two key performers is keenly felt.  McKenna makes frequent guest appearances during segments in which Red visits Harold in his new job as an accountant in Port Asbestos, but it just isn't the same. 

The nine-disc, 47-episode collection from Acorn Media is in 4:3 full screen and Dolby Digital stereo.  Each season comes in its own three-disc keepcase.  Extras consist of text biographies of Red and Harold, plus Steve Smith's production notes on the show--these appear in all three sets, with season three containing some additional bios of other characters. 

One of the reasons I like THE RED GREEN SHOW: THE DELINQUENT YEARS so much is that it's like a skewed adult version of some of my favorite kids' shows such as "It's Howdy Doody Time" and "Captain Kangaroo", by way of "The Uncle Floyd Show" and "Pee-Wee's Playhouse."  The main difference, besides the lack of talking animals, is that Red isn't concerned with being a good example or teaching us sensible life lessons--he's happy just to cheer us up, make us feel a little better about getting older, and allow us to vicariously revel in the joys of being totally irresponsible.

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