Red Dwarf – they thought it was an arts programme

Red Dwarf – once upon a time, the ABC thought it belonged on the Sunday afternoon arts show.

You want comedy? I’ll show you comedy.

When British sci-fi comedy show Red Dwarf came on the scene, the ABC programmers didn’t know what to do with it. First they put it on Saturday afternoons, as a filler.

The following year, the summer of 1990-91, they aired it again, this time as part of the Sunday afternoon arts coverage. Because, y’know, it fits in well with programmes about Mozart and Giotto.

And they got the Sunday Arts presenters to introduce the episodes. The first one, read by Helen Wellings, included a run-down of the plot, just in case we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves.

Just to further irk the fans, they also managed to get the name of the show wrong, repeatedly calling it The Red Dwarf.

Oh wait, you want proof? Very well.

The other consequence of showing it in the middle of the day is that they took the knife to the episodes and made numerous cuts, particularly to the second season. One episode got skipped completely.

A year or two later the ABC figured out what kind of show Red Dwarf really was — a potential cult comedy classic — and started airing it in the evenings.

In a way it’s similar to how other free-to-air networks have treated sci-fi over the years. Badly, mostly.

And the Sunday Arts show? It’s getting a revamp.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “Red Dwarf – they thought it was an arts programme”

At least the ABC seems to have got its act into gear now, with newer sci-fi/fantasy shows being aired in prime-time on Friday nights on ABC2.

Admittedly Torchwood is a little late, but that’s not really their fault, given that Ten originally had the rights to it. And “Being Erica”, from Canada, is just awesome. I wonder if we’d ever have seen this at all if ABC2 wasn’t there.

A new series of Red Dwarf has been commisioned for next year (announced Oct 10 at the Red Dwarf convention in Birmingham (yes, really)).

I must admit, I never really watched Red Dwarf, heard a lot about it, just didn’t seem to me something I wanted to watch! I tend to do that with certain shows.
Daniel, you aren’t wrong about free to air networks treating sci-fi like crap! In fact, they still do! Star Trek was about the worst! Next Generation was treated reasonably, although I only started to watch from the last season, so didn’t experience it too much.

But by far the worst treated show of all time was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine! Nine ought to be ashamed of it’s treatment! The first two seasons were OK- they were only about a year and a half behind the States, which at the time (mid 90s) wasn’t too bad. The one thing which used to annoy me then was the timeslot- sure it was late, nothing unusual, but it had the misfortune of being on a Thursday night on Channel 9- same night as the Footy Show! As everyone knows, TFS NEVER runs on time- back then it was supposed to finish at 10:40, with the news next, then DS9 was scheduled to start at 11:10. As it was so late, I used to tape the episodes. I was always used to set the timer 5 mins before and after, but learned to ditch that thought completely with DS9! I used to set it about 15-20 mins AFTER the scheduled time, and it would still start about 10 minutes after that! It truly was an art to tape DS9 in those days! Suffice it to say early on I was quite annoyed at missing the end of those episodes!!!

From about the 4th season, they didn’t air it for about a year, thus falling nearly 3 years behind! By this stage I was borrowing the videos- they were much farther ahead! I did keep track of Nine’s airing, and noticed that they skipped the last half of the 6th season! By the time they aired the last episode, it was about 4 years after it had aired in the US- sometime after midnight!!

Similar thing with Voyager and Enterprise, though they didn’t skip any episodes, but aired them at bad times, sporadically!

Channel 7 haven’t been any better with Stargate SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis! SG-1 actually was treated quite well at the start- it began as a summer filler, then stayed throughout the regular season. I even think at one stage, if I remember correctly, Seven aired an episode before the US! After that, it was quite a while before it was on again, and then it was aired sporadically at best, few weeks worth, then off again. Half the time I didn’t remember the episodes because it had been so long since it was shown. Didn’t follow Atlantis on Seven- easier to download the episodes. Nowadays it seems the only way to watch TV decently.

If anyone has Foxtel, Sci-Fi Channel is a fan’s dream. The irony- I rarely watch it, as I’ve already seen all the episodes- wish I’d had it 10 years ago!!!

By the way, it looks like the ABC would be better off putting the Sunday Arts program on after midnight during the week- if ever there was anything to cure insomnia!!! Maybe Flashdance as well!!!!

My recollection is that TNG got moved about a little bit, but not too much by Ch9 — provided you allowed an extra hour on the recording you’d be okay! The main problem is it was on too late to watch “live”.

Yeah I think their screwing with DS9 was what caused me to stop watching it.

As I said, I started watching TNG in it’s last season- 1995. At that stage, it was on Tuesday nights at 11, and generally they were pretty faithful to that. Prior to that, I think it was on both Tuesday and Thursday nights, with a repeat on Sunday afternoons. So that was OK, but DS9 was shocking! And I don’t blame you for going off it at that stage, I would have too if it hadn’t been for the video store! And it’s a shame- in my opinion, DS9 is one of the finest shows I’ve ever watched!

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