Any self-respecting Red Dwarf fan has a few standard facts at their disposal. The first recording dates for Series 1 were cancelled due to an electrician’s strike. Robert Llewellyn was electrocuted on his first day at work. Meltdown was put back in the episode order due to worries about the Gulf War.
Slotting in among these standard set of facts is that the village scenes in Emohawk – Polymorph II were shot on an abandoned set for a series called Covington Cross. And that’s… kinda it. That is The Fact, done, ticked, off we go.
I don’t think that’s good enough. Let’s take a proper look.
Our final monthly trip into the television archives this year is somewhat of an unusual one, in that it’s not something that’s very deep in the archives, and it isn’t strictly speaking television. Nevertheless, given that the Red Dwarf connection is so niche, and the specific subject matter so esoteric, we’d probably have chosen to highlight it even if it wasn’t us that was sort-of responsible for it happening in the first place. Let us explain.
Whenever we see journalist and broadcaster James O’Brien, which has happened increasingly often in the last few years since he’s become the foremost non-racist phone-in host on British radio and found social media fame for his polite but ruthless take-downs of the Brexiteers who ring him up, the first thing we think of is his appearance in the Red Dwarf A-Z back in 1998. Specifically, his assertion that Data from Star Trek wouldn’t have existed without Kryten, the chronological impossibility of which we’ve been talking about since at least 2003. So when we saw that James was an upcoming guest on the excellent RHLSTP (rhlstp!), we sent host Richard Herring a request. Then we forgot all about it, and then the episode came out, and it’s safe to say our request was noted.
With Noel Edmonds currently commanding his biggest TV audience since his mid-90s heyday on the superb current series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!, now seems an appropriate time to revisit the Saturday night behemoth that was Noel’s House Party. Any Brits aged around 30 and over will need no introduction, but for everyone else: this was a hugely popular live entertainment show, featuring pranks, gunge, celebrity guests, competitions, and a huge amount of involvement by the general public. It’s perhaps most notorious for introducing the world to spoof kids’ TV character Mr Blobby, a hugely divisive figure who was absolutely ubiquitous for a few years, spawning videos, books, a single that reached the coveted Christmas number one spot in 1993, and even an ill-fated theme park.
There’s nothing quite like it on British TV these days, although Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway comes closest. Indeed, fans of that show may recognise a fair number of familiar formats in House Party‘s various regular features. Those segments were, of course, framed with live studio sections, with Noel hosting his various guests in the Great Hall of fictional village Crinkley Bottom. Popular television stars of the time would pop by throughout the show for a scripted comedy chat. For example, Chris Barrie, portraying his most famous character at the time – Gordon Brittas.
You can see a selection of clips here, courtesy of Chris Barrie Fans, but why not treat yourself to a full episode of the show, in which Brittas makes cameos at various points throughout:
As previously established on numerous occasions, this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of 1988. It was a very busy time for so many of our favourite comedy talents, and shortly after the conclusion of the second series of Red Dwarf, Spitting Image preceded its forthcoming fifth series with a 45-minute special, broadcast on 29th October 1988, thirty years ago to this very day.
Of course, Rob and Doug had long since departed to create some sci-fi sitcom thing, but Chris Barrie was very much at the forefront of Bumbledown – The Life and Times of Ronald Reagan, marking and undoubtedly celebrating the end of the incumbent President’s second term – the election to find his replacement took place the following week. Let’s transport ourselves back to the halcyon days when nobody thought that the US could ever elect a worse President than this unintelligent, right-wing, lying celebrity.
Yes, with just hours to spare before this feature loses its increasingly shaky-looking “monthly” status, it’s time for another treat from the televisual archives. We’re going all the way back to very nearly the beginning this time, with an edition of BBC1’s Open Air, a magazine discussion show about television, complete with contributions from viewers at home. This particular edition aired on 23rd February 1988, which you can verify from the reference to, of all things, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards competing at the 1988 Winter Olympics ski-jump later that day.
The more astute of you will have noticed that this edition of Open Air was broadcast the day after Future Echoes first aired, and host Pattie Coldwell is joined by Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Paul Jackson and a semi-functioning skutter to discuss all things Red Dwarf. This hidden gem was recently resurfaced by Red Dwarf fan Chris Toone, and uploaded to YouTube by Chris Barrie Fans:
Celebrities doing things you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to do is a constant source of fascination for the British public, and it was in this spirit that LWT produced the Ian Wright-fronted Hidden Talents of the Rich and Famous at around the turn of the century. A spin-off from the former footballer’s chat show, Friday Night’s All Wright, it gave television personalities the chance to showcase skills they don’t get to display in their day jobs, and one such participant was Danny John-Jules. We can’t find the full episode – or indeed much information about the show in general – but Danny’s five minute performance is preserved on Youtube:
This month on G&TV, we’re taking you back to the early-to-mid-1990s, a time when Sonic and Mario were competing for console supremacy, bespoke promotional home videos were an effective means of advertising, and a skin-headed Craig Charles was the go-to presenter for edgy, youth-oriented, low-budget productions. Combine all three and you get 1993’s Super Mario All-Stars video, given away by Nintendo in the UK to promote its namesake SNES game, and indeed the console in general. The nearly twenty minute tape has been uploaded in full by games journalist Chris Scullion, as part of a VHS preservation project.
Hello and welcome once again to G&TV. It’s a shorter than usual video this month, but an incredibly interesting, and ever so slightly surreal, one. Full credit must go to our very own Darrell, who recently discovered the existence of a cover version of The Chicken Song – the parody novelty single, with lyrics by Rob and Doug, which originated in Spitting Image and later reached number one in the UK charts – recorded by a Belgian band called De Strangers. After Darrell tweeted about this, Ben Baker then went and dug out the video…
For this month’s G&TV, we take a look at an old favourite: Rob and Doug appearing on BiteBack, also known as “Points of View but with a budget”. This was broadcast on the 23rd May 1993 – precisely 25 years ago today.
I should warn you: at 41 seconds in, they do a “Beam me down, Scotty” gag. I’m warning you now so your expensive phone or computer doesn’t end up through the nearest window.
Previously on G&TV, we brought you an archival treat starring Chris Barrie. This month, we bring you the results of a YouTube search for a different member of the Red Dwarf cast; from September 1992, it’s The Reconstructed Heart, an illustrated lecture by Robert Llewellyn. It was broadcast on Channel 4 in the same month that it became Robert’s first published book.