RICHIE: Maybe it’s a producer with a wonderful part. EDDIE: Oo-er! RICHIE: Eddie, I said wonderful part, not attractive willy.
When talking about Filthy Rich & Catflap, there’s many routes I could have taken. I could have focused on it being an ahead-of-its-time dissection on the nature of celebrity. I could have talked about alternative comedy butting heads with the old showbiz. I could mention the endless fourth wall breaking – done far more than The Young Ones or Bottom ever did.
Or I could start with a knob gag. OK, fine, I’ll go with that.
Of course, Filthy Rich & Catflap and early Red Dwarf are very much sister shows. Both were part of Paul Jackson’s pot of money at BBC Manchester, and were both recorded in BBC Manchester’s Studio A at Oxford Road. And both shared many of the same crew. As you take a look at this video from the very end of the series – featuring the show gleefully knocking down the last remaining barrier between them and the viewer – see how many people who also worked on Red Dwarf you can spot.
But that isn’t why I’ve chosen this video for this month’s G&TV. Here’s a fun fact: did you know you can see the outside of Red Dwarf – that is, the hull of the ship itself – in those closing moments of Filthy Rich & Catflap? Despite it being recorded a year before Red Dwarf?
“Despite some last-minute shooting by Rob and Doug after the wrap party, Demons & Angels was felt to be the weakest show of the series by Rob and Doug, and so was placed 5th – the traditional place for what you think is your worst episode. (Despite D&A being great.) Nobody cares if you’ve got a duff ep if you’ve had four great ones before it, and end the series with a blinder.”
Over the years on here, we’ve often idly mentioned the idea that the worst episode of any given comedy show should be put in the fifth episode slot out of six. In fact, we’ve mentioned it so much that it’s almost become a truism, a cliché… and yet we’ve never really examined where it came from, or actually looked at whether it applies to Red Dwarf in any concrete way.
Hello. I am John Hoare, and I am going to take a look at whether this actually applies to Red Dwarf in any concrete way.
Hello everyone. When we last met, I guided you through a history of three wall sections used in Red Dwarf in 1988. This went down disturbingly well. You fucking weirdos.
With this in mind, let’s continue our in-depth examination of Red Dwarf‘s sets in its first couple of series with one of their most famous oddities: the disappearing and reappearing Captain’s Office. This article was intended to be a more general look at the Drive Room set, but believe it or not I have found enough to say about this single topic to make a full standalone piece. We’re not dumbing down our material. It’s always been this stupid.
As before, we need to take this one in recording order, rather than broadcast order.
When I say to random people “Hey, what do you remember about the sets of the first two series of Red Dwarf?”, they back away from me and look for the nearest exit. Before they manage to escape, however, they usually mention the bunkroom. They might stammer out an anecdote about a yellow banana. Really cool people might mention how the Drive Room changes between series, or how the Observation Dome is a perfect combination of live set elements and special effects.
Still, all those stories have been told. I want to dig a little deeper, and I don’t care how boring things get in order to do so. With that in mind, Ganymede & Titan proudly present: a history of three wall sections, used at BBC Manchester in 1987-88.
Do you remember a time, a few years either side of the turn of the century, when the internet was mostly comprised of auto-playing midi files and non-HD porn? Back then, if you searched Yahoo, or Alta Vista, or Lycos, you could find tonnes of Geocities-hosted web pages for each and every one of your favourite TV shows, which invariably featured the same handful of low-res jpegs, lists of quotes, episode guides and those ubiquitous auto-playing midi files. Then blogging came along, and we all realised that we could just write about our opinions on our favourite shows, rather than trying to provide a comprehensive mine of information, given that new-fangled things like Google and Wikipedia could do that much better.
So things like episode guides disappeared from fansites. Not entirely, but they were no longer an essential component. It was only recently that we realised that G&T had nothing even resembling such a guide – not even a list of episodes anywhere. When we started, in 2002, we launched an ambitious project of producing detailed “capsules” for every episode, but, well, you can see how that went. We got to thinking that it might be fun to try and write an episode guide now, and see where it ended up. As it turns out, it kind of got out of hand…
Let’s be perfectly clear. Generally, when talking about deleted scenes – whatever the given TV show or film – the quality of the scenes themselves doesn’t actually matter. When I pop in a DVD, I don’t care how good they are. It’s how interesting they are which makes them entertaining. A scene can be absolutely appalling, deservedly cut… and still be one of the best extras of the lot.
This perhaps doubly-holds for Red Dwarf. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are with deleted scenes being included on the DVD releases; you only have to check your shelves to see which other sitcoms from 1988 include such things for the proof of that. (Mind you, sadly these days, budget cuts across DVD ranges mean we’re lucky to get them for a sitcom made today.)
Of all the difficult tasks I have faced whilst writing Ganymede & Titan, this has to be one of the most difficultistestist. Even more difficult than writing an article which doesn’t manage to be spectacularly rude about somebody for very little reason. How the bloody hell do you manage to boil down the quite staggering amount of amazing special effects work for Red Dwarf into one easy-to-digest Top 10 list?
Answer: with a lot of kicking, screaming, self-doubt as to the worth of my entire life, and general dissatisfaction. Hopefully that’s sold this article as something well worth reading. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Oh, was 1988 the year Red Dwarf first aired? I think it just might be.
I won’t spoil what any of the clips are: the surprise is part of the fun. It’s an excellent reminder of what pop culture was like back when Red Dwarf was first shown. Which we foolishly tend to ignore in favour of wondering exactly what that motion control rig they used to shoot the model shots was like.
Sit back, whack up the speakers, and enjoy. And if you want a bit of extra background with TRIVIA AND POP FACTS GALORE, the accompanying commentary track on the show by the aforementioned Worthington & Baker comes highly recommended. Despite that sounding like an artisan bread company.
Yes, the least reliable Red Dwarf podcast in the universe is BACK. Brilliant. We return once more to the realm of episode commentaries by going almost back to the beginning for Future Echoes. Does it justify its reputation as an all time classic? Is there a pre-determination paradox at play? What’s the deal with the light above Lister’s bunk? Join us as we fail to answer these questions and more, with G&T regulars Ian Symes and Danny Stephenson joined by very ordinary guests Jezzmund Tutu, Rich Lawden and Tom Pyott.