Red Dwarf (BBC2, 1988-1999, Dave, 2009-present)
This is yet another sitcom that is very long-running and is also popular throughout the world, meaning that it’s rather difficult to know what to say about it, indeed it does have a rather large presence online, but as I have been a regular viewer over the years like many others I might as well add my own contribution and feature it here.
Red Dwarf is a science-fiction sitcom that started out as a sketch in the radio series Son Of Cliche (that was later repeated on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra) before being developed for TV. The first episode begins on a mining ship somewhere in space in the future. Dave Lister is put in suspended animation for bringing a pregnant cat on board. When he finally awakes three million years on, it’s fair to say that things are fairly different.
Following a radiation leak, all that is remaining is a hologram of crew member Arnold Rimmer (who looks suspiciously like Gordon Brittas), a cat-type creature who has evolved from the one Dave brought on to the ship, and Holly the computer, a grumpy floating head-type thing. Dave slowly realises that he is the last human remaining in the entire universe, which is a shock to put it mildly.
Episodes feature the ship travelling to weird and wonderful planets, meeting all kinds of bizarre aliens or being caught in time portals and parallel universes and so on. They are eventually joined by Kryten the robot. There were eight series of Red Dwarf on BBC2, using the latest computer graphics to enhance the feel of the show. About a decade on though, the look of the early series was beginning to be a little dated, so they were remastered with more impressive up-to-date effects.
There were also lots of Red Dwarf repeat runs as it steadily established itself and gained a fanbase, there were tapes and books released, and Cat even had a hit single in 1993. There was also a special night on BBC2 to celebrate the 10th anniversary in 1998. It did make having to spend about five hours in make-up worth it. But after the eighth series, that seemed to be the end.
About a decade later, the show was picked up by ambitious comedy channel Dave, with a special that involved the crew appearing on Coronation Street (it’s complicated). This then did well enough for there to have been further series. Unsurprisingly, the show has been well served by DVD, with a lot of extra features including deleted scenes, interviews, and some marvellous “smeg-ups”.
I don’t know why science-fiction shows seem to attract a much more dedicated fanbase than most shows in other genres, but the cast have seemed to realise that they are in it for the long haul, also attending fan conventions for many years, and indeed there has been a documentary looking back at the history of the show that has been on Dave as recently as this month.