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.
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." Another episode has Green creating window awnings out of car hoods, then closing all of them as he walks away.
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.) Assisting Red is producer Harold (Patrick McKenna), Red's nephew and more than a bit of a nerd. Red's other pals who join him on his adventures include: store owner Dalton (Bob Bainborough), demolition fan Edgar Montrose (Graham Greene), recently paroled criminal Mike (Wayne Robson), oddball local park ranger Ranger Gord (Peter Keleghan) and others.
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.
Overall, I found this series to be a pleasant surprise - the series has an enjoyably funky, rough appearance, but what really entertains is the dry humor, snappy performances and consistently fun writing.
"Red Green is Special" is a 4-disc set that contains four of the show's major specials: "Red Green's We Can't Help It - We're Men", "Red Green D.V.D", "Red Green's Hindsight is 20/20" and "The Red Green Story: We're All in This Together".
"We're All in This Together" (2008) is the longest of the bunch at 90 minutes, and probably the most interesting of the group. The special takes place a couple of years after the final episode, and it serves as a warm, funny reunion for the cast. Smith offers some great insights about working on the series, and fans get to see quite a few rare behind-the-scenes clips and hear more about the inspiration behind certain segments of the series. There's a fair amount of clips from the show scattered throughout the program, but the interviews and rare clips outweigh the fact that there's a few too many show clips taking up the running time.
"Hindsight is 20/20" (2003) is a mock-u-umentary that Smith and other members of the gang do in character, looking back at a remarkable 25 years of the character, from the early beginnings of the character during the 1979 sketch comedy series, "Smith and Smith". The very early clips of Smith doing the character aren't as funny as those that came later from the "Red Green Show", but it's still a lot of fun to see Smith's early take on the famed character. The segments with the characters discussing their history with "Red Green" aren't hysterical, but there's a good deal of chuckles.
"D.V.D." (Duct Tape Virtuoso Deluxe) was made in 2000 and one can guess what it covers - it's a look at some of the best moments of the series that show Red using duct tape. One of my favorites comes right at the top of the series, where Red tapes a couple of gutters from a shack onto the side of his car, which are perfect for a garbage truck to latch onto the car. The mission: to clean his car without actually doing any of the work, so he has the car lifted up over the truck and tipped over. Another of my absolute favorites has Red making a riverboat out of a van, a ton of plastic bottles and a revolving door. Another skit has Green duct taping a hot water heater to a sled and turning the whole contraption into a steam-powered snowmobile. While there are some great clips here (all of which are more clever than anything in "Home Improvement"), there is the issue that fans have probably already seen most of them.
"We Can't Help It, We're Men" is a 1998 offering that boasts 65 minutes of skits edited together (as the title would indicate, some marriage/relationship material), providing an amusing "best of" for some of the more recent episodes. "D.V.D." is more consistently entertaining, but this provides a good intro to the series for those who haven't seen it before. Fans, on the other hand, probably have these episodes in their season sets already.
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 and intended look. As with the series DVDs, the specials look as if they were taken from video copies, and while sharpness and detail aren't great, the picture never appears hazy or blurry, either.
SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.
EXTRAS: "Red Green, D.V.D." has production photos and other supplements, but the best of the extras is a featurette where Red Green goes to a 3M factory to take viewers on a tour of how duct tape is made - both educational and quite funny. I'm surprised that 3M didn't sponsor the series. "Spokane Word" is a very short clip from an appearance by Red Green, as is "No Gainesville, No Painsville". Finally, we get "Making It With Duct Tape" (things viewers made out of duct tape that they sent in) and a photo gallery.
"Hindsight is 20/20" offers a little over an hour of extended clips, as well as some never-before-seen clips of early Green. Finally, "We Can't Help It, We're Men" offers the 71-minute bonus program, "Red Green's Of Cars and Men", which is an auto-heavy highlight reel - although there are a few highlights here, I thought this was the least interesting of the "best ofs".
Final Thoughts: While the show is fantastic, I find it rather tough to recommend a purchase of this full set of specials to fans, as while they offer some very funny moments, they feel as if they should have been included as extras on the season sets - and two of the specials are "best ofs" (so fans who own the season sets already have this material.)
Fans who already own the season sets and who still want more Red Green should look for "Hindsight is 20/20" and "We're All in This Together" (which are available separately.)
Those who want to give the gift of Red Green to someone unfamiliar should seek out either of the two "best ofs" - "We Can't Help It - We're Men" or "D.V.D." (which are also available separately.) I wouldn't recommend this full set, but the individual specials (available on their own) may be of interest to either fans or newcomers.