Background: Situation comedies have been around since the dawn of the television medium decades ago. While some have been noticeably better than others, there has been a trend for the writers of such shows to follow very specific formulas in regard to how the characters act to life (and each other) that have changed very little over the years I've been watching them. This said, there are plenty of shows available on DVD that manage to tickle my funny bone, one of them a mainstay on PBS for 15 years called The Red Green Show. I've reviewed episodes and a season set in the past and frankly, not much changed when I was sent a preview copy of The Red Green Show 2001 Season: Collector's Edition the other day so I'll borrow a bit of verbiage from my past review to describe the show itself before giving a look at the individual episodes below.
Series: 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.
In the following four years after that auspicious mainstreaming of the show, Steve Smith (Red Green) remained the main target of the humor (as well as dispenser of folksy charm) and Pat McKenna (Harold) left for the better part of two years. In my opinion, the lack of the main foil weakened the show in some ways but allowed for some secondary characters to beef up their appearances, including Ranger Gord (Peter Keleghan), Dalton (Bob Bainborough), Mike (Wayne Robson), and others. This continued into the 2001 season even when Harold came back as a city hired public relations manager, the change subtlety altering how Red treated him (still with wide eyed wonder and skepticism but more like a lucky bastard that got a great paying job he himself wanted).
The episodic season continued like those in the past too, showing repair tips you won't want to follow, how to build devices you will be sorry for, and slyly poking fun at a wide array of pop culture and political matters in such a manner that even if you don't agree, you will laugh all the same. The episodes are such that you can view them out of order in most cases, are family comedy, and each focus on individual themes but there was scant difference in terms of the way they were set up by the writers so you will be in familiar territory if you've followed the show just as newcomers can jump right in to find plenty worth watching repeatedly if you haven't. Here are the "official" episode descriptions from the company website for those of you needing even more detail than anyone reasonably should, the entire 17 episodes from the season placed on 3 double layered discs to lok at least as good as when they aired:
Episode 211 - "New Job in Town"
Patrick McKenna returns to The Red Green Show. When the town of Possum Lake decides to hire a professional Public Relations person to promote the area, everyone at the Lodge applies for the job and are shocked to find out that Harold is the successful candidate, instantly making him the most successful Lodge member in history. In other segments of this episode, Red makes a trailer with no wheels and an automatic dog wash. Walter's rototiller gets away from him. Cast - Steve Smith, Patrick McKenna, Bob Bainborough, Wayne Robson, Jeff Lumby, Joel Harris.
Episode 212 - "Gladiator"
The Town of Possum Lake is staging a live version of the movie Gladiator with Dalton Humphrey (Bob Bainborough) in the lead role. Meanwhile Red demonstrates how to change a flat tire without stopping and how to fish with a musket. Mike builds a sailboat that runs on land. Harold drops in to advise a married viewer who has fallen hopelessly in love with Queen Elizabeth. Cast - Steve Smith, Patrick McKenna, Bob Bainborough, Wayne Robson, Jeff Lumby, George Buza, Joel Harris.
Episode 213 - "The Whooping Crane"
A whooping crane builds its nest and lays an egg in the chimney of Possum Lodge. Red demonstrates a creative way to go tobogganing in the summer. Harold gives advice on how to tell a fellow employee that they have a body odour problem. Ranger Gord presents his first animated feature of the season and Red shows you how to seal your driveway with paint roller blades. This week's adventure features Road Hockey. Cast - Steve Smith, Patrick McKenna, Peter Keleghan, Bob Bainborough, Jeff Lumby, Wayne Robson, Joel Harris.
Episode 214 - "Back To Nature"
As part of his new job, Harold rents out the Lodge to what he thinks are a group of Senior Executives from a naturalist organization, but who are actually just old nudists. Red shows how you can attach an automotive supercharger to the human body. In the adventure film, Mike borrows a police car and gets it stuck on a dirt pile. Ranger Gord writes a love letter to Susan Sarandon. Red finds a useful purpose for accordions. Cast - Steve Smith, Patrick McKenna, Peter Keleghan, Bob Bainborough, Wayne Robson, Jeff Lumby.
Episode 215 - "Dalton's Hot Gift"
Mike gets Dalton a new barbecue for his birthday. Red believes Mike stole it from Dalton's store. Red demonstrates an economical way to make an automatic garage door opener. This week's adventure has Winston getting rid of a beehive. In the word game, Harold tries to get Red to say 'celibate'. Nervous Animal Control Officer Ed Frid brings a fox to show the audience. Red shows us how to use a golf club to clean up our yards. Cast - Steve Smith, Patrick McKenna, Jerry Schaefer, Bob Bainborough, Wayne Robson, Jeff Lumby.
Episode 216 - "Viva Las Possums"
Harold stages a 50's weekend at Possum Lake, culminating in an Elvis Impersonation contest. Red makes a wood chipper out of a clothes dryer. The adventure features a pit stop during the Possum Lake Car Rally. Marina Owner Dwight Cardiff extols the virtues of skydiving. In the word game, nervous Animal Control Officer Ed Frid tries to get the word 'confidence'. Red shows you an easy way to check the map while you're driving. Cast - Steve Smith, Patrick McKenna, Jerry Schaefer, George Buza, Bob Bainborough, Wayne Robson, Jeff Lumby.
Episode 217 - "Y2 Cans"
To raise money, the men decide to sell rusty unlabelled food cans left over from the Y2K scare. Red demonstrates how to use a toilet plunger to build a riding lawnmower. Winston and Walter have a parasailing adventure. Ranger Gord is on strike with unspecified demands. Other Handyman Tips - how to add wipers to your side and rear windows, and how to make your own automatic door opener.
Episode 218 - "The Ghost of Possum Lodge"
Mike discovers a ghost in the Lodge and then gets Red to help him catch it. Red uses an arc welder to protect his van from parking lot dents. In this episode's adventure, Dalton uses a jet engine to vacuum the grounds behind the Lodge. Animal Control Officer Ed Frid brings fox on to the show. Other Handyman Tips - Red demonstrates how to use an adjustable cane to enhance airplane travel, and the concept of filling your tires with jelly instead of air.
Episode 219 - "The Chainsaw Races"
Trouble at the Lodge when Red tries to stage the chainsaw races on the same weekend that Harold is hosting gifted children. Red strikes back at teens with loud car radios by turning a van into a giant portable boom box. Dalton, Winston and Walter have a frightening adventure when a nail gun goes out of control. Lazy marina owner Dwight Cardiff talks about why he likes skydiving. Other Handyman Tips - how to paint a room with a lawn sprinkler and how to recycle windshield washer fluid.
Episode 220 - "Something In The Heir"
Winston tries to adopt a child to carry on the family septic sucking business. Red turns a car into a castle, complete with turret. Mike and Walter turn a basketball competition into an adventure. Dalton finds out that surfing the internet leaves a trail. Other Handyman Tips - using a toy train to vacuum a rug, and a quick clean-up idea for bachelors who eat alone.
Episode 221 - "Daredevil"
When Psycho Ernie backs out of his attempt to jump over the Lodge on a motorcycle, Mike volunteers to take his place. Animal Control Officer Ed Frid brings in a snapping turtle to show the audience. Red makes a portable garden in the box of a pick-up truck. The adventure film is all about what can go wrong during a badminton game. Ranger Gord presents an animated film about forestry work called Lumberjack Gord.
Episode 222 - "Mike Goes Straight"
As part of his rehabilitation, Mike volunteers as a Bylaw Enforcement Officer. Red turns a treadmill into a moving sidewalk. Dalton has an accident while playing paintball. Walter and Red try to knock down a shed. Winston needs to fix a flattened mailbox. Red demonstrates a cheap way to make a wall-hanging television.
Episode 223 - "Xmas in July"
Harold stages a summer Christmas as a tourist attraction for Possum Lake. Red uses a car engine to make an automatic sprinkler system. Walter and Winston help Red replace the tire in the Lodge tire swing. Red vacuums with a toy train and also has a plan to eliminate the need for snow tires. Mike deals with a moral conflict when finding a wallet with money in it.
Episode 224 - "The Fishing Derby"
Harold tags a prize fish and releases it in Possum Lake. The catcher will receive a thousand dollars. Red turns a lawnmower into a coffee maker. Ranger Gord uses Red to demonstrate his ability to do magic tricks. Red and Mike try curling with cars. Red shows you how to keep warm in a cold room and how to get snow off your roof without shoveling.
Episode 225 - "Masquerade Marathon"
Mike uses the Possum Lake Masquerade Picnic to help him hide from a bad guy. Red puts hot peppers in the bird feeder to help the birds stay warm. Red also converts a car into a barbecue. The men try to break the world record for toboggan downhill racing. Ranger Gord presents an animated feature called 'Ranger Doolittle'. Red makes a huge ballpoint pen to draw traffic lines on the road.
Episode 226 - "Harold's Dilemma"
Harold's Public Relations Department has a five thousand dollar shortfall. He decides to solve it by doing a massive renovation to the Lodge to make it more appealing to tourists. Red lines his jacket with toaster elements to stay warm. Red and Mike use a car remote to find their way out of the woods. Red fills his tires with jelly to eliminate flats, and makes a simple engine for his canoe out of PVC pipes and Bromo Seltzer.
Okay, if you are a fan of the show, you will definitely want this season set when it is released at the end of February but I would suggest a newcomer that likes light hearted sitcoms to consider it as Recommended or better too.
Picture: The Red Green Show 2001 Season: Collector's Edition was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color offering as coded in the MPEG-2 codec used for standard definition releases (with 480i resolution nitpickers). The show is divided into various segments, most of which take place on the same stage and the majority of the rest in filmed clips outside that often employ slow motion or speeding up of the material to make it funnier. The segments using Red's handyman skills are as great a parody on the plethora of "fix it" shows found in abundance on cable these days and sometimes show in lower resolution or with additional grain but there was never a case where the look of the show interfered with the comedy elements. There were some compression artifacts in the later portions of the season but they were as rare as the edge enhancement induced nightmares I get from far bigger budget shows on DVD, the show looking better than it did when it aired on PBS as far as I could tell.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital English with captions for the hard of hearing, using a 192 Kbps audio bitrate and 48 kHz sampling rate for those that care. There was little separation between the channels and the dynamic range was nothing to write home about but the aural components of the show fit right in with the visual aspects. The music was mostly stock tunes and none of it appears to have been replaced over copyright issues for those looking to find something to hate on (a cottage industry these days), the balance between the music, special effects, and vocals appearing to be just right.
Extras: The only true extra for the three disc set was a set of short text production notes about the season, coming in as rather sketchy but helping to remind loyal followers that it was best known as the season where Harold came back to the show.
Final Thoughts: The Red Green Show 2001 Season: Collector's Edition was a solid collection of comedy sitcom magic allowing the established crew of wacky Northerners to embrace the backwoods themes in such a way that everyone can enjoy the ride. Now that several sets of the show are available on DVD, it is easier to see how the rest should soon follow; the quality of the writing as well maintained as the actors in the lengthy show's existence, the relative lack of extras and cost the only hampering points for me to keep the rating from soaring higher. The replay value was higher for me than many other shows of this time period too but that is largely because I catch more of the insider jokes and sly puns when I catch episodes a second or third time, seasoned followers of the show should know exactly what I mean by this so give it a chance and you won't be sorry.