Here’s an incredible find that was first brought to our attention by Tom Selway on Twitter at the start of August, just a few days after it surfaced on YouTube. We immediately sprung in to action, opening our to-do list and pencilling it in for September’s G&TV. Which would have been fine if things like TORDFC’s newsletter and reddwarf.co.uk didn’t exist, both of which have featured it in the meantime. Nevertheless, it’s well worth sharing in case those two passed any of you by, as it’s not every day you get to see a fully-fledged broadcast programme all about Red Dwarf. Before Comedy Connections and The Making of Back To Earth, but after Red Dwarf Night, there was Smegheads in Seattle.
Produced and broadcast by KCTS, a local PBS affiliate serving Seattle and Tacoma in Washington, it features Craig Charles and Danny John-Jules on a visit to the eponymous city in May 1998. It’s a compilation of material from various sources: one main interview by KCTS’s Ken Vincent, another interview with Danny solo, viewer Q&As from two separate pledge drives for the station, at least two different convention appearances, plus a couple of specially-shot sections, which we’ll come to. After it initially aired, it did the rounds as a bootleg VHS for a while, along with another show from the same station, Swirly Thing Alert, but then disappeared and slipped from the memory, until now.
What a fascinating watch that is. As with last month’s G&TV, for viewers in the UK it’s a glimpse at a type of television that simply doesn’t exist here, from the pledge drives, to the sponsor messaging integrated into the programme itself, to the fact that it pauses midway for Craig and Danny to perform a semi-scripted extended advert for a specific Hummer dealership. And while the production values may have a home-spun feel, it wouldn’t have been out of place on non-terrestrial television here at the time, and it’s clearly made with a great deal of love and affection for the show and its stars.
It’s a snapshot of what they were like at the time too, and of this particular moment in Dwarf‘s history – riding high after a successful return, record viewing figures and tenth anniversary celebrations, and with a growing cult following in the States. The pair are rather excitable at times, and the number of occasions where the programme cuts between the same shtick being done in two or more different settings demonstrates that the old favourites have been old favourites for quite some time, but it’s nevertheless a delight to see so much new (to us) footage of them from this era; they seem so young and happy, and their love for the show shines through too.
So here are some of our favourite moments from this 50-odd minute piece. And by “favourite”, we don’t necessarily mean “good”. This is G&T.
Craig opening the interview by doing his sexy posh voice, as heard in the Series VIII Smeg Ups, the Only The Good… deleted scenes, and eventually Skipper.
Danny is asked to do an impression of Lister. He spends an awkwardly long time trying to get the exact line of dialogue right, and then doesn’t. Craig then does Cat, and they both do Kryten and Rimmer. Really badly.
Craig brings a young woman dressed an angel up on stage, and intimately recites his love poem Shipwreck My Soul to her, then announces that it always gets him laid. It’s not remotely uncomfortable.
While answering a question about how much work he does outside of Red Dwarf, Craig gets distracted and goes on a tangent about Walter Koenig having false eyebrows.
DILDONICS ALERT! Add this one to the list of places it’s appeared, alongside Red Dwarf A-Z, The Log and Craig’s stand-up videos. He then goes in to a topical routine about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, because late 90s.
The guys recreate the Wilma Flintstone scene from memory. Despite less than a decade having passed by this point, they remember it very badly, and I’m not sure whether that makes it more or less of a shame that Unplugged didn’t happen in the end.
The boys both try desperately to remember the name of the episode Stasis Leak for what feels like several minutes, eventually settling on “Better Than Life“.
Craig and Danny attend a party to watch the last ever episode of Seinfeld (which helps us date this programme as having being shot on and around 14th May 1998), but have difficulty getting into their lobster dinners.
A particularly enthusiastic song and dance rendition of I’m Going To Eat You Little Fishy.
In the most memorable yet incongruous section of the programme, Danny and Craig visit a Hummer dealership to test drive a Humvee on a military obstacle course. The footage of them tackling the course with varying degrees of success is bookended by some spectacularly stilted links featuring the owner of the dealership. It has no connection to Red Dwarf or any other part of the boys’ trip to Seattle, but it does lead to them spending much of the rest of the show discussing how brilliant Hummers are, and how they’d like to be paid in Hummers next time.
Craig pitches an idea for an episode where everyone’s Kryten, just nineteen years ahead of Siliconia being released.
The show closes with a montage of behind-the-scenes moments at the convention(s), including an example of how diligently Danny prepares ahead of a public appearance, and Craig singing an R Kelly song.
Uncovering Smegheads in Seattle after over twenty years feels like opening a time capsule. All these little moments could have entered fan folklore if they’d have been as widely seen as stuff like Smeg Outs, the A-Z and the DVD extras, and they all add up to a wonderfully entertaining and fascinating programme. Better late than never, it’s great to have Smegheads in Seattle welcomed back into the oeuvre at last, and leaves us with fingers crossed that more examples from this under-documented tangent of Red Dwarf‘s broadcast history are unearthed soon.