The Red Green Show is a television comedy that aired on CBC Television in Canada and on PBS in the United States from 1991 until the series finale 7 April 2006 on CBC. Reruns currently air on CBC Television, The Comedy Network, and various PBS stations. It was produced by S&S Productions, which is owned by Steve and Morag Smith, and directed by William G. Elliott.
The Red Green Show is essentially a cross between a sitcom and a sketch comedy series, and is a parody of home improvement, do-it-yourself, fishing, and other outdoors shows (particularly The Red Fisher Show). The plot of a typical episode is expressed through a series of comedic sketches that are spread throughout the episode. These sketches draw from the same single set of characters and almost always take place inside Possum Lodge. Between the main plot sketches are an assortment of usually unrelated segments that touch on a variety of topics, from home improvement and marriage advice to slapstick comedy. Throughout the fifteen seasons, none of the cast portrayed more than one character, which is very unusual for a sketch comedy show.
The title character, Red Green (Steve Smith), is a lazy handyman who generally tries to find shortcuts to most of his projects, trusting the vast majority of his work to duct tape (which he calls "the handyman's secret weapon" and the "universal adapter"). He is the president of the Possum Lodge, a fictional men's club in the small town of Possum Lake, Canada, near the also-fictional town of Port Asbestos. He and his fellow lodge members have their own TV show (which is more or less the show itself), in which they give humorous lessons and demonstrations in repair work and outdoor activities (such as fishing and camping), and advice for men on relating to women, among other things. The characters Bob & Doug McKenzie, from SCTV's Great White North sketch, are an obvious comparison and a likely inspiration (with Dave Thomas, who played Doug McKenzie, appearing on The Red Green Show along with his real life brother Ian Thomas, as Ben and Dougie Franklin).
The show's basic concept is that it is a cable TV show, taped in part on a hand-held camera by Red's nephew Harold. The show's structure has evolved over time and now includes several regular segments that appear in almost every show. These segments are interspersed with each episode's three main plot segments, and they include such staples as the "Possum Lodge Word Game", "Handyman Corner", and "Adventures with Bill" (a slapstick home movie-style sketch with a voiceover by Red).
In "Handyman Corner", Red attempts to demonstrate creative and often humorous ways to tackle relatively common tasks, such as taking out the trash or making use of derelict cars. Memorable examples include a paddlewheeler made out of a van on pallets and a revolving door, a jetpack made from two propane tanks, a hybrid car from recycled golf carts and satellite dishes, and a kiddie ride made from a bar stool attached to the agitator of a washing machine. Green often uses duct tape in these projects; in one episode, he even tried to duct tape the Ontario-Quebec border as a potential solution to Quebec separatism. The segment customarily concludes with the aphorism "If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy."
"Adventures with Bill" is a black-and-white segment in the form of a narrated home movie, in which Red and Bill attempt to accomplish a task, trying out a sport, or go on some adventure, invariably leading to slapstick comedy. (Later in the series, other characters would be featured, sometimes without Red or Bill.) Red narrates each Adventure as the action occurs.
Red also gives sage advice from behind his fly tying workbench, "North of Forty", usually talking to older men about married life or coping with changing society ("Let's face it," he quips in one episode, "these days, if you're not young, you're old.") This segment always concludes with "Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together." "Buddy System" involved Red and another character giving men advice on how to get out of a jam with their wives, although Red was usually replaced by another character in later seasons.
"The Possum Lodge Word Game" usually appears as the second or third segment of the show, immediately following the first plot segment. It is structured much like Password and Pyramid, in which the objective is to get a contestant to say a certain word in thirty seconds by giving them various clues. On this program, however, the contestant almost always gives either way off or odd answers through the segment, but finally says the correct word by accident, usually as part of a punch line.
In earlier episodes, Red often recites small bits of poetry in the woods, and the segments are named depending on the season and a humorous twist on a famous saying. For example, a winter segment is named "Winter of Our Discount Tent". In later seasons, the characters give brief biographical sketches (consisting of various odd historical photos accompanied by narration) of "famous" Possum Lake residents.
Other regular segments include "The Experts", where Red and another character answer alleged letters from viewers and always give ridiculous advice; Ranger Gord's "educational" safety cartoons (featuring anthropomorphic animals that look like Red and Harold); and occasional advice segments by Dalton Humphrey and Mike Hamar. Hap Shaughnessy appears in many segments and always tells outlandish stories about his life—among other things, he claims to have been an astronaut, to have invented television and basketball, and to have once advised Walt Disney on how many fingers to put on Mickey Mouse.
The show usually concludes with Red giving a message to his wife, Bernice (usually a double entendre), and delivering his signature piece of life advice in the form of a hockey metaphor: "Keep your stick on the ice." This is followed by a general meeting of the Possum Lodge membership, which begins with the ritual stating of the Lodge motto: "Quando omni flunkus moritati" (Pseudo-Latin for "When all else fails, play dead"). From season 6 onward, this is followed by the Man's Prayer: "I'm a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess."
Smith originally created the character of Red Green for his 1979–1985 sketch comedy series Smith & Smith. The sketch was a parody of the long-running Canadian outdoors show The Red Fisher Show (1968–1989), starring BH "Red" Fisher, in which Red and his friends would show silent films of their fishing trips with commentary at "Scuttlebutt Lodge". The character also appeared in Me & Max and The Comedy Mill before becoming the focus of his own series.
The Red Green Show was produced first by CHCH in Hamilton, Ontario, then by CFPL in London, then by the Global Television Network, before finally finding its permanent home at CBC Television for the 1997 season (its seventh) onward. The show was renamed The New Red Green Show upon its move to Global, and would keep this title until its second season at CBC.
The show ended April 7, 2006 after its 15th season with exactly 300 episodes. (This longevity inspired a joke in one episode, where Red says "The question is, can you do anything with crap? Obviously the answer is yes, we're in our fourteenth season.")
The last episode was filmed on November 5, 2005, at the Showline Studios Harbourside location. At the time the season began taping, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was locked out, rendering the show's studios at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre unusable. . The last episode concluded with the show breaking the fourth wall by thanking the audience and fans for their popularity. In addition, the Man's Prayer was changed to "I'm a man / but I changed / because I had to / Oh, well."
The low-budget movie Duct Tape Forever (2002), was based on The Red Green Show. It was screened in select American theaters, but did not receive a wide release. It has since appeared occasionally on PBS stations during pledge drives. It is also available on DVD.
As the show gained popularity, Steve Smith also wrote a syndicated newspaper column, as Red Green, entitled North of 40 in which he would give advice to readers.
In previous years, the show would stage live mini-telethons (sometimes called "Red Green-a-thons") for public television stations in the United States. These usually coincided with national PBS fundraising drives, and featured contests between various PBS stations carrying the show. This was done to encourage new stations to carry Red Green, for those who already have it to continue it, and in one year Red playfully dumped stations that chose to discontinue the show in a wheelbarrow.
Since 2000, Red Green has been the "Ambassador of Scotch Duct Tape" for 3M.
Smith says he has no intentions of ever reprising his character, partially because he has found it more difficult to maintain the character's distinctive gravelly voice as well as staying in-character. However, there is a Red Green cartoon, Planet Harold, in development, said to be a prequel in which Harold is a teenager.
The title character of The Red Green Show, Red (Steve Smith) is the leader of Possum Lodge and a self-proclaimed handyman who is constantly extolling the virtues of duct tape ("the handyman's secret weapon"). He is married to Bernice Green and does not have any children. He is seldom seen without his trademark red-and-green suspenders.
According to Red's DVD biography, Red became the leader of Possum Lodge after gradually becoming more involved with it over time and becoming "the only guy nobody hated." At one point, he borrowed a large sum of money from his brother just before his brother lost his job. In repayment, Red employed his nephew Harold as the producer and director of The Red Green Show.
In addition to being a handyman, Red also has several main philosophies in life, some of which are passed on to the lodge as a whole. Chief among them is the phrase "Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati" (pseudo-Latin for "When all else fails, play dead"). He also concludes each of his Handyman Corner segments with the phrase, "If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy."
Red owns what is known as "the Possum Van", an early 80s model Dodge Ram cargo van, painted as a grey possum on a pale blue background, and with a license plate reading simply "POSSUM". It is one of Red's few vehicles that actually runs. It has played (and donated) many parts in Handyman's Corner projects.
Red's dry, often sarcastic wit is balanced by a strong sense of camaraderie with his fellow lodge members, partly because he directs most of his sarcasm toward Harold. Despite this, Harold and the rest of Possum Lodge seem to regard Red with a high level of respect, though occasionally some of the lodge members will challenge his authority in one way or another.
Harold (Patrick McKenna) is Red's nephew and the fictional producer and director of The Red Green Show. He is a nerd—he has a significant overbite, wears thick glasses, is very eager and sensitive, and is one of the most intelligent members of Possum Lodge. He is often appalled by the behavior of the other lodge members (and even Red himself), and he puts a lot of effort into trying to change everyone's behavior, usually with little to no success.
Harold's advanced knowledge of computers, television and technology originally landed him the job of producer and director of the TV show. Later in the show's history, he became employed at Multicorp and went to work in the neighboring town of Port Asbestos. He later became the publicity manager for Possum Lake, and eventually fell in love with Bonnie, a commercial truck driver who shares nearly all of his unusual mannerisms. The two were married in the final episode of the series.
Harold and Red spend much of their time on the show trading insults and poking fun at each other. While they have shown they can cooperate with one another at times, Harold is often very critical of Red's ideas and schemes, but usually ends up going along with them anyway.
In the movie Duct Tape Forever, Harold is not a member of the Possum Lodge. At the end, the brotherhood accept him and take him in.
Dalton (Bob Bainborough) is the owner of Humphrey's Everything Store and is one of Red's best friends. He is one of the few financially successful lodge members, most notably because he makes up fake history for the junk he sells in his store and fools gullible city people into thinking they're priceless antiques and paying a fortune for them. He is also a notorious cheapskate. In the meantime, he tries to conserve money as much as possible, shortchanging and cheating people if necessary. When he isn't complaining about the state of things at his store, he generally complains about his troubled marriage to Ann Marie and their daughter's spending habits. ("Thirty dollars for a pair of jeans! Can you believe it?!")
Dalton has been with the show since season 4 and takes part in the vast majority of the show's main storylines. He has a strong relationship with Red, joining him on his regular fishing trips and taking part in many aspects of the Possum Lodge operations. He also takes his fatherhood very seriously, often trying to pass on his ideas and wisdom to other people (most notably Harold). He generally tells people exactly what he thinks of them, even if it means offending them.
Ann Marie only appeared onscreen once, in the final episode where she and Dalton renewed their wedding vows (her face was obscured by her bridal veil), however she was sometimes seen in shadow in scenes set near their home (her voice was provided by Jennifer Irwin). Their daughter, Tabitha, appeared in the film Duct Tape Forever although there she goes by the name Mandy.
A true entrepreneur, Winston describes sewage and septic sucking as his lifelong dream. He owns his own equipment and a septic truck—apparently his only means of transportation, even on his usually unsuccessful dates. Throughout the series, he appears in a wide variety of commercials advertising his septic sucking business, almost always with a humorous quip ("We're number one in the number two business"; "We'll take that smell off your hands"; etc.). In later episodes, his commercials tend to parody the advertising campaigns of numerous Canadian companies.
Bill (Rick Green) is the star of the "Adventures with Bill" segment, in which he and at least one other character (usually Red) attempt to perform relatively simple tasks or try a sport or game in the clumsiest, most accident-prone way possible. (These segments are done in a silent home-movie format with a voiceover by Red, which, interestingly, seems to switch back and forth between past and present tense.) Bill rarely actually speaks, and has only appeared on the main set of the show in the second season (still silently) and in the series' final episode—these are also the only times Bill is ever seen in color, since the "Adventures" segments are shot in black & white. In some segments, Bill can be heard speaking in gibberish, but the explanation for not hearing him clearly is usually that the camera they use for these segments has a weak microphone. Later in the show's history, the "Adventures with Bill" segment was expanded to include more characters and not necessarily Bill himself.
In each "Adventures" segment in which Bill appears, he usually attempts to do something of an outdoors nature, such as backpacking, building something, chopping down a tree, or playing a sport. Each of his actions are basically slapstick comedy routines—for example, when he swings an axe, it flies out of his hands and smashes into another character or Red's Possum Van. In what has become a classic occurrence, Bill often manages to knock the side mirrors, or one of them, off the van. He can also store large tools and miscellaneous items in his overalls, and pull them out on demand. Many segments show Bill getting hurt somehow, but apparently not seriously or permanently. (One segment in particular ends with Bill's arms crushed and flattened in a grape press.) There is generally no continuity from one "Adventures" segment to the next, and Bill comes back in the following episode good as new.
Ranger Gord (Peter Keleghan) is the local forest ranger who spends almost all of his time alone in Fire Watch Tower 13, and, later in the series, Tower 3. His full name is Gordon Ranger, but he prefers not to be called "Ranger Ranger." He is always seen wearing his ranger outfit (which he apparently launders using only a blow dryer), and he finds various eccentric ways to pass his time, even while Red is visiting. For example, he has been seen making nature-sounds tapes by mimicking animal noises into a tape recorder, and he claims to use baked beans as his alarm clock. In one episode, he even is found by Red to be hibernating.
Gord has worked in his watch tower for more than fourteen years without a paycheck, and claims to have been a forest ranger his entire life. His apparent reason for becoming a ranger was that he thought Smokey the Bear was talking directly to him in one of his famous public service announcements ("Only you can prevent forest fires"). He frequently breaks out in tears during Red's visits as he talks about how lonely he is and/or how much of a sacrifice he makes at his job. During one visit, Gord claimed to have gotten so lonely that he ate the watch tower, then later moved on to another tower in season 7. Gord sometimes laments about his lack of recognition. Once, he thought that someone had left him some honorary medallions, only to learn from Red that they were beer bottle caps (Gord thought that a Budweiser cap was for being a "bud of the forest").
Later in the series (seasons 9 to 13, between 1999 and 2004), Ranger Gord made a series of 23 short "educational" cartoons about the environment. Written, animated, produced, directed and voiced by Gord himself, these films always feature an animated version of Gord as a muscle-bound super-hero type, and Red and Harold Green make appearances as a possum and beaver, respectively. (Dalton and Mike also appear in one short, depicted as a bear and a raccoon, respectively.) The cartoons' subjects have included finding money at the end of a rainbow, planting a cell phone to grow a telephone pole, and a fire fight against the Sun and its deadly ultraviolet rays. (The cartoons were actually written by staff writers, and were designed, directed and animated by Bryce Hallett of Frog Feet Productions.)
The original fire watch tower shown in seasons 1–2 appeared to be a simple treehouse. From seasons 3–6, it was filmed in an actual watch tower (in reality, located at Port Carling, Ont.). By season 8, it was a set. Gord appeared in the Lodge during season 7, saying that he eaten the front two legs of the tower and caused it to fall over. In the movie Duct Tape Forever, the tower had burned down and Ranger Gord was then in charge of a train station.
Edgar Montrose (Graham Greene) is Possum Lodge's explosives enthusiast. He believes that any problem (including leaky roofs and invasive weeds) can be solved with explosives. He is usually seen wearing singed overalls, a cracked construction helmet and a pair of ear protectors, though he rarely covers his ears with them. According to himself, Edgar was born in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, and he started using explosives at a young age. He later enlisted in the Army and was dishonorably discharged after only three weeks, when he blew up the main office ("turns out they were only thinking of building a new one").
Edgar's heavy use of explosives over the years has caused him to lose most of his hearing. As he says, "What doesn't kill you, makes you hard of hearing." This often leads to nonsensical responses to questions. (For example, Red asks him, "What have you brought for us today, Edgar?" and Edgar responds, "Oh, just fine, Red.") He is also missing a finger on his left hand, though the story of how he lost it changes each time he tells it. He claims not to have many friends, and according to his DVD biography, he "has yet to meet a woman that likes to spend a Saturday night watching him blow a fully grown Douglas Fir tree clean over the lake."
Edgar's middle initials, K.B., are rumored to stand for "Ka Boom!", his favorite catchphrase. His favorite movie is The Bridge on the River Kwai, saying, "Did you see that baby go up at the end?"
Hap Shaughnessy (Gordon Pinsent) is the water-taxi captain of Possum Lake, but he is much better known at Possum Lodge for his tall tales. In virtually every appearance he makes on the show, he makes a ridiculous claim to have been a significant person in history, or to have accomplished some incredible feat. Nobody else on the show believes him, but he will go to great lengths to tell his stories anyway. For example, he has claimed that he invented basketball while working undercover for the CIA, that he once filled in for Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and that he even fought a whale for "ten, twenty months." In one episode, it is hinted that he lies about his past because he has a poor self-image.
Hap is always seen wearing a Royal Canadian Regiment baseball cap, which is a nod to Pinsent's own military service as a soldier in the Regiment during the early 1950s.
Ed Frid (Jerry Schaefer) is the animal control officer of Possum Lake. Ironically, he is deathly afraid of almost all animals and believes they are out to get him. (He is most afraid of hamsters—"They're evil. E-vil.") He is featured on The Red Green Show in the "Talking Animals" segment, in which Red tries to get Ed to show the audience a small animal, such as a weasel or a leech. Invariably, something goes wrong and causes Ed to panic, usually bringing an abrupt and comedic end to the segment.
Buzz Sherwood (Peter Wildman) is a local bush pilot known around Possum Lake for his eccentric antics in his small Cessna seaplane, which he moors on the Possum Lodge boat dock. The reasoning for his party boy stunts is always in question, and every other member of the Lodge has his own theory. Red tends to think it's post-Vietnam stress, while Harold insists that it's probably LSD flashbacks. While playing the Possum Lodge Wordgame, Red engages him to utter the word "nudist". Asking him what he would call a person without any clothes on, Buzz immediately replies, "Fun!"
During Season 12, SDPB aired the final episodes of that year before Canada did. This was because at that time SDPB aired Red Green five days per week.