Get Some Perspective?

I originally started this article with a standard rant about the mainstream media’s attitude towards geeks. That it’s the playground mentality of bullying people, that why are people unpleasant about people simply because they’re interested in something, and IT’S NOT FAIR MUMMY WAH. All of which is absolutely true. But that wouldn’t actually be an entirely truthful way of starting this article. Because, if I’m absolutely honest with myself, this article stems from a feeling that I had all by myself.

And that feeling was this: I spend ages participating in Red Dwarf fandom. Wouldn’t my time be better spent on something else?

I don’t mean working for charity, or helping elderly people across the road, or anything that might actually improve the world we live in. No, it’s simply that there’s so many shows out there – glorious shows, that deserve celebrating. Why spend so my time in Red Dwarf fandom? Why not spend more of my time watching and writing about other shows?

Indeed, it’s part of – but by no means the entire reason – why I thought about setting up NTS. And it’s also part of (but again not all) the reason why G&T went through its lull over the past year and a half before the relaunch. Red Dwarf has been celebrated endlessly. Why was I wasting my time on it? Why didn’t I go and focus my attentions on, say, a Woof! website – a wonderful show that has had bugger all attention?

More to the point, perhaps – by spending so much time on Red Dwarf, was I frankly losing perspective? Sure, I might know minutiae about the model sequences… but wouldn’t my time be better spent getting a wider overview of, say, British comedy of the 20th century?

The first reason why I’m still here came out loud and clear recently – fuck me, it’s fun. Since the relaunch of this site, it’s just been a huge joy to do – and that’s mainly because of the community that’s built up around the site. Much as I might enjoy writing my 28467th sarcastic news article, it’s ten times more satisfying for someone to comment on it. Meanwhile, Dimension Jump this year was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve ever had in my life ever ever ever. That’s why I still hang around in the Dwarf fan community. The emotional reason, at least.

But actually, there’s a another reason – a more intellectual one. And I only realised it recently. And it’s simply that: by concentrating on one show, you can sometimes gain more perspective, not less.

Let me explain. By looking at Red Dwarf so closely, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. That’s not to say that I could go out there and put a sitcom together tomorrow morning – believe me, if I thought there was any chance I’d be doing it – but I have learnt a lot about how a television programme is made. This includes both technically, but also about what creative decisions took place, and what effect those decisions had.

The Series VII model shot debacle? An important lesson learnt as to how to schedule your production, and the importance of communication. The deleted scene from the start of Back To Reality? An important lesson about a script’s pacing. The fact that Rupert Bates (or his agent) or Tracy Brabin (or her agent) don’t want their outtakes to be used on the DVDs? An important lesson as to how certain people feel about that kind of stuff. (Yes, I’m being diplomatic.) The problems with Back in the Red? A lesson on how both scheduling and budget can screw up a creative vision. Or on a more opinionated level, perhaps: Doug’s dissatisfaction with much of Series 1? A lesson that the creator’s views on what they’ve produced don’t have to correlate with my own. I could go on. For pages and pages and pages.

This is perhaps even more pronounced with Doctor Who, where fandom has detailed the show to the point where it’s pretty much a microcosm of British television production between 1963 and 1989. And from 2005 onwards, of course. Now, that’s perspective.

Getting down to the nitty gritty gives you things you can take away and apply to anything. Wheras if you simply have a surface-level knowledge of a million and one shows, you’re not actually learning anything fundamental at all. All you’re really doing is saying “I’ve watched a lot of telly”. It’s only through close study of one show that you learn the really important lessons – that you can then take away and apply to other shows. Or, indeed, anything you might want to produce yourself.

So, spending my time entrenched in Dwarf fandom? I’m happy. And yet… there is that nagging doubt. Why is it that Red Dwarf and other SF shows are celebrated so much, and yet so many other things that deserve it are left to struggle? Why is, say, the Blackadder fanbase so small? Why aren’t there ‘Allo ‘Allo conventions?

I’ll cover that in my next article.

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15 Responses to Get Some Perspective?

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  1. You love British comedy, which is good, but everyone has a favorite, or one that stands out from the rest, which in your case is Red Dwarf. Inevitably your going to discuss, learn and write about that more than the others, and so devote more of your attention to it.

    Also, remember the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”? Take for example another field of reference: I enjoy web design; I deal with most types of code, however php is my favorite language, I use it the most of the time, and therefore have learned more about it than any other language.

    Also, if you think other shows are being missed out, thats not always the case. As with Blackadder for example, check out http://www.blackadderhall.com. There just isn’t as much news about the show as there is with Red Dwarf, so it looks like its online community is smaller.

  2. It is my EXPERT opinion that if Dwarf had ended in 1993 the show would be pretty much forgotten by half the people now. No, ‘forgotten’ isn’t the right word, I mean it would be remembered but just like any other sitcom e.g. Brittas, Allo Allo, Hi-De-Hi, When The Whistle Blows etc. Dwarf continuumed beyond a normal British sitcom – despite VII and VIII not being as good as the ‘real’ Dwarf, the success of the ’88 to ’93 run meant that when it returned for VII it had a fanbase suddenly going OMG there’s a new series, and it also garnered a NEW audience. LOADS of people only started watching Dwarf with VII (even though it was only away for four years it was still like a relaunch), and look at the opening of VIII, more than double watched it than Gervais’s series’ (I know why that is, more channels to choose from, Internet porn, yadda yadda yadda, but that doesn’t discount the fact that so many people watched the beginning of VIII). Dwarf spread over 10 years = 10 years of fanbase gathering, to me that’s more than one television generation, whereas something like Fawlty or Blackadder, no matter how good they are, are stuck in one television generation (has my BS meter ever been this high? I think not…but I’ve started so I’ll finish…). Look at it like this, Best British Sitcom is always won by either OF&H, Fawlty or Blackadder (Blackadder less so, probably because the 1st series isn’t as good, but neither are countless shitty OF&H episodes) but which British sitcom has the biggest, most active fanbase?

    The DEFINING POINT is that Dwarf fandom still happens because people can dress up as Kryten or put some teeth in or an ‘H’ on their forehead…..no, I mean it’s because the show is NOT dead, it’s still alive unlike Blackadder, Fawlty, You Rang M’lord etc. Also, the DVD releases injected life into proceedings. I have to admit that if it wasn’t for the DVD releases I would be a BILLION TIMES MORE PISSED OFF that the movie hasn’t happened than I would have been. The DVDs are a gift to the fanbase. What other sitcom gets extras of that quality? The so-called best British sitcoms get basic DVD treatment (OK, the Fawlty set has some extras, but if you were a Fawlty obsessive like we are Dwarf obsessives you would want MORE). GNP have done a good job.

    And think of this, if Dwarf DOES return in whatever form, that is even MORE audience that it will capture! A new surgence in fandom. The prospect is so delightful I may actually cry if Dwarf doesn’t return. I would get a big kick out of 12-year-olds (That’s about how old I was when VI was on and I first watched Red Dwarf) watching a new series of Dwarf and getting into it and then wanting to watch past series, wanting Dwarf merchandise (you really do need to ‘discover’ a series for yourself, I feel, rather than someone forcing it on you, and as much as I like classic sitcoms like Steptoe, Blackadder, they never feel like MY show like Dwarf does).

    God I’ve gone on. What was this article about again? Why dedicate so much time to Dwarf fandom? Maybe what I just said is relevant, Dwarf is YOUR show, it’s gonna stay with you forever (woah, that sounds cheesy). I feel like that about some films, films that I used to watch when I was about 10 or something. Empire Strikes Back is one of them, I know I’m going to watch that film when I’m 70 and still love the heck out of it and get those same feelings and I’m not just suddenly going to think ‘what the frak did I ever see in this?’

  3. “The fact that Rupert Bates (or his agent) or Tracy Brabin (or her agent) don’t want
    their outtakes to be used on the DVDs? “

    sorry to be the dumb one but what was the story there?

    Jon

  4. “Red Dwarf has been celebrated endlessly. Why was I wasting my time on it?”

    So you’ve a pretty wide ranging, devils advocate, veiw point then John.
    From writing articles about how the red dwarf internet fanbase is not big enough
    and still isnt covering all the myriad angles that could be taken on the show,
    and at the same time questioning whether it’s been done to death and you
    should move onto something else?

    As for comedy conventions, doesnt the sci fi angle mean dwarf was more likely to get a convention and keep the idea going? I collect a lot of comedy and I’m currently only aware of about 3 other shows getting anything like a convention, those being “Spaced” which had one for about 2 years during the shows height apparently, Only Fools and Horses have had fan club meet things regularly for a while and Hancock has an appreciation society of mostly older generation fans that has yearly meets
    (but I dont think they are hip with the word “convention”).

    I’ve never been to Trek or whatever sci fi conventions, though I was aware of a
    sci fi society at uni enough to have a narrow veiw of dedicated sci fi fans, and of the 2 red dwarf conventions I made it to I found the crowd to be a mixture of sci fi interested or fanatical people and great fun minded comedy appreciators (I mean that both seperately at times and within the same person at times too) often a good mix, and no surprise a scifi comedy show should have such a following or cross appeal.
    From Allo allo to black adder you only have the comedy angle.

    Jon

  5. “It is my EXPERT opinion that if Dwarf had ended in 1993 the show would be pretty much forgotten by half the people now. No, ‘forgotten’ isn’t the right word, I mean it would be remembered but just like any other sitcom”

    Incorrect. Had Dwarf ended in 1993 it would be viewed much like Fawlty Towers – as a series that was perfect for the number of episodes it ran. Maybe I can say this only up to the end of series V, but VII and VIII in particular messed this up. Sometimes I ask people I know whether they remember Red Dwarf, as if I remember it only vaguely from my childhood and they say “Oh yes! Bloody hell, that was brilliant!” And THEN they remember the bits that you think have immortalised it and they say, “Well, it went shit near the end, but it was great in its time.” Hope that helped.

  6. No, I dont think it did help although it’s a valid viewpoint…
    Whilst I could well be wrong, it seems to me that many of the Dwarf hardcore fan base are of an age that would have largely missed (or not taken in maybe) the earlier
    Dwarf. I strongly believe irrespective of some of the views of VII & VIII that those two series drew in many of the fans that now form the fan base.
    I’ve heard many say that they went back to seek out I-VI on the strength of VII or VIII, it seems in retrospect that they were considered sub-standard.
    The huge viewing figures for VII & VIII prove a large percentage of new viewers.
    How ever you look at it, DVD and Video sales although excellent, are a drop in the ocean to actual viewers at the time of transmission.
    Given these facts, I think it highly unlikely that Red Dwarf would be anywhere near as big as it is now without VII & VIII, nor would we be sat here discussing it…

  7. Actually, reading Mr Monkey again, it’s got me thinking, always a dangerous thing.

    If I think back over the years, all my favourite shows sit comfortably within a period of my life. If I think about it, there is a definate link to certain shows and the state of mind I was in at the time of broadcast. Very much like many songs can set a mood and/or bring back memories of a time in life, it is possible to associate a series to particular events and periods.

    Without getting too heavy, Reggie Perrin (just for example) occured during a particular time in my life when life was shit. A weekly dose of Reggie was an oasis of joy in an otherwise dark arrid time, maybe this is why I still view it with great fondness. Python as an other example, struck me during a time that I still consider my happiest, for me that was a great time to be a teenager.

    Ok, I guess this may all sound a tad pretentious, but I’d never considered TV in the same way as I’ve considered music, so where does that leave Dwarf?

    Difficult to put into words maybe, but one analogy may be my musical tastes. I’ve already described the 70’s as one of my favourite periods therefore groups like Slade, T.Rex etc, stand out over the years as giving great enjoyment (and still do). Of course, many sounds have come and gone yet still stay with me, ELO, 10cc and many others have grabbed me as a fan for longish periods. Out of all this though, one group stands out as my all time favourite and that is Queen. To put it simply, Queen have been there for me spanning a huge chunk of my life and IMO, have kept up an excellent standard throughout. Yes, there have been a few low spots along the way, but overall, nobody has surpassed them in my life musically.

    So, having bored the pants of everyone, I’ll get back to Dwarf.

    Having been a fan from the start, Red Dwarf has stuck with me for many years and as mentioned before, is still very much an ongoing thing. Apart from just the episodes, the DVD’s, books and other stuff along the way has created a whole world of entertainment and interest. The on-line world of Dwarf has become a way of life for me and whilst only a ‘part’ of my overall world, it has become almost like a hobby. I still have many other interests, but like an old friend, it’s always there when I need it, likewise, when I need a break from it, I can walk away for a while.

    Many people may view us/me as Geeks or Saddos for having a specific interest in one show, or maybe more of an interest in one show than others, but “perspective” is hard to apply unless you know the habits of those using the ‘lables’.
    Interestingly, many I know who do take the ‘piss’ (rarely melicious, but still) lead questionable lives themselves in terms of interests.

    Perhaps without Dwarf, I too would be either a couch potato or daily drinker, winding my way down the pub each night but only after watching Eastenders and Coronation St etc…

  8. G&T Admin

    “The fact that Rupert Bates (or his agent) or Tracy Brabin (or her agent) don’t want
    their outtakes to be used on the DVDs? “

    sorry to be the dumb one but what was the story there?

    There’s some very amusing outtakes of Robert Bathurst screwing up his line describing stasis. Unfortunately, either him or his agent blocked them to go on the Smeg Ups release. As for Tracy Brabin – she was the original Kochanski Camille in, erm, Camille – but her stuff was reshot with Craig’s then girlfriend, Suzanne Rhatigan. (But the broadcast scene does use some reaction shots of Craig from the original shoot.) Again, either Tracey or her agent didn’t want the footage on the DVDs.

    It’s sort of understandable… but also sort of laughable at the same time, really.

  9. G&T Admin

    So you’ve a pretty wide ranging, devils advocate, veiw point then John.
    From writing articles about how the red dwarf internet fanbase is not big enough
    and still isnt covering all the myriad angles that could be taken on the show,
    and at the same time questioning whether it’s been done to death and you
    should move onto something else?

    Yeah, I know. It seems a bit contradictory. My point is perhaps more that Red Dwarf has been *celebrated* more than a lot of shows on the net, and perhaps some other shows deserve some attention. That is *not* the same as all angles being covered on a show – and there is so much about Red Dwarf that simply hasn’t been written about. But I didn’t really make that clear – the piece could have done with a further draft. I must admit though, that the essential dichotomy you mention was certainly going through my mind when I wrote the Survivors piece.

    All it really does though, is confirm the lack of good writing about comedy on the net.

    Anyway, my main point here really was about the fact that being *really* into one show can actually give you more perspective on things, rather than less – contrary to popular wisdom. I think that’s an interesting thing to explore.

    As for the stuff about conventions for other comedy shows – I won’t comment on that here. I’ll leave it for my next article. Which should be far less self-indulgent, you’ll be pleased to hear.

  10. G&T Admin

    (I’ve just realised that the only reason I know the word dichotomy is because of The Last Day. Shit.)

  11. > Why was I wasting my time on it? Why didn’t I go and focus my attentions on, say, a Woof! website – a wonderful show that has had bugger all attention?

    A wonderful book, too. :)

  12. >(I’ve just realised that the only reason I know the word dichotomy is because of The Last Day. Shit.)

    Meh. You’ve no idea how much of my vocabulary came to me by way of the television. In fact, some of what I’ve learned is repeatable in polite conversation =P …

  13. Firstly I just wanted to fuel Jon’s ego on a great article. I had never really thought of being so dedicated to one show in quite the way you managed to sell it. I suppose really it’s simply the same as being an expert in any field. The difference between being just a mechanic and knowing an individual car inside out.

    With regards learning words such as “Dichotomy” from TV shows. To me stuff like that is great. It’s TV fulfilling it’s purpose of being entertainment and educational. I’ve learnt staggering amounts from TV and gleaming such little jewels is always an ejoyable thing.

    Coming finally to where Dwarf would be without VII & VIII. I completly disagree that we wouldn’t be talking about it. Certainly the fact the franchise has continued and produced new product has helped the online community grow and florish but Dwarf was and always will be one of those shows that inspires dedication. Likewise it’s one of those shows that someone somewhere will always be talking about.

  14. I’m fascinated by the online community in many ways and was probably a late comer to the world of Internet. Having said that I’ve been a user of TOS for six years and found it whilst searching out a number of programmes like Blackadder. I have to say RD.co was the only one that really grabbed me and that led to joining the fan club and ultimately arriving at other sites like this one. Without a doubt, flirtations with other non Dwarf sites merely highlighted for me just how an official site has that extra something. Blackadderhall is a great site but falls short somehow. I also found that many fan run sites merely re-hashed official stuff, stole a few photos and added a few ‘I love whatever’ comments, no debate, just a rosy vision that everything in the garden is lovely…

    There are of course a few that open up questions and display alternative views of things, G&T being one of the few.

    Thinking about it, I have no idea how or when all the sites started, how some of them grew and how a lot fell by the wayside or simply stagnated. I’m not even sure
    when the Fan Club started. Somewhere along the line there must be some connectivity to the Dwarf world that may indicate what influence VII & VIII had on events.
    If Dwarf ended at VI, would TOS exist, without TOS, would G&T exist, would the fan club have continued so long. I guess it’s one those things that will never be fully answered, there’s just too many questions and ifs and buts, I mean it could be just down to timing and the growth of the internet in general…

    A G&T timeline of fandom would be an interesting feature perhaps…

  15. G&T Admin

    Thanks Karl. I’m always available to have my ego flattered.

    About VII and VIII Steve – I honestly have no idea. That perhaps taps into something that I might explore in the next article. I think you’re definitely right about Blackadder Hall – it does fall short. Again, I’ll cover that in the next article.

    It is interesting that you say that G&T displays alternative views of things. You’re absolutely right – and yet, I think it’s pretty clear how we’re going to react editorially to pretty much any Red Dwarf development. It’s part of the reason we’ve got the comment system – to get other people’s point of view – but it’s also why I really want other Dwarf fansites and blogs to start up, so there’s different points of view out there. It’s not our fault that we’re one of the few sites shouting things out the loudest – but I would hate for anyone to think that we spoke for all of Red Dwarf fandom, because we Just Don’t. Unfortunately, we have been accused of thinking that in the past, when it really isn’t the case.

    The G&T timeline of fandom is an interesting idea! I do plan to write a history of Dwarf fandom, but it’s finding the time. It’d actually involve a hell of a lot of research.

    (Incidentally – that Walrus Polishing article is going up in the next day or so. I just delayed it a bit because we had quite a bit of news to post…)

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