Big changes are afoot at Baby Cow, the production company that currently co-produces Red Dwarf alongside GNP. Co-founder Henry Normal is stepping down after sixteen years, Steve Coogan is stepping up to fill the gap, and most intriguingly, BBC Worldwide has gained a controlling stake in the business. It’s an amusing twist of fate that Auntie Beeb is once more involved in the production of our favourite show, but the big question remains: how is all this going to affect Red Dwarf?
Well, in terms of Series XI and XII, probably not very much. The twelve episodes are already in the can, and we’re now in the post-production stage. Henry Normal was listed as Executive Producer, but it’s not clear how much input he would have had in the editing process – that job title can mean a variety of different things on different productions. It might be the case that Normal will complete his duties on Dwarf before moving on, especially considering he’ll be available to Baby Cow as a consultant during the transition process, or it could be that the plan was to leave it to the Naylors anyway. Or it could be the case that Doug will be sharing the edit suite sofa with Steve Coogan, which is something I’d pay to see.
As for the future of the show – if indeed it was ever going to have one after Series XII – our message to you is: don’t panic. We all remember the furore a few years back around those quotes about the BBC being “no longer interested in the sort of audience the show used to attract”, but there are two key things to remember. Firstly, that was a long time ago now, and the source of those quotes wasn’t necessarily speaking for the entire corporation as it stood then, let alone as it stands now. Secondly, and most importantly, the BBC and BBC Worldwide are not the same thing.
BBC Worldwide is the commercial arm of the BBC, and apart from anything else, it already holds a stake in broadcaster UKTV and distributor 2|entertain. Assuming that Series XI and XII get decent ratings (which is a fair assumption), and that the DVD/Bluray releases do well (another fair assumption), and that UKTV will be open to more Dwarf once these two series are out the way (another fair assumption)… well, any commercial company would be stupid to turn their back on a successful show. Plus, as far as we know, Kerry Waddell remains a key part of the company as Head of Production, and she’s always going to fight Red Dwarf‘s corner.
The odd rescheduled studio date aside, the production of Red Dwarf XI & XII certainly seemed – from the outside – a lot smoother than that of Series X. Whether that impression remains in place when the dust has settled and the anecdotes have come to light is another matter, but given their pedigree and experience, it seems a safe assumption that the involvement of Baby Cow has had a hugely positive effect on the making of the world’s most difficult-to-produce sit-com. Regardless of the changes in the boardroom and the balance books, long may this association continue.