The 15th of February is a date forever etched into the history books of both science-fiction and comedy. It’s the anniversary of one of Britain’s most beloved sitcoms, from a writing lineage that includes Spitting Image and Son of Cliché, and with a cast featuring the likes of Mark Williams, Jack Docherty, Sarah Alexander, Ricky Grover and Morwenna Banks. Yes, Rob Grant’s The Strangerers debuted on Tuesday 15th February 2000, twenty years ago today.
Made by Absolutely Productions for Sky One, it was much-hyped as the channel’s first foray into original comedy commissioning, but it’s fair to say that it didn’t quite make the same impact as Rob’s previous sci-fi sitcom. It was never released on video or DVD, and has never been repeated since its original broadcast. But luckily, it’s all on YouTube (albeit in off-air VHS quality, with the credits cut off and irritatingly in the wrong bastard aspect ratio), so let’s all give it an anniversary airing and see if it’s worth reappraising.
Initial announcement? Check. Behind the scenes pictures? Check. First proper publicity stills? Check. The journey towards the broadcast of brand new Red Dwarf is progressing nicely, and it was about time for us to hit another milestone. While we’re still waiting for an episode title, today TOS has furnished us with not only an official synopsis but also a list of guest cast. Hurrah! Let’s go through it bit by bit, as is the tradition.
Many years ago, when a young teenage boy who for some reason liked to call himself “Ian The Smegmeister” first got home internet access, there was only one thing on his mind. But after that, I searched for all the information about my life-long obsession Red Dwarf as I could. I signed up for forums, chatted in chat rooms and delved deep into webrings, which sound a lot more sinister now than they did in the late 90s. It was undoubtedly the first step on a path that led to this place existing, for better or worse, and I’ll always fondly remember and salute our fansite forefathers from that era, such as Smegweb, Red Dwarf World, The Red Dwarf Clearing House, Groovetown, and Planet Smeg among others.
Following the sad news that the brilliant Nicholas Parsons has passed away at the grand old age of 96, I saw a tweet summarising the various short-lived attempts to bring his seminal Just A Minute to television. Despite it obviously being a BBC show, there were two series produced by Carlton for ITV in the mid-90s, and just one glimpse of that garish, neon-adorned set triggered a vivid childhood memory of watching an episode starring none other than Craig Charles. I looked it up and it turns out that memory is indeed accurate; he appeared once, alongside team captain and fellow Dwarf alumnus Tony Slattery, on 21st July 1995.
And that episode is… seemingly not online anywhere. Bah. Still, a handful of editions are on YouTube, including one from the first series that features not only the aforementioned Slattery, but also one time pub manager Arthur Smith, alongside a very young Graham Norton and Ann Bryson. Sod it, two guest stars is enough of a Red Dwarf connection to justify us featuring this, in tribute to its wonderful chairman.
The concluding part of a very long episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of an audience for the first time this decade. Well, for the first time ever, come to think of it. G&T were there.
It’s a now-familiar journey to Pinewood for Red Dwarf fans lucky enough to get tickets or brave enough to risk it on a standby, but the studio seemed a lot busier than it did for the first recording. Despite the rearranged nature of this event leading to fears that attendance may be affected, the marquee was packed to the wind-swept rafters, with the security team sensibly electing to conduct their checks inside this time, away from the bitter cold that the snaking queue outside had to endure. The higher than average number of production guests included James Baxter, who brought his Dwarf character to mind when he went through the security checks and posed with his arms outstretched.
Just a quick one to note that, as reported by TOS, the second recording date for the Red Dwarf Special (which was, of course, originally the first recording date) has finally been confirmed for Saturday 11th January. That’s just eight days away, and it marks a rare return to an audience recording taking place at a weekend, for the first time since Lemons went before the cameras on what was pretty much the equivalent Saturday in early 2012. Apparently ticket holders will have already been informed, but none of the ticket holders that we know were, so do note that you need to reconfirm your booking by Monday 6th if you’re one of them. Due to the extremely short notice, and given that they were still giving away tickets for the first session at the last possible minute, it’s well worth putting your name down for standby tickets if you’re able to get yourself to the vicinity of Pinewood on the night; the link will appear on Lost In TV’s Twitter next Friday (10th Jan) at 5pm. See you there.
At least some of an episode of Red Dwarf has been recorded in front of a studio audience for the first time in nearly four years. G&T were there.
There were many things that made it unique. The first time that they’d deliberately set out to only shoot half of an episode in one audience night, and yet it will convert to the highest amount of screen time covered in a single session since Back In The Red in 1998. The fact that we were supposed to be watching the second part last night, but circumstances conspired to make this the first part, which also means that this will become the first individual episode to have its filming split roughly equally across two different calendar years. And that’s not even to mention that this is a completely new format for Red Dwarf, the first time ever that – on broadcast, at least – a story that lasts longer than half an hour will be told in one uninterrupted go. But there was so much that was reassuringly familiar.
…since Red Dwarf had a studio audience recording. Well, they’re back at it from 6pm tonight. And it’s undoubtedly the biggest, most important thing happening in the UK right now.
We noticed when looking back at some old “it’s been x days” posts that this is a pretty similar gap to the one between X and XI’s studio dates, coming in at just nine days shorter. What is unique, however, is that this will be the first time that only part of an episode is being shot in a single audience session, barring oddities like Dear Dave‘s incompleteness, or the extra dates to pick up material for The End and Back In The Red. This Friday 13th date was initially supposed to be the concluding session for the Special of course, until the original first date was pushed back until the new year. We’d assume that tonight’s audience will see what will roughly amount to the first half of the final episode in order, although they might need to mix it up for whatever reason, and the percentages might change depending on the proportion of pre-recorded and live scenes.
Either way, we’ll have a spy in the audience, and so we’ll let you know everything our recently updated Spoiler Policy allows us to with one of our patented set reports over the weekend. We expect there’ll be some action on social media and TOS today too, so keep an eye out.
Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas everyone. It was twenty-five years ago this very month that all our mums went out to buy the Smeg Ups tape for us to open on Christmas Day 1994. For Red Dwarf fans of a certain age, this seems to be an almost universal experience, especially the ones like us who are still obsessed with it now – the joy and laughter provided by seeing the cast off-guard and out of character cemented our love for the show, and imbued us with a fondness for and fascination with the behind-the-scenes process too. So what better way to pay tribute than to investigate the process of making the video itself?
At some point during the compiling stage of production, a rough cut was dubbed on to VHS, before any grading, mixing or sound effects were added, and with big “LINK Goes Here” captions in lieu of Llew. This tape somehow made its way out of the edit suite and into the hands of fans, who made copies for their friends, who made copies for their friends, and so on until an extremely low quality version, suffering from multiple layers of analogue generation loss, became a relatively readily available open secret. Inevitably, you can now find it on YouTube. The full length tape is there as an unlisted video, and there’s also a compilation of the most interesting bits: