Dateline: December 28, 2000
The cult science fiction comedy, Red Dwarf, comes to BBC America. Long a staple of some PBS stations (particularly during pledge drives), BBC America will be running all eight seasons of the series. It originally premiered without fanfare on BBC-2 in 1988 with six low-budget episodes chronicling the misadventures of Dave Lister (Craig Charles), the last human alive after spending three million years aboard a huge spaceship in suspended animation. Lister's only companions are a creature evolved from a cat (Danny John-Jules), the ship's smart-alec (and slightly senile) computer Holly (Norman Lovett), and a hologram of his dead crewmate and nemesis Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie). Initially it didn't have much of an impact but the BBC has patience, and a second season was quickly commissioned and went out later that same year. The ratings grew, the budget was expanded, and the series rapidly became a cult hit, particularly in America.
The series was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor who had written for the satirical puppet series Spitting Image (which Chris Barrie had provided some voices for). In the third season a fourth character was added, the android Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) and Holly had a sex change and was now played by Hattie Hayridge. A number of famous faces have appeared in the series over the years including Craig Ferguson (Saving Grace), Koo Stark, Jane Horrocks (Absolutely Fabulous), Jenny Agutter (Logan's Run), Timothy Spall (Topsy-Turvy), and even Adolf Hitler! In the sixth season, the boys lost the ship (actually the prop and had been dropped and destroyed), and so continued their adventures in Starbug in pursuit of their missing ship. The seventh season saw the departure of Chris Barrie as Rimmer, and the series suffered as a result. But fortunately he was persuaded to return for the most recent eighth season which was a tremendous success. Currently plans are afoot to make a feature motion picture with the cast in 2001.
NBC and American television had at one time expressed an interest in Red Dwarf, and a pilot was commissioned in 1992 with Linwood Boomer (Malcolm In The Middle) as producer, Jane Leeves (Frasier) as Holly, and Terry Farrell (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as the Cat! Fortunately it didn't sell.
The series continues to parody all types of genres, not just science fiction, including prison movies, action heroes, historicals, and even Westerns! The crew has traveled back and forth in time, cracked the light barrier, visited parallel universes, even met themselves. No situation is too far out for Red Dwarf. Digital technology these days even allow the producers to have special effects that were unimaginable when the series first started (in fact, the producers later went back and augmented the earlier episodes so they would better match the newer shows).
Be sure and check out:
The Official Red Dwarf Site
The Red Dwarf Frequently Asked Questions