Movie: Several years ago, I had the pleasure of introducing myself to a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) comedy show via the Acorn Media release of Stuffed and Mounted 6. It was a highlight DVD containing 8 episodes of the now ending The New Red Green Show, providing a number of silly skits based on the characters created by Steve Smith, who played the lead character himself; a man by the name of Red Green. As the show finishes up its 15th season, calling it quits in fact, the show is finally getting a season set release with The Red Green Show: 1997 Season, the subject of today's review.
The show began as a small half hour comedy show that poked fun at manly men in the woods of Canada, centering on Red Green, a regular handyman wannabe type, his nerdy nephew Harold Green (Pat McKenna), and a whole bunch of weirdo's that visit the two in the "infamous Possum Lodge". Red is a guy who can just about fix anything with duct tape, although the repairs are usually pretty poorly handled. Harold is the know-it-all type who frequently tries too hard to show just how little he really knows, a fact that Red frequently points out in some of the driest mannerisms available on TV. Each episode had a central theme as supported by the various skits, many of which were filmed before a live studio audience. The 1997 Season was the seventh for the show and was reportedly a turning point for the show. Until that time, it aired mostly on small Canadian independent stations, in a sort of syndicated manner. In 1997, it was picked up by Canada's answer to PBS, the CBC, and all sorts of upgrades were provided as a result. The studio it was shot in nearly tripled in size, bigger salaries allowed for more cast and better equipment, and the show was allowed to tape a couple episodes a night, allowing for a better sort of chemistry between the actors. The skits went from Red fixing small appliances to repairing cars, and the network soon had the show airing all over the USA through its PBS affiliates.
It was also the year when The Repair Shop skit started, based on the expression that "If it ain't broke, you're not trying" and Men Anonymous where the secondary characters would all tell stories about how they tried to be better husbands/boyfriends, usually by means of doing something stupid. The Handyman Corner was better than ever, and the outdoor skits so often used seemed more professionally done too. In short, "going corporate" provided the show with the means to expand in every way while maintaining the same kind of down home goofiness it had provided all along.
The humor was notable for how it rarely took harsh jabs at the topics, unlike shows in the vein of The Man Show where the topics tended to be far more mean-spirited, and always seemed willing to poke fun at the show, men, and the character's distinctive habits. Here's a list of the seventeen episodes from the DVD set, noting that all the reference sources I've look at tell me that there are 18 episodes to the season so it may be missing one:
147 Running Of The Bulls
148 Swiss It Up
149 The Implosion
151 The Strange Ranger
152 Big Guy Little Guy
153 The Movie
155 The Stool Pigeons
157 Let Me Count The Ways
158 Pardi Gras
159 The Splinter Lodge
160 The Good Old Hockey Game
161 Step Outside
162 The Town Mall
163 The Winter Carnival
The New Red Green Show is not about trashing wives, making men look any dumber than they do on their own, or using bathroom humor to take the cheap road to comedy. There are as many plays on words as anything written by the so-called "sophisticated" comedies and it would be easy to pass the show off as somewhat lowbrow but just as Married With Children was not about hating women so much as offering up the natural consequences of men's tendency's to act in certain ways, The New Red Green Show manages to provide family fun without catering to the lowest common denominator. It may be an acquired taste at times but it does grow on you and I'm hoping the rest of the seasons are released as boxed sets in the future. As it stands, due to missing an episode and having limited extras, I'm rating this one as Recommended though fans of the show will easily find it as worth more than that given the volume of shows, price, and quality of the material.
Picture: The Red Green Show: 1997 Season was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color, as it aired on PBS in 1997. The fleshtones were accurate, the indoor segments quite solid in appearance (with some grain), and the grain from the outdoor skits never so bad that they interfered with the humor. I saw no compression artifacts and a quick glance at the current episodes of the show on PBS looked no better.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo English. There wasn't any significant separation between the channels, the music and sound effects, nor was the dynamic range exceptional by any means but I had no problem with the audio. There was a laugh track and/or studio audience but your home theatre won't be getting a workout with this DVD set.
Extras: The only extras on the set were a biography for Red Green, one for Harold Green (both as their characters), and a short written note from creator/lead actor, Steve Smith.
Final Thoughts: The Red Green Show: 1997 Season was the first season set released on DVD, and the midway point of the show. The technical matters were decent, the number of episodes cool, and the humor of the show virtually always worth watching several times. The replay value for the episodes was higher than most shows, though a few beers in your system will enhance some of the weaker skits quite a bit. I think a lot of people will enjoy this creation by Steve Smith and it was honorable that he decided to leave the air before running out of material. The characters were over the top in a rustic way, showing the dry humor of the old Bob Newhart shows, the self deprecating humor of Married With Children, and the manliness of The Man Show, treating the camera as one of the gang rather than presenting the skits as objectively viewed as most shows seem to go for. Give it a look on TV but expect to buy the set when it comes out.