By Peter Hummers on May 4, 2023
The first time I heard of Red Green was on an episode of Norm MacDonald’s Live podcast. Norm and Tom Green were reminiscing about the Old Country and one of their favorite TV shows, and I reckoned if these guys thought Red Green was funny, he should certainly be worth a look. Thank goodness for the Internet!
“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.” (Red Green)
In 1968-1989 CTV in Toronto broadcast a popular outdoors show featuring American expat B.H. “Red” Fisher, helpfully titled The Red Fisher Show. A crusty but earnest fishing and hunting showcase, it was ripe for parody. Enter Steve Smith, who had a sketch comedy series called Smith & Smith that he produced with his wife, Morag. In 1991 she retired and Smith created a new show around a recurring character from Smith & Smith, rustic handyman Red Green.
The Red Green Show is like a cross between Home Improvement, Northern Exposure, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, with a dose of Jackass for good measure. There’s a revolving cast of characters in the village of Possum Lake: host Red Green (Smith), who wears a plaid shirt, chinos, red and green suspenders, and a sort of Robin Hood hat, apparently a Canadian Army field maneuvers cap. Duct tape is his secret weapon. There’s his similarly clad nephew Harold (Patrick McKenna), a nerd who produces the show, and Bill Smith (Rick Green), 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.
Handsome Ranger Gord lives in a fire tower; he’s desperately lonely and cries when Red, who visits him there, has to leave. His full name is Gordon Ranger, but he prefers not to be called “Ranger Ranger.” He once fell in love with a log. Hap Shaughnessy’s tall tales beggar belief: Hap told Red that he once worked on an ocean drilling platform that weighed thirty-three trillion tons. “And we weren’t drilling for oil—we were drilling for gunpowder!”
The show opens with a monologue from Red, such as “Okay, so I was tellin’ ya about Moose Thompson and Elvis. Moose was down at the supermarket and he told everybody that he saw the ghost of Elvis in the Chinese food section, and nobody believed him. And then he remembered that it wasn’t the Chinese food section, it was in the delicatessen, and suddenly the story had an eerie ring of truth to it.” The set is a crazy-looking rustic workshop. During the show, birdsong, gunshots and chainsaws can be heard in the distance.
One segment is like Ernie Kovacs’ “Poetry with Percy Dovetonsils”; it’s called “The Winter of Our Discount Tent,” and features Red, in a snowy wood, with a furry hat and snow goggles, reading poetry: “It is winter. Children’s laughter at the front door/ They tumble into the house/ Boots off, sweaters off, hats, snowsuits, scarves/ Mittens are peeled away—Hey! These aren’t our kids!”
Sometimes Red, with a guitar, will sing a ditty as Harold accompanies him on the spoons: “I hear the sizzle of bacon on the engine block/ I see a handful of hash browns lyin’ in my sock/ I watch a stack of pancakes go rollin’ down the dock/ Breakfast is hell when the stove blows up!”
Occasionally lodge members play the Possum Lodge Word Game, like Pyramid, in which one tries to guess a word from clues. Once, the word was “star” and Red gave the clue, “What do you have when you spell “rats” backwards?” “Dyslexia?”
In the Handyman’s Corner, Red will demonstrate some home repair or hack which invariably ends up employing sledge hammers and duct tape, with anecdotes. Talking about stripping and refurnishing furniture, he warns against chemical strippers: “One time, Stinky Peterson stripped down the two-holer (an outhouse), and he hasn’t been able to think of anything that happened between 1985 and 1987.”
After various segments, we’re back at the set (which is also the Possum Lodge), where Red might finish his original story:
“So, anyway, after Moose Thompson had seen the ghost of Elvis, it changed his personality. All right, I should say it got him a personality. He put rhinestones all over his plaid shirt, his hunting vest and his tent, and he went around, goin’ ‘Uh, thank ya vurra much.’ And he bought his mother a motor home—he called it ‘Greaseland.’ We try to be tolerant of people, but it got to the point where he was really gettin’ on our nerves, so we knocked him down, stepped on his face, and slandered his name all over the place. Now he thinks he’s Mama Cass.”
The Red Greene Show in its own way is as funny as those other great comedy series of the late British Empire: Monty Python and Father Ted. You should really check it out; most episodes are on the show’s YouTube channel. Five out of five moose from me. Mooses? 🦌🦌🦌🦌🦌
Next time, the Red Green movie, Duct Tape Forever! In the meantime, keep your stick on the ice.
(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)
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