In high school, someone tried to introduce me to Red Dwarf. In many ways her taste was excellent, and I was introduced to some fine British shows through her; I think I lasted about ten minutes with Lister, Rimmer and crew. And yet, here we are, Channel Flipping it! Life’s funny. (The show isn’t, but life is!)
I suspect this is one of those shows in which any ten-minute chunk is going to contain both a lot of things happening and very little actual development of anything. The overwhelming feeling I got watching it was the crawling, laugh-track claustrophobia of The Big Bang Theory; though Red Dwarf has a sincerity The Big Bang Theory never did, that’s not enough to save it from the comparison.
So, who wants to see ten minutes of a TV show in which some interstellar rapscallions in a nano-spaceship literally fly up a rat’s ass? I sure do!
Episode: Back in the Red, Part I, chosen at random
Speaking of Lister and Rimmer, Rimmer’s trying to read, and Lister is pulling a Level Eleven little brother routine:
When normal methods don’t work, he demonstrates how a mutual object of affection “wore her cheeks to the bone” with him. The audiences goes wild!
Shockingly, Rimmer isn’t fond of this, likening Lister’s antics to a convention on the Future of Plumbing (the audience hits the floor!), and they exposit back and forth a bit about how they’re sorry about and/or resent that thing that happened in what will clearly be a flashback.
Cut to: three days earlier! What do you know! (Rimmer has now vanished from the rest of this Channel Flip; farewell, sweet prince.)
A catlike gent, a robot guy, an AI computer interface gentleman, and a Battlestar Galatica escapee staff the bridge as they attempt to land an absolutely teeny spaceship in a very large spaceship/space station piece of business.
There are some scrapes and close calls as they Honey I Shrunk their way through some air vents and narrowly escape hitting a rat, but things are looking up, content-wise. We’re establishing personalities (Cat is fussy, Ladyperson is compentent, Robot is useless and probably itchy). If you can drown out the laugh tracks rising to fever pitch as we revisit an endless joke about ‘Brown Alert’ (they mean poop, a Brown Alert is poop, someone’s going to poop themselves from fear, is the joke, so they’re calling it a Brown Alert, I just want to make sure the studio audience isn’t getting this laugh all to themselves about Brown Alert), we’re looking at any low-budget SF chase scene. We can handle those! That’s basically all SF people ever got before the Battlestar reboot!
Wait, please hold.
Actual rat ass. The ship flies into it. The laugh track ramps up to Apoplexy as we are treated to extended shots of a rat hurtling through the air with a tiny spaceship crammed up it. When the ship manages to extricate itself by braking sharply (you know how spaceships brake a lot), the rat goes flying into a wall with a bang. The laugh track seriously is never going to recover from how absolutely this moment has distilled the essence of comedy. Oh, it’s good to be alive!
Anyway, they get turned normal size and crash all over the cargo bay. The men who come to put out the explosion are Lister’s friends! Lister is thrilled to see his friends again for reasons that escape us, but also seem to have escaped everyone else, much like this show has escaped me entirely, rendering me some oddly-dressed combination of this confounded collective:
But before anyone can explain anything, it’s time for Lister to be arrested for stealing a ship (legitimate) and taken for detention to the 3rd-floor dorm room of a dude I knew in college who had a lizard because it made him counterculture, which is a fair enough detention room for Lister, I’d imagine, based on how that dorm room smelled:
(That tank pretty much looks like how that lizard tank ended up looking.)
When he’s alone, Lister calls up the AI gentleman and discusses his options – turns out he’s probably doomed for the infamous, classified Thirteenth Floor! The audience cannot even HANDLE how hilarious this is! Thirteen floors – who ever thought? And yet, before we learn anything about this magical, hilarious place, it’s timestamp! Will Lister escape? Will everyone ever get back together? What did Lister pour on Rimmer’s head? Thank goodness I’ll never have to find out!
What it All Means, I Bet: Well, if there is someone who can say what this show means, they are not me, but the show has to be more than this. Right?
But I am not super great at dealing with laugh tracks these days, is a thing I feel confident saying!