For those of you who get the reference you’ll know what I’m going to talk about. But for those of you who don’t I wanted to post about something I found out about last night. For those of you who like the classic BBC sci-fi show Red Dwarf I have good news for you (unless you’ve already heard it) Red Dwarf has been renewed for another two seasons!! Season (or series if you’re nasty) XI comes out this year and XII comes out next year. This makes me insanely happy!
Red Dwarf’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is being in the car with my dad after he’d just bought the series III part 2 VHS tape. Series III aired it’s last episode on the 19th of December 1989 so he probably picked up the VHS in 1990 some time. I would’ve been three, that’s how entrenched in my psyche it is.
The last episode of series VIII was aired in April 1999, I was eleven and I’d seen every episode numerous times before and then was bummed out when they announced it was the last we’d heard of the Dwarfers. I got the DVDs as they came out individually, not as the box set you can get now, read the books, read the scripts, even tried to get a stage version of the first episode done at my school. Red Dwarf is as big a deal to me as The Curse of Monkey Island is and you can imagine how happy I was when they announced a three episode return called ‘Back to Earth’ in 2009, about as happy as I was when I found out about Tales of Monkey Island, but I digress. Back to Earth wasn’t fantastic but it did what it was meant to in that it got interest in the show back up again and got the support of a whole new series, series X, which aired in 2012. When X finished I was happy, that was a better ending than VIII’s, everything’s good and they’re going to bring it back for another two seasons!
I’m not worried about seasons XI & XII bringing the show down for one strong reason, and I believe it’s the main difference between UK and US sitcoms.
Grabbing two sitcoms from each country as an example, in the UK we’ll be using Red Dwarf (1989 – Present ) and Absolutely Fabulous (1994-2012 (2016 if you include the film)) and for the USA we’ll be using F.R.I.E.N.D.S (1994-2004) and The Big Bang Theory (2007 – Present). I love all of these shows equally so there’s no bias when it comes to that, I also watch a lot more US TV than UK TV which is why my UK TV examples are older than the others. The biggest difference between US & UK Sitcoms is character development from the first episode to the last episode. In F.R.I.E.N.D.S Chandler becomes less sarcastic and hopeless and more grounded and loveable. Phoebe is no longer the crazy woman she was at the start. Rachel isn’t as shallow and materialistic. The only one who didn’t make any real changes was Joey, and they ruined that with his spin-off!
In The Big Bang Theory (There may be some spoilers here, you’ve been warned) Leonard and Penny get married. Sheldon has sex. Howard stops letching, settles down, and is now expecting a baby. Raj can talk to women and is the stable one in his most recent relationships!
Let’s compare to for the UK shows, in Absolutely Fabulous, Edwina is still crazy, Patsy still enables her, Saffron still can’t stand her, and mother is still oblivious. In Red Dwarf Kryten is still obsessed with cleanliness, Lister is still a lazy slob, Rimmer is still up up up the ziggaraught lickity split, and the Cat is still as vain as ever. Sure, in both of the shows some of the jokes have been played down a bit so they don’t break the law of diminishing returns (Kryten isn’t as controlled by his programming as he used to be) but the basic gist of who they are hasn’t changed.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Honestly, it’s neither. US TV shows take you on an adventure with the characters which is great, I cried at the end of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I know I’ll cry at the end of The Big Bang Theory, but that was never something that happened at (what I thought was) the final episode of Red Dwarf or Absolutely Fabulous. But it means that every new episode of Red Dwarf or the Ab Fab film will be greatly received because they’re not straying from the principle that made people fall in love with it in the first place. Kinda like a film adaptation of a book, the people who love it would be happy to have an eight hour long film that includes every line of dialogue exactly as it was in the source material, but it doesn’t happen so we’re happy when it does. Another example is the Final Fantasy VII remake (not out yet so sheer speculation) but it’s been said that they won’t just do an exact remake because people wouldn’t buy it. YES WE WOULD! THAT’S WHAT WE WANT!!
So why the difference between the UK and the US when it comes to sitcoms? I think it comes down to quantity. Red Dwarf has been running for 18 years this year on and off, but they only produced 61 episodes, less than three seasons of either of the US shows. Plus the years between the shows really don’t allow for change, Red Dwarf was off the air for 2 years between series 3 & 4 then 10 years between 8 & 9 with only six episodes a year. There’s no time to develop an overarching story arc when you’ve only got six 30 minute episodes in which to do it.
My wife also points out Midsomer Murders as a show that hasn’t had any growth or change in its tenure either, actors come and go but there’s never anything the leads up to it, one episode they’re just gone.
Anyway, the point of this blog was to talk about my love of Red Dwarf and I’ve completely gone off track! Before I go I’m going to do a quick top ten of the Red Dwarf seasons from worst to best.
10- Series VIII
This didn’t feel like the Red Dwarf I’d grown to love, there were other people in it and it was just generally off. Ending on a cliff hanger didn’t help.
9- Series IX
Works as a Blade Runner inspired three part episode of Red Dwarf, doesn’t work so well as a standalone episode.
8- Series IV
Dimension Jump brings a great character to the team of Ace Rimmer and Camille is an excellent Casablanca homage.
7- Series III
I love Timeslides, the whole premise being that nothing ever goes right for Rimmer!
6- Series V
Holoship opened this series really strongly and almost gave Rimmer some character development, fortunately he realised how ridiculous that was “I cannot believe I just said that!” and proceeded to wear a gingham dress with army boots later in the season!
5- Series VII
Tikka to Ride answers one of the classic conspiracy theories in the most convincing way I know! Stoke Me a Clipper sees the return of Ace Rimmer and is the closest thing Red Dwarf has to character development, I did cry a little at this one. The rest of the series is great, especially Duct Soup.
4- Series VI
Rimmer’s perfect backwards faint in ‘Psirens’, Legion threatening the Dwarfers with the scalpel in a dangerous place! The entirety of Gunmen of the Apocalypse is genius with the classic riding off into the sunset at the end.
3- Series I
From humble origins, we really get an introduction of the group and has one of my favourite back and forths in the show between Lister and Holly about erasing all the Agatha Christie books.
2- Series X
Such a monumentally brilliant return, meeting *a* Jesus (not *the* Jesus), lamp shading the impossible escape with the series VIII cliff hanger, Lister dealing with his bizarre family arrangements, all brilliant episodes.
1- Series II
My favourite Series, the introduction of Kryten, which humiliates Rimmer. Stasis Leak (“It’s a leak right, in Stasis, hence the name *a*Stasis Leak.”) where Rimmer’s genius plan doesn’t work because of freaky fungus. Better than Life, where Rimmer’s brain tries to destroy him! Thanks for the Memory, where nothing goes right for Rimmer. Queeg, where Rimmer’s life is made miserable with exercise and studying, and finally Parallel Universe, where things go terribly for, you’ve guessed it, Lister!! Ha threw you a curve ball on that last one!!
What do you guys think? Do you watch Red Dwarf? Do you watch more US TV or more UK TV? Which do you prefer? Do you agree with what I said about the differences between the two? Send me a comment!
Also like to say thanks to everyone who now follows my blog! I really appreciate it and hope to keep you entertained, informed, or whatever it is that you get from me!!