Judge Adam Arseneau keeps his stick on the ice.
Our review of The Red Green Show: The Midlife Crisis Years, published June 16th, 2011, is also available.
"When the going gets tough, switch to power tools."
Oh, Red Green. Is there anything you can't duct tape?
If this sentence makes no sense to you, odds are, you aren't a Canadian. For us north of the forty-ninth, The Red Green Show is as inherently Canadian as maple syrup, Mounties, and our paramilitary guerilla army training night and day on our streets to invade America. Wait, never mind. Forget I said anything about that last one.
For Americans lucky—or unlucky—enough to have been exposed to the show on PBS, Acorn Media is now making it available on DVD, saving you from waiting until the next pledge drive. Lucky you guys.
Facts of the Case
When his nephew Harold (Patrick McKenna) returns to Possom Lake to become its new head of public relations, Red (Steve Smith) doesn't know if his life has gotten harder or easier. Life at Possom Lodge, a men's club in Northwest Ontario is about to get complicated, but it won't stop them from doing what they do best: whatever they want, without women around.
Trying to explain The Red Green Show to non-Canadians is a tricky thing. Heck, trying to explain it to Canadians is often problematic. The show has had a half-life on Canadian television like plutonium—fading in cultural relevance, but never really going away, lingering for decades. No, seriously, decades! Steve Smith, a long-standing figure of Canadian comedy and television devised the character of Red Green during his husband-and-wife duo sketch comedy show Smith & Smith, a staple of Canadian television back in the eighties. The character proved popular enough to spin off into its own show, which ran a bewildering fifteen seasons across four networks, finally ending in 2006. The poor man has been wearing the same flannel shirt for almost three decades.
At one point in its history, The Red Green Show was genuinely funny. I remember fondly as a kid watching Smith fumble about with his duct-taped contraptions, like a politer, non-coked out version of Tim Allen, causing havoc at the Possum Lodge. Of course, any show that stays on the airwaves this long is bound to run out of steam somewhere along the way. Unfortunately for The Red Green Show: 2001 Season, these are the twilight years of the show, the later episodes where things sort of coast along without really doing the show's pedigree justice. Not that there was much comedic pedigree to begin with.
Like its duct-tape inspiration, The Red Green Show is a hodgepodge mix of sitcom styling and sketch comedy blending the best and worst elements of more successful shows. Originally conceived of as a goof of Canadian television personality B. H. "Red" Fisher and his show, The Red Fisher Show, The Red Green Show is part Married With Children's NO MA'AM club, part Home Improvement, part Sportsman Channel and part The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, all with a distinctive Canadian twist. Articulating exactly what that "twist" constitutes has always been the hard part about selling Canadian content abroad, since we're not quite sure ourselves half the time. The comedy here is light, inoffensive, and rustic, cracking jokes about bears, mosquitoes, duct tape, and power tools. Most of the humor in this show is variety show-styled, the kind your grandfather would appreciate: verbal puns, double entendres of an entirely non-sexual nature, goofy slack-jawed yokel facial expressions—it's like Hee Haw minus the music. Then again, the "Winter of our Discount Tent" is pretty funny.
The best moments of The Red Green Show: 2001 Season involve Red fixing things badly and getting into horrible accidents. The worst moments involve just about everything else—the hokey jokes, the goofy faces, the geriatric humor. Pretty much the only people who will enjoy this DVD are folks living in a log cabin or those in retirement homes.
Visually, this DVD is atrocious. Compression artifacts run wild like mosquitoes, and the entire picture is so aliased and jagged that it looks like it was filmed through a screen door. Watching it on cable TV looks better than this—trust me. The audio is a standard 2.0 stereo presentation, entirely unremarkable, sounding thin and tinny and lacking in bass. Whatever source was used to author these DVDs, it wasn't a good one. Extras are slim, by which I mean there are none, save for production notes written by series creator Steve Smith.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The problem with this set—really, this show—is that Acorn Media appears to have only secured the rights to the CBC incarnation of The Red Green Show, namely from 1997 onwards. Like all good comedies in Canada (Trailer Park Boys, Corner Gas, The Kids in the Hall), they know how to take a good idea and run it into the ground.
There was a time when The Red Green Show was genuinely funny, but it was in the early days of the franchise starting in 1991 onward. By the time Acorn Media got their hands on the material, the show had been through four studio changes, expanded its cast unnecessarily, attempted to diversity its tastes, and recycled its jokes again and again. At this point, the show's just painful to watch.
The Red Green Show is an acquired taste to be sure; it kind of appeals to retirees more than the youthful generations, but the show was much more palatable in the early days. I'd be amenable to seeing the show on DVD—just not these episodes.
I'm also alarmed at how much my father rapidly resembles Red Green in his retirement. Very alarmed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
• Production Notes
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