G&TV logoConsidering Saturday Live is basically the primordial soup from which most of the 90s British comedy establishment first emerged, it should be no real surprise that many members of Dwarf royalty got if not their first, then certainly a good chunk of, their early TV exposure from the show. In fact, Chris Barrie's episode as host in the first series is what kicked off G&TV to begin with. By the second series Ben Elton was on permanent hosting duties and by the third it had moved to Friday nights and added a 'Night' to the title, because why not. It's in this series that Hattie Hayridge got what must've been her first TV appearance.

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G&TV logoAs we continue to cogitate on The Promised Land, let's cleanse our palates with our monthly dip in to the archives of vaguely Red Dwarf related things from the past. Here's a particularly obscure one, discovered by Jim Lynn of the always excellent VHiStory blog, the guy who dug up the original 1988 continuity for Series 1 a few years ago. On the end of a tape of Babylon 5 episodes, he found Beam Me Up, Scotty!, a one-off Channel 4 magazine programme about sci-fi, filmed at the 53rd World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow in August 1995, and presented by Craig Charles.

In it, Craig introduces self-contained segments on a variety of connected topics, such as "filk music", cosplay before it was called 'cosplay', Klingon theatre, a somewhat nauseating section on sci-fi erotica and the sexual fantasies of its proponents, an extremely low-energy discussion of the British comics scene with some very morose people who are now very famous writers and artists, and Craig interviewing Terry Pratchett, best known for his appearance on the Red Dwarf A-Z. Jim's blog entry has the who's who of all the interviewees, and of course the full programme itself:

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G&TV logoA little over a week ago, Rob Grant decided he wanted to do something to cheer up all the Red Dwarf fans who had suddenly found themselves confined to their own personal Bay 47. The idea was to recapture the magic that formed the conclusion to the most recent Dimension Jump, whereby he was joined by Paul Jackson and Ed Bye to do a live commentary on The End. It made sense, therefore, that the reunited trio would do Future Echoes next, and so they took to Zoom last Sunday afternoon, and broadcast their thoughts to around a hundred webinar viewers. As well as sharing their tips for lockdown survival, we were treated to in-depth details about how the complicated show was put together with analogue technology, the story of how Tracey Ullman was partly responsible for the word "smeg" being used in the show, and even surprise cameo appearances from two former Red Dwarf guest stars. And now the whole thing is available on YouTube for everyone to enjoy.

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G&TV logoThe 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.

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G&TV logoFollowing 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.

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G&TV logoHo 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:

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G&TV logoLong before Paula Yates invited people On the Bed, Emma Freud was doing the same on Pillow Talk, part of ITV’s late night programming Night Network. And who did she have on the bed in 1987? None other than a certain Chris Barrie, who spends much of the interview looking fairly uncomfortable. They should have just had sex in multiple different positions and had done with it.

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G&TV logoThis month on G&TV, we go back in time to 1994, and take a look at Robert Llewellyn on Australian talk show Denton. Or, considering that the person who uploaded this video thinks that Llewellyn played a character called “Kryton”, we should say we’re going to take a look at Ribbed Sue Ellen on Australian talk show Dented.

Unfortunately, the above shitassery may come back to bite me, as while I might know my Krytons from my Krytens, I have never heard of either Denton, or indeed Andrew Denton himself. This piece has a bit of background on both him and the show; it seems like it really was rather good. And sure enough, the Llewellyn segment is pretty entertaining.

A few thoughts.

  • Robert saying that it’s “rather tragic” that Andrew Denton knows the difference between R2D2 and C3PO is an interesting reminder that this stuff wasn’t front-centre of popular culture in 1994.
  • I have to admit, I winced at the Douglas Bader funny walks section. Somehow, reading that bit in The Man In The Rubber Mask never seemed particularly troubling. Once you combine it with the visual, it becomes a bit of a different thing. (Though the fact that he combines this with the story about Doug Naylor’s prosthetic leg – where Robert himself becomes the butt of the joke – kinda helps.)
  • Hearing the anecdote again about Robert getting an electric shock by the cigarette lighter in his finger reminds me of when that footage of his first day of recording finally showed up on The Bodysnatcher Collection. Did someone at GNP have to sit through watching multiple takes of Robert screaming in pain to find the usable take?
  • The moment towards the end of the interview where Robert talks about his girlfriend sleeping with somebody else makes me grateful my job doesn’t involve bearing my soul on national television.
  • The ending I won’t spoil. But it’s very funny.

Anyway, the whole thing is well worth a watch. And as for Andrew Denton himself? In August this year he finished another talk show called Andrew Denton’s Interview. Or possibly Argue Dental’s IOU or something, I’m going to leave now, bye.

G&TV logoHere'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.

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G&TV logoBeing born in 1981 in the UK, there is a certain… comfort I have from watching Red Dwarf. Despite being set three million years into the future, I understand everything. Not only with jokes about Eastbourne or Topic bars; the visual language of Red Dwarf is warm and familiar. A cross between The Young Ones and Chock-A-Block.

And part of that visual language is how BBC2 looked and felt in the 90s. Those classic idents, a bold, chunky 2. Whizzing across the screen as a toy car, flipping in the air like a fluffy dog, or being blown up by fireworks. Despite only actually launching during the initial broadcast of Series IV, for an entire generation, Red Dwarf became inseparable from those wonderful pieces of film. (Many, many years later, I got to play with those idents on air on BBC Two for real… and that toy car ident became the most metaphorical ident in the world.)

But today isn’t a day for comfort. At least, not for me. Because a big part of Red Dwarf‘s story was its overseas sales, particularly to PBS stations in America. It’s something which is so easy to forget from a UK perspective: that there is a whole language of television connected with Dwarf that I never got to see.

So let’s take a look at… Mike Frisbie’s Sci-Fi Friday Night, on Iowa Public Television. Starting in the early 90s, this was a weekly line-up of various science fiction shows, including Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, and… oh, hello, Red Dwarf. And each show was introduced by Mike Frisbie in his own inimitable style.

Here’s what he had to say about Bodyswap in 1996:

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