Ooh look, a new regular feature. Let’s see how long we keep this one up. Once a month or so, we’ll be providing some interesting or obscure Red Dwarf-related viewing, usually something involving the cast and/or crew that we’ve found buried somewhere on YouTube. First up, in authentic slightly-glitchy-VHS quality, an edition of Saturday Live from 15th February 1986 – precisely two years before The End aired – co-produced by Paul Jackson and guest-hosted by Chris Barrie.
For those who are young or foreign, Saturday Live was very much Britain’s answer to the similarly-named American comedy institution, offering a variety of sketches, stand-up and music, with a core cast of regulars and fronted each week by a different guest host. The regulars were no less illustrious than their American counterparts, with British comedy legends Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Ben Elton and Harry Enfield all among the alumni. Following a pilot in 1985, the show ran on Channel 4 for two series (’86-’87) in its original guise, before the final series in ’88 moved in the schedule to become Friday Night Live, with Elton installed as the full-time host. Various comebacks have been attempted over the years, but the less said about them the better.
Today, we’re looking at the sixth ever episode of the show, aired in a week where the big news stories were seemingly a crisis in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, the ongoing appallingness of Apartheid-era South Africa, and the ever-present threat of nuclear war. As you’d expect, Chris’s slots feature many familiar voices, including Bob Geldof, Ronald Reagan, David Coleman, Richie Benaud, John Cole, Ronnie Corbett, Kenneth Williams and Murray Walker. He introduces all but one of the above regulars (Enfield’s debut came in the following episode), as well as The Oblivion Boys (Mark Arden & Stephen Frost), Helen Lederer, Judy Tenuta, sketches featuring the likes of John Bird, Steve Nallon and Kate Robbins, and music from Charlie Sexton, Belouis Some and Nils Lofgren.
As previously mentioned, Paul Jackson was one of the producers, with Paul Jackson Productions having developed the format. For further Red Dwarf connections, Morwenna Banks appears in a sketch, and Kim Fuller pops up in the credits, as both a writer and associate producer. Look out for Chris using the “fair suck of the sauce bottle” line that features in a clip in Universe Challenge, in a sketch that’s quite a toothy and angry condemnation of the situation in South Africa, several Rik & Ade gags that would later resurface in Bottom, and Ben Elton turning his razor-sharp satirical wit on the newfangled menace of coleslaw.