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A Canadian Star Car: Red Green's Possum Van

Clip of Possum Van during a Red Green Show season 1 scene transition. 


It could be argued that the car someone regularly drives can be reflective of their personality. The level of character traits found in our automobiles can range from subtle to flamboyant as practicality, style, power, brand loyalty and other details are factors influencing our vehicle affection.

On the big screen and silver screen, an automobile (frequently popularized as a Star Car) can be used to affirmatively to expand on a human character. Batman’s Batmobile, the Dodge Charger called the ‘General Lee’ in Dukes of Hazzard, the Volvo P1800 featured in the 1960s television version of The Saint, the Aston Martin DB5 driven by James Bond in some of the most famous spy movies are some popular examples where vehicles play a major role in reinforcing the appearance of fictional individuals. Due to the budgetary constraints of Canadian media productions, the presence of native Star Cars is rare. However, one successful Canadian-based television program called the Red Green Show gave audiences the sight of a van that literally wore the personality of the show’s star Red Green. Through the 300-episode run for The Red Green Show, the Possum Van proved to be an iconic vehicle serving as the ‘somewhat’ reliable transportation befitting its driver.


Image from YouTube channel clip No Receipt Needed. Merry Christmas!

  

Portrayed and conceptualized by Toronto-born comedian and actor Steve Smith, Red Green first appeared as a character on the Smith & Smith Show (a sketch comedy starring Steve Smith and his wife Morag) produced from 1979 to 1985. Red Green was represented as a goofy outdoorsman who ran his own hunting and fishing lodge. Smith’s early appearances with the character had him wearing a large duck on a baseball hat. Years later, a fictional Red Green Show documentary in the series’ universe explained difference in portrayal as a misguided act by the ‘actual’ Red Green. The Red Green character would resurface on other tv programs created by the Smiths before the choice was made to place him at the center of his own show. 

With Morag Smith stepping away from acting, husband Steve co-created The Red Green Show with Rick Green who would also play Bill who was a fixture in the slapstick Adventures segment (Amusingly, the actors switched last names for the show with Rick Green’s character surname mentioned as Smith). Launched in January of 1991, the comedy show drew inspiration on public access cable channel show and The Red Fisher Show, a long-running hunting/fishing program in Canada. Premiering on CHCH-TV in Hamilton, the Red Green Show’s 15 seasons would air on CFPL-TV in London, Ontario before finding national audiences on Global and CBC Television. Along with Steve Smith and Rick Green, the cast of the show included Patrick McKenna playing Red’s nerdy, annoying but kind nephew Harold Green as well as long list of great Canadian acting talents with Gordon Pinsent, Graham Greene and Peter Keleghan being just a few notable names. 

During Red Green’s early appearances on Smith & Smith, he drove a fifth generation Ford pickup truck marked with “Red Green’s Hunting & Fishing Lodge” applied crudely to the driver’s door using self-adhering letters. In one segment, Red walked the audience through a vehicle checkup revealing bald tires and a disintegrating body shell. For The Red Green Show, adopting the image of the possum (an animal known for playing dead when confronted) served as the design inspiration for the star’s vehicle. Starting with a second generation Dodge B-Series Ram Cargo Van, the iconic vehicle received a custom paint job combining blue and grey (applied by Steve Smith himself using home paint) creating the appearance of a possum transforming it into the Possum Van. A black and white grid pattern on the front bumper gave the look of teeth. On some earlier appearances of the original Possum Van viewers can notice black dots at the center of round headlights giving the impression of eyes. 


One of the newer Possum Vans on The Lunar Eclipse episode.


The original Possum Van was used during the opening nine seasons of The Red Green Show seen in motion between scene transitions and would occasionally be present for Handyman Corner and Adventures segments. For the latter segment, the Possum Van would routinely be a casualty of Bill’s activities. A common act was having one of the side mirrors knocked off the van though there were occasions where tires would be punctured or a side window would be broken. This would be a running joke in Adventures segment which would carry on throughout the series with Bill delivering one last mirror knock-off in the show’s final episode.

The first Possum Van would be retired in The Red Green Show’s tenth season with its fate decided during the Handyman Corner in that season’s “The Lunar Eclipse” episode. In this last appearance for the original vehicle, the van was seen at the start on its roof with Red stating “This time, she’s playing possum”. Handyman Corner served as a send-off to the old Possum Van converting it into an air boat inspired by its upside-down presence. However, even as the original Possum Van met its demise, it would reappear in the next episode ‘Barter Starter’ and later during season 10 in the episode “The Dandruff Foundation” in spots that would have obviously been recorded prior.


Upside-down Original Possum Van from The Lunar Eclipse episode.


From season 10 to the show’s finale, there were actually two Possum Vans. Careful viewers would notice a longer and shorter length version of the van would stand in for scenes when needed. Aside from observing its overall length, the two Possum Vans can be distinguished by a double hinged door setup found on the shorter van while the longer model had a side sliding door. The shorter length Possum Van appeared most often in the show and was involved in the Red Green community’s one and only feature length movie “Duct Tape Forever”. One notable appearance for the longer length version of the Possum Van was in the Adventures segment in the episode “Ticket to Fame”.


Shorter length Possum Van.


Since the conclusion of The Red Green Show in 2006, none of the Possum Vans used for the series survived but several fans of the show have created their own examples over the years. with the enduring presence of the show now entertaining viewers watching streaming platforms such as Roku TV as well as Pluto TV with its unique, timeless comedy, we're destined to never mistake the act of possums.


images captured from RedGreenTV YouTube channel.


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