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Case Number 21571

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The Red Green Show: The Midlife Crisis Years

Acorn Media // 2000 // 1269 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // June 16th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Josh Rode wonders what color you'd get if you mixed red and green.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Red Green Show: 2001 Season, published March 18th, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

I'm a man but I can change. If I have to. I guess.

Opening Statement

From 1991 to 2006 Canada stamped its indelible mark on American public television with a sitcom/sketch show dedicated to the proposition that all things are created to break, and when that happens, it's best to have plenty of duct tape on hand. Seasons ten through twelve of The Red Green Show feature nudists, emus, boy scouts, a $75 Jeep, and enough inventions to keep you in stitches for weeks. I mean literal stitches, like you would get from your local Emergency Room.

Facts of the Case

I present to the court Possum Lodge, set somewhere in the Canadian wilderness in the general region of Toronto. It is, by all accounts, an eyesore pockmarked with broken down vehicles and equally broken down men. The de facto leader of these men is one Red Green (Steve Smith, Duct Tape Forever), a man who seems calm on the exterior but becomes agitated in the presence of sheet metal, wood, tools (both powered and hand), and, especially, duct tape.

The Evidence

The Red Green Show has been released in the past as single season DVDs and in special compilations with loose themes. Now Acorn Media has dipped into the well once again by releasing the first twelve seasons packaged in three-season groups. Presumably the others are soon to follow.

The "Mid-life Crisis Years" encompass the 2000-2002 seasons. It turned out to be a fairly significant stretch for the show because original cast member Patrick McKenna (Everywhere) returned during the 2001 season to reprise his role as Red's nephew Harold after a two-year absence. This can be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon how much one likes obnoxious whining, pawing sycophants, and pretentious over-acting. As you may be able to tell, I'm in the latter camp.

This is likely the only place you will ever see The Red Green Show compared to Sesame Street (well, except where Red does so himself in a couple of the episodes), but the setup of the two shows is kind of similar; there's a main plot that is told through separate segments interspersed with a bunch of other skits that have nothing at all to do with the main story. The parallel only goes so far, however; I don't recall anything on Sesame Street being held together by duct tape.

Like any sketch-comedy show, each segment of each episode carries the potential to be really great or really bad. Unlike, say, Saturday Night Live, Red Green mostly avoids trenching. On the other hand, it rarely soars. Most of the segments land pretty squarely between "amusing enough to make me smile" and "amusing enough to make me chuckle a bit."

A typical episode goes like this:

• Red repurposes a common item (such as putting dog-tracking microchips into earrings for his wife so he can tell when she's coming his way)

• The main story in introduced

• Usually the Word Game, which is far more successful and entertaining than it has any right to be after so many episodes of basically the same concept and characters

• Red combines common things to get more done with less work (such as a lawn mower and a coffee maker)

• Red gives advice to the middle-aged

• The main story's second act

• A black-and-white silent-film-like sketch involving serious injury to people and/or vehicles

• This slot holds the most variety, and can be filled with anything from animated shorts from lonely Ranger Gord (Peter Keleghan, The Bend), a Q&A featuring pretend questions from viewers, or sketches that showcase one of the secondary characters'…well, characteristics (more on that later).

• Red again shows ingenuity in creating something out of whatever he finds laying about (such as a seat that will throw balls for a dog so you can play fetch without standing or throwing)

• The main story's conclusion

• The lodge meeting as the credits roll

Interspersed throughout are hilarious advertisements for Rothchild's Sewage and Septic Sucking Service, which range from funny poems to full-blown commercial parodies. These are almost always the best points of any given episode.

The main storyline often limits itself by staying exclusively in the lodge, so we don't get to see the chainsaw race or the debacle at the eclipse or the exploding super sausage. Instead, we get Red and one or more of the other characters telling us what happened, which grounds much of the potential energy from the show. With only a couple of exceptions, the official plot is the weakest part of each episode.

The characters are just that: characters. They each have a defining characteristic and everything they do is an offshoot of it. For instance, Edgar (Graham Greene, Dances With Wolves) is a demolition expert, complete with a shredded, blackened outfit. His defining characteristic is his inability to hear well, and everything he does involves mishearing what people are saying to him. Even the relationships are simplistic stereotypes. All the men fall into one of two categories: single and desperate, or married and hen-pecked. Needless to say, all of the wives (who are never shown) are shrill, controlling, and smarter than their husbands. All of this means that the characters have very little space to grow, so the show has to rely on using the same gags in different ways to generate laughs. Like one of Red's inventions, this works far more often than you might think.

Technically, the show is presented in its original 4:3 television aspect ratio and it looks better than I remember from the few shows I caught on PBS. The picture is clear, the colors are bright, and the lighting is great, both inside and out. The sound is adequate, for all that it's just 2-channel Dolby Digital.

Here's the complete listing of episodes:

The Red Green Show: Season 10
Dalton (Bob Bainborough, The Love Guru), Winston (Jeff Lumby, Sons of Butcher), and Edgar get to do a lot in this season; all three (especially Edgar) have much less to do in the succeeding years. I really liked the new program director (Stephanie Beard, Not Quite College ), but apparently they thought her part had run its course 'cause she shows up only twice in the entire series.

• "A Merry Red Green Christmas"—A double episode that actually aired in 1999.

• "Sausage Envy"—The lodge enters a sausage-making contest, which would have been great had we been able to see the actual contest.

• "Foster Child"—The lodge discovers one of its members used lodge funds to adopt a foster child. Ranger Gord's first animated film about making clouds stands out.

• "What a Dump"—The lodge is excited to be the new dumping spot for Toronto, which is a funny enough premise to make this a rare occasion when the main story is the best part of the episode.

• "Winston's Wedding"—Winston is getting married! After he finds a bride. The premise is funny but not executed to its potential. But Red's rigged exercise bike is a hoot.

• "Man of the Year"—The lodge wants to win the local man of the year contest, but can't find a suitable contestant. An average episode filled with average skits, although the van turned riverboat seems almost doable.

• "Survivor"—A toxic cloud keeps some of the members lodge-bound. Also, Red turns a four-wheel-drive truck into a complete wood-working station.

• "Historic Site"—The lodge is in danger of being knocked down unless they can get it classified as a historic site. A below-average episode.

• "Twinning"—5000 Iowans descend on the lodge. Gord's film about aliens is the highlight of a good overall episode.

• "Lunar Eclipse"—Red and his friends decide to relive old times by camping out under a lunar eclipse. A somewhat lackluster episode.

• "Barter Starter"—When things keep getting borrowed but somehow never returned, Red decides to lend things only if something else is lent back. Red's invention to clear the road of hooligan kids who won't move is simple and great.

• "Out of the Woods"—Something is stirring in the forest and it's up to Red and Animal Control Officer Ed (Jerry Schaefer, Survival of the Dead) to capture it. Skittish Ed owns this episode.

• "Cheap Jeep"—Red buys a build-a-Jeep kit but doesn't really have much use for trivialities such as instruction manuals. Also, making pottery, the Red Green way.

• "DNA All the Way"—A miser dies leaving behind a lot of money…and perhaps just as many heirs. Above average episode has no real stand outs but several chuckle-worthy skits.

• "Who Wants to be a Smart Guy"—The lodge members need to choose someone to represent them in a trivia contest. Another of the episodes where the main story is better than the surrounding parts.

• "The Beaver Dam"—Beavers are blocking the river, and no one wants that contaminated water flooding the place. Red's easy-clean gutters might actually work.

• "The Dandruff Foundation"—The lodge wants to link itself to a charity to rake in government incentive moolah. The Word Game in this episode is hilarious.

• "Damn You Emu"—Dalton thinks Emus are the wave of the future. Solid premise is mishandled, but the episode features strong sketches throughout.

• "No Duct Tape"—Aaaaugh! The lodge has run out of The Handyman's Secret Weapon! Very strong premise fizzles in the final act and the entire episode is bogged down by the lack of continuity between sketches.

The Red Green Show: Season 11
This season didn't just re-introduce Red's nephew Harold, it catapulted him into the second-most used character on the show. Which is a shame, because it shoved Dalton and Winston into the background, which means the show exchanged entertaining for annoying. 2001 can be summed up thusly: too much Harold!

• "New Job in Town"—A new PR director is hired, and it turns out to be Red's nephew Harold. Also, Red makes a dog bath based on car wash technology.

• "Gladiator"—The community theater is casting for its version of Gladiator. A fishing rod that uses a musket for casting and a fan question about love highlight a strong episode.

• "The Whooping Crane"—A whooping crane makes a nest on the lodge's chimney. Below average episode is redeemed by Dalton's hilarious nesting instincts in the final act.

• "Back to Nature"—Harold entices a group of naturists to visit the lodge. Nothing much stands out in an average episode.

• "Dalton's Hot Gift"—Dalton's birthday is coming up and Mike (the late Wayne Robson, The Timekeeper) is collecting for a present—but Red suspects the present may have been ill-gotten. Average episode is saved from complete obscurity by the dirty looks Mike throws Red throughout the lodge meeting at the end.

• "Viva Las Possums"—Harold wants to make a '50s-themed party at the lodge. The main story is stupid, but the other sketches are good enough to keep the episode from falling.

• "Y2 Cans"—The lodge tries to make money by selling rusted, unlabeled cans left over from the Y2K scare. Better, Red turns hand mowers into a riding mower.

• "The Ghost of Possum Lodge"—Odd happenings convince Mike there is a ghost in the lodge. Another solid premise that could have been funnier.

• "The Chainsaw Races"—The second annual chainsaw races are in jeopardy after Harold schedules a group of gifted children for the same day. Again, poor main story, good side sketches.

• "Something in the Heir"—Winston wants an heir, even if it means adopting. Another could-have-been-something main story with strong supporting skits.

• "Daredevil"—Harold hires a motorcycle daredevil to jump over the lodge. Gord's film about lumberjacks stands out in an okay episode.

• "Mike Goes Straight"—Red convinces Mike to get a job in law enforcement to help him curb his wayward fingers. A promising middle act dies out in the finale.

• "Xmas in July"—Harold wants to have a Christmas in July day to attract visitors. The main story is actually pretty engaging throughout, while the side sketches are…well, sketchy.

• "The Fishing Derby"—Harold (see what I mean about too much Harold?) creates a fishing contest to drum up interest in the lodge. In the meantime, we learn how marriage is just like poker.

• "Masquerade Marathon"—The annual masquerade ball is coming up just as Mike is trying to hide from a large guy who just got out of prison. No stand outs in the worst episode of 2001.

• "Harold's Dilemma"—Did I say #15 was the worst? I was wrong. Harold has not been succeeding at his job as PR director and needs to cough up $5000 or be fired. The closest I got to falling asleep.

• "Red Green Does New Year's"—Another double episode celebrating the beginning of 2002. Most of the cast get to give a list of resolutions; Dalton has the best ones. Also, Ed tries to spread peaceful vibes by showing off doves, although he fears them and their very sharp beaks.

The Red Green Show: Season 12
The show hit the skids starting in the last couple of regular episodes of 2001 and only regained its footing on the last three episodes of 2002. They had some good ideas but the execution was lacking and the normally strong side sketches just didn't measure up to the previous years'. Perhaps they were in some sort of time crunch. Whatever the reason, almost the entire 2002 season was far below par.

• "Go Fish"—The men want to go on a fishing trip, but they neglect to ask their wives first. A premise that could have gone far just…doesn't.

• "The Possum Ponderosa"—Red finds a tenuous connection with Lorne Greene, which they try to exploit to attract visitors. Red's broom handle and plunger light bulb changer could work.

• "Possum Air"—Harold gets his flying license and the lodge is turned into an airport. Briefly. Thankfully.

• "The IQ Test"—Everyone takes an IQ test, but the episode scores below 70.

• "The Day of the Sunflowers"—Red plants sunflowers to hide the eyesore lodge from the highway. Red's portable car shades might kind of work.

• "Reality Television"—Harold tries to ratchet up the dramatic aspects of the show by pitting people against each other. A premise that might have worked had they given it more thought.

• "Possum Lodge Provincial Park"—The lodge tries to get the government to declare them part of a government sanctioned park. The only truly funny feature is the byplay of Dalton and Harold as they discuss the inspector.

• "The Silver Wasp"—Harold gets a comic book convention to come to the lodge. A brief ray of light in the darkness that was mid-2002 came in the form of a talk about conflict resolution.

• "A Lot Like Christmas"—A regular-sized Christmas episode with little good cheer.

• "Snowed In"—A blizzard traps some of the members in the lodge. Aside from an ongoing cannibalism joke, there's nothing here that wasn't done back in 2000's "The Survivor."

• "The Go Go Bars"—Harold brings in a supply of energy bars that really live up to their name. Watching the normally laconic Red go spastic is the lone highlight of the episode.

• "The Missile Crisis"—A missile is found in a well and the lodge members need to find a way to get rid of it. Which happens in predictable fashion, since every time anything around the lodge goes into the air, you know exactly where it will land.

• "Never Send a Man"—Harold brings in a Boy Scout troop. This would have been a great episode if they had shown Red bring his wife's…um…modified love seat back to her.

• "Power Struggle"—The lodge needs to become more eco-friendly or be closed. Solution? Build a windmill. Another almost-good-story.

• "Mr. Possum Lake"—Harold wants to enter the annual Mr. Possum Lake contest. The lone bright spot of this episode is a bit about understanding women. Spoiler: you can't.

• "Red and Breakfast"—The season finally gets a good show, as Harold convinces Red to try to turn the lodge into a B&B. They test it by having Mike be a practice visitor, and he takes full advantage. The end is great, as is a "surprise" by Animal Controller Ed: the most dangerous of all animals is revealed.

• "The Moosetrap"—The lodge members try their hand at a dinner theater. The finale is a bit of a disappointment after a strong set up, but almost all of the side sketches are strong.

• "Stupid Cupid"—Harold tries his hand at video dating, and watching him try to act suave in front of the camera is funny. Red's advice to the balding middle-aged man hits a bit too close to home…

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The extras are nothing to write home about. Each season's first disc has a short blurb about the season that reveals very little, and Disc One of the 2000 season has a character file with biographies that are really funny. But that's it. I guess they're saving all the good stuff for the inevitable complete series edition.

Also, I suppose it should be noted that the 2001 season discs were mislabeled on the set I watched. Disc 1 held episodes 7-12 and Disc 2 held episodes 1-6.

Closing Statement

After watching 54 episodes of The Red Green Show in just over two days, I found myself in a sort of daze. There is something…infectious about the idea that everyday things can be combined or re-purposed to make your life easier, or at least more interesting. I started picturing the cars I saw with the tops knocked off and kiddy slides attached to the backs so the occupants could escape airplane-style after a crash. The show doesn't always live up to its full potential, but it has enough laughs to keep you entertained.

That being said, if you already own the individual DVDs, don't bother with this mini-set. There's nothing here you don't already have.

The Verdict

Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 40
Acting: 75
Story: 70
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 1269 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Foreign
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Introduction
• Character Files
• Notes From Steve Smith

Accomplices

• IMDb
• PBS' Red Green site
• Red Green News








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