Just. In. Fucking. Time.
This year, there are rather a lot of things that the mighty G&T has rather failed to cover – hence this hectic scramble at the end of the year to do a bit of fucking catching up. One of those things was Dimension Jump XIV, and another is the 2008 Red Dwarf calendar. Which is a bit bloody stupid, because one of my favourite Dwarf-related moments this year was bounding into the merchandise room at DJ, and seeing the calendar for the first time…
The calendar follows the lead of last year’s movie spoof calendar in being themed, rather than just the same publicity photos we’ve seen time and time before. And the idea this time round is simple: advertising. 12 spoof adverts, all linked to the Dwarf universe. Oh, maybe it might not excite you lot much, but I’m the kind of person who owns a VHS consisting of every single Twix advert ever made, and ACTUALLY ENJOYS WATCHING IT. Two of my great loves in one calendar.
The front cover is fine – perhaps not an especially evocative image, but at least it works. It doesn’t feel like I should have to say that, but the last two calendars suffered from some including some very dodgy character montages that had some odd colours, and weren’t especially well composited. This is a much nicer affair – whether it’s a publicity shot I haven’t seen before, or just an excellent compositing job, I’m not sure, although I suspect the latter. What the hell Lister and Kochanski were pointing at in the original photos I’m not sure of either, but the way they’ve been adapted to point to images of the calendar is very clever.
Flip it open, and you get the year view calendar. You also get an ad for the Dwarf mobile service – they’re not missing any opportunity to push that, it seems – and, amusingly, “This advertisement was sponsored by Divadroid International”. But flip the page, and the fun really begins, because January’s entry is superb – an excellently-designed advert for a curry house called ‘The Vindaloovian Empire’, which is an excellent and unexpected reference to Gunmen (the obvious thing would just be to call it the Titan Taj Mahal). And whilst some of the advert is taken up with quoting the excerable “lost curry” scene from Tikka, you also have things like the killer line “Please do not request pasta, as a kick in the face often offends” – a million times funnier than anything in the aforementioned Tikka scene.
There’s some lovely stuff here. Out of all of VIII, I think Krytie TV is one of the more successful episodes, but I wouldn’t class it as a great episode of Dwarf, or even a great episode of sitcom – and yet July’s Krytie TV schedule has fun with the idea: “Shower Night – Live! Suds, water, and a nagging sense of guilt as the hidden camera show returns.” And the idea of a Mugs Murphy Marathon delights me immensely. August’s ad for Plutonian Medical Insurance works simply for the image of Cat in a nurse’s outfit – one of the funniest things in Only The Good…, I don’t care what any of you lot say. And there’s some nice detail here: the fact that March’s ad for the Sexual Magnetism virus has the slogan “For the man with no morals…” acknowledges the dodgy nature of the whole idea in a way that the episode never did.
The best out-and-out parody has to be October’s Leopard Lager ad – parodying this famous 1974 Pepsi slogan. The highlight, however, has to be December’s Crapola Inc. ad, for Talkie Toaster and the Tension Sheet – as well as being a lovely concept (with the proper logo and all), it’s also got the funniest thing in the entire calendar – Rimmer’s irrelevant testimonial “I can’t believe Thickie Holden’s a smegging millionaire”, set against this picture. Just thrown away at the bottom of the page. You won’t get the full impact until you actually see it, but it has me in giggles every time I see it.
And yet, there is one unavoidable truth: the fundamental idea of this calendar is often better than its execution. And once I got over the excitement for the concept of the thing, this became more and more apparent. Some of the ads fall flat – May’s Blue Midget ad just seems slightly lazy, with none of the fun detail you’d need in order to pull the idea off, and the same goes for June’s Holly 6000 ad – the central image of Holly crossed with the Windows logo just isn’t a strong enough hook. It’s also true that some of the ads could have done with being rather closer in style to the ad they’re parodying – February’s myVac ad falls completely flat for me, whereas done in the minimalist white Apple style, with more Apple-style ad text, it could have been a killer. However, presumably the reason they didn’t go too far down this road is because of the worry of legal threats – the back of the calendar has a disclaimer denying all links to anything and everything ever as it is. (“The Cat Collection” is amusingly close to a certain clothing store’s logo, mind you.) Most of the weaker ideas fall within the first half of the calendar – once you get to July, the hit rate is very much higher.
The other problem is simply that some of the jokes fall flat. The aforementioned myVac ad ends with the line “The new myVac attachment is out now – and it sucks” – which is just weak. The whole calendar perhaps isn’t as funny as it should have been, and it rarely feels like it reaches its full potential. Again, I suspect legal problems are at least part of the issue here – but a few more really funny jokes wouldn’t exactly have gone amiss.
Meanwhile, the calendar view itself is fine – very similar to last year’s, with some excellent crew shots included too, selected for their appropriateness with the main picture. (My favourite is a shot of Rimmer as he portrays himself in The Rimmer Experience, used on the Krytie TV graphic – a sly jab at the kind of adventure nonsense Krytie TV shows, presumably.) One thing I would say is that it’s perhaps a bit too busy – the background image across the date squares is darker than last year’s, and so it does end up looking slightly cluttered, which is exactly what you don’t want a calendar to be like.
But I can’t be too harsh. Unlike Red Christmas, this is well worth your hard-earned money. (£7.99 – available from Global Calendars, Play, and Buy The Print.) It’s a fun idea, with some lovely things in it, and whilst some of it doesn’t stand up to ultra-close scrutiny, or feels like it’s quite as good as it should be, it’s a nice thing to have on your wall. Whether you like it perhaps depends on whether you enjoy merchandise having fun within the Dwarf universe – it’s something I’ve started liking a lot more in the last few years, but if your interest is strictly in the TV shows, then this isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to indulge in a load of mucking about, then this is more than a worthwhile purchase. Although I’ll admit that being an ad freak helps.
And I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year…