"If women don't find ya handsome, they should at least find you handy." - Red Green
Sort of like a rural Canadian "Home Improvement" (without all the annoying family stuff and if Tim looked more like what you imagined next-door neighbor Wilson to look like), "The Red Green Show" ran on Canadian TV (with reruns on PBS), starting in 1991 and ending an impressive 15 years later in 2006. With sitcoms these days lucky if they make it to 10 episodes, "The Red Green Show" managed to get to an astonishing 300 - especially impressive, given the straightforward concept. A "Red Green" movie was produced, and in 2006, Green was given the honor of being made a member of the Order of Canada, as well as the honor of being 3M's "Ambassador of Duct Tape" (after his extensive use of it.)
The series stars Steve Smith as Red Green, the owner of Possum Lodge and a rather inept handyman who tries to use the path of least work in order to fix any sort of problems. In one episode, Red tries to survey the damage when he gets a flat tire, commenting dryly, "I wanted to get at least another 20,000 miles out of it." Nothing "Home Improvement" ever did has anything on the boat that was made in one episode later in the show's run, pulled together out of a van, a revolving door, a lot of empty bottles and other materials.
Every one of the episodes offers a series of skits, some in the lodge, but many in the nearby countryside. There's generally a few "handyman" skits, a few character/comedy bits and sometimes an advice bit (which, despite the fact that it sounds like a corny source for comedy, is actually often pretty funny.)
The series manages to do an impressive job being sweet, but not too sweet (while the show has a sweet and inoffensive exterior, but the dialogue isn't sitcom sweetness, as the characters frequently toss one-liners back-and-forth at each other.) While the show and characters are warm and friendly, there's a little bit of bite to the humor at times to keep it from being too cutesy or goofy. The writing is also terrific, as each episode is packed with plenty of little throwaway gags and dry humor. The performances are also very amusing, as - like the humor - the actors manage to be silly and funny without being over-the-top or slapsticky.
There's been many, many releases of "The Red Green Show", including specials, seasons and other offerings. This...is another one. The show is certainly terrific, but it's disappointing that rather than release these seasons separately, they have been paired together in "The Infantile Years" (because it's the show's first three years, get it?) While it's a cutesy way of bundling the seasons, fans who would rather shell out for the seasons one-by-one may be a bit disappointed.
The early seasons of the series (1991-1993) are still hysterical throughout much of the running time, but are admittedly more primitive in appearance and clearly working with a smaller budget than in the later seasons of the series, where the contraptions and skits are larger in scope. Early on in the first season, the extent of the contraptions include things like a cooler made out of a toilet tank. The bit manages to be funny and awkward at the same time.
The show also undergoes some tweaks in the first three seasons, as well - the second season (which may not be as desirable for some) isn't as good, as (as creator Smith explains in the introduction) was mishandled by those on the network, who tried to turn the sketch comedy series into more of a sitcom. The results aren't as lively and while lesser "Red Green" is still funnier than most of what passes for sitcoms these days, a fair amount of the gags fall flat. The third season is certainly a return to form, as the series not only goes back to the sketch comedy format, but adds in a live audience, which seems to further energize the performers.
Some of the characters aren't seen until later on, but the series starts with quite a few along for the ride, including isolated (the watchtower he sits in in the early seasons was built in Green's yard) Ranger Gord (Peter Keleghan) and dorky nephew (and show producer) Harold (Patrick McKenna).
While it's remarkable how well the cast clicks in the first season, Smith had been perfecting the Green character previously, especially on his prior sketch show, "Smith and Smith", which aired from 1979-1985. McKenna and Smith are delightful bouncing one-liners off one another, and it's impressive that the cast has the kind of chemistry they have this early on in the program. "The Red Green Show" remains a classic comedy, and it's fun to see where it all began.
Disc 1: 1991
1. The Big Inboard: The men build a motor with a V8 engine.
2. The Elvis Sighting: Elvis at Possum Lake?
3. The UFO: Handyman tips and a UFO.
4. The Treasure Hunt: The gang goes on a treasure hunt.
5. Practical Joke Week: Prank week at the lodge.
6. Home Barber-Kit: It's haircuts for everyone.
7. He-Man Contest: The boys hold a He-Man contest.
8. Guest Elephant: Red has an unsettling elephant experience.
Disc 2: 1991
9. Exotic Dancer: Moose visits an exotic dancer.
10. Lost Toupee: The mystery of the missing hairpiece.
11. Talent Show: The lodge holds a talent show.
12. Problem Outhouse: Outhouse troubles at the lodge.
13. Whittling Contest: Sharp knives and male egos.
14. Wind-Powered Boat: The gang builds a boat.
15. Hot Water Bottle: Blowing up a hot water bottle.
16. Lodge Visitor: An unexpected guest causes a ruckus.
Disc 3: 1991
17. Gun Powder Shakes: Special spices explosive taste.
18. Safety Week: It's safety week at Possum Lodge.
19. Bad Chili: There's a running shoe in the recipe.
20. Water Tower: The gang builds a water tower.
21. Jet-Ski: The guys are mesmerized by a Jet-Ski on the lake.
22. New Well: The men try to dig a new well.
23. Canoe Jousting: On Possum Lake, a new sport is born.
24. Water Slide: The men construct a water slide.
Disc 4: 1992
1. The Putter Attack: Noel hits Helmut on the head.
2. Doc's Loan: An angry Helmut comes to collect from Doc.
3. Missing: Eddie's Robert Goulet record collection disappears.
4. The Receipt-A-Thon: The taxman cometh.
5. The Sing Along Machine: Karaoke turns dangerous.
6. Bear!!!: A female bear can't resist Red and the gang.
7. The Bad Check-Up: Glen is denied RV insurance.
8. The Four-Man Raft: Murray makes a bad business deal.
Disc 5: 1992
9. Skeet Golf: Bob's passion for golf causes an accident.
10. The Broken Water Pump: Helmut struggles with repairs.
11. The Illegal Clubs: Bob buys a set of questionable golf clubs.
12. Animals in the Attic: Eddie befriends the raccoon in the attic.
13. The Party Boat Sank: Glen is blamed for sinking a boat.
14. The Food Club: Eddie quits after a dispute with Douglas.
15. The Fish Locator: Doc buys a gadget he can't afford.
16. The Bent Canoe: Helmut destroys the lodge's canoe.
Disc 6: 1992
17. Job Security: Noel is fired and replaced by Helmut.
18. Noel's Stag: The guys plan a stag party for Noel.
19. Bob's Birthday: A surprise birthday party goes awry.
20. The Sudsy Lake: Possum Lake is covered in pink foam.
21. The Gun Mishap: Noel accidentally shoots Murray.
22. The Double Date: Glen and Helmut go on a double date.
23. The Florida Trip: The gang plans a trip to Florida sans Glen.
24. Not One Fish: Is there a conspiracy to kill the lake's fish?
Disc 7: 1993
1. Maple Syrup: The men collect syrup with Russian munitions.
2. Car Pool: Red starts a car pool with limited success.
3. The Spawning Grounds: A plan to get government money.
4. Magnetic Lake: A freak accident magnetizes Possum Lake.
5. Underground Parking: An old mine becomes a parking garage.
6. The Tanks We Get: Donated gas tanks overwhelm the lodge.
7. Fire Brigade: The lodge forms its own volunteer fire department.
8. The New Shirt/Casino: Red's shirt causes friction at Casino Night.
Disc 8: 1993
9. Green Green: Red tries to clean up the environment.
10. Fuel Conversion: The men convert their cars to run on firewood.
11. The Hidden Mine: The guys find a secret mine hatch.
12. Lake Regulations: The lodge confronts a yuppie canoe club.
13. Cross the Lake Race: The men get the chance to work with nudists.
14. The Salmon Parade: A parade celebrates the salmon's return.
15. The Funniest Video: The guys send in a funny video to a TV show.
16. Biosphere Three: The gang tries out a biosphere experiment.
Disc 9: 1993
17. The Water Park: The boys outfit the lake for a water park.
18. The Used Helicopter: The men acquire a gently used helicopter.
19. Possum Lake Regatta: Moose's junker joins the regatta.
20. The Retirement Home: Old Man Sedgwick wants a cottage.
21. Slingshot Skiing: Moose decides to water ski without a boat.
22. The Possum Olympics: The lodge hosts the biannual event.
23. Possum Lake Monster: A dinosaur is sighted in the lake.
24. The Water Show: The gang decides to put on a water show.
VIDEO: The "Red Green Show" specials are presented by Acorn Media in 1.33:1 full-frame. The series doesn't look dazzling, but I suppose it probably looks about as good as it's going to get, given the show's production budget, age and intended look. While the episodes never appear blurry or hazy, they do look on the soft side, especially the first season. Some mild wear on the elements is seen, but no pixelation or edge enhancement is noticed. Colors remained stable and appeared natural and bright.
SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.
EXTRAS: DVD introduction by creator/star Steve Smith, bios. Having Smith provide commentary on the first episode would have been a really nice touch, but unfortunately wasn't included. The introduction from Smith is barely that - he offers some good facts about filming the first episode, but at under 2 minutes, there's not much to it. Additionally, the same introduction is included on all three seasons - even if a couple of minutes each, it would have been nice to have brief introductions for each of the seasons.
Final Thoughts: While the second season is a bump in the road, these first three seasons of "The Red Green Show", as a whole, are otherwise quite entertaining - and again, it's great to see how good this series was from the start. The DVD edition boasts good audio/video quality (considering the age and budget of the material), but a disappointing amount of extras. Recommended.