Hands up, Who Likes Me?: Filling the Void With Some Good Smeg!

In this weekly column, I’ll introduce you to the world of British comedy in the chronology of how I, an American anglophile, discovered it in my life. This week: Red Dwarf.

Shortly after devouring all things Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy around age 14, I was overcome by a terrible ennui. Where would I get my fix of absurdist British science fiction now? Dr. Who was great and all, but it didn’t lean on the funny nearly enough for my taste.

Luckily, fate intervened.

I spent the night at a friend’s house one weekend, and his father happened to be a huge sci-fi and comedy nerd. We bonded over our love of H2G2, and when I told him how sad I was that I had nothing to take its place, he immediately lent me VHS bootlegs of a show called Red Dwarf.

I got home, watched the tapes and my mind was blown.

Red Dwarf is the name of both the series and the deep-space mining ship where the show takes place. After a radiation leak kills all but one of the crew-members (Dave Lister), the ship’s computer puts him in stasis until the dangerous radioactivity is cleared. Which happens to take roughly 3 million years.

Upon awakening, Lister discovers he’s not totally alone. The Computer has also preserved his stuffy, anal-retentive, cowardly, former bunkmate Arnold Rimmer. But now, he’s a hologram. Oh, and there’s one other life-form. Cat, the suave, self-centered evolved descendent of Lister’s pet cat from 3 million years earlier.

Cat wants fish:

Most of the early series revolved around Lister trying to return home to Earth and his odd-couple squabbles with Rimmer. However as the series wore on, plots and even tone shifted towards more dramatic themes, making Red Dwarf incredibly mercurial and unique.

Rimmer bores Lister:

Needless to say, it was my kind of show.

Thankfully, a lot of other people felt the same way. Red Dwarf ran for 8 seasons, between 1988 and 1999 and became wildly popular. Like H2G2, Red Dwarf enjoyed multi-platform success, it was even adapted as a role playing game.

Modern sci-fi fans may find the sets and effects a bit clumsy by today’s standards and the comedy is definitely dryer and more slowly paced than what modern audiences are used to, but Red Dwarf is well worth a watch.

Curtis Gwinn is a writer and comedian living in LA. He’s written for The Onion, MTV’s Human Giant, Comedy Central and FOX Searchlight Pictures. He also co-starred in and co-wrote Fat Guy Stuck in Internet on Adult Swim.

Hands up, Who Likes Me?: Filling the Void With Some […]