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Development Deal: Red Dwarf

If there’s one thing that a quick look at the current state of television and movies will tell you, it’s that there’s not much need for original ideas when there’s so much out there ready and waiting to be adapted, updated or just outright ripped off. That’s why we’ve decided to help in that process with a series which offers up some of the things we’d like to see being brought to big screen or small. This week’s suggestion? Red Dwarf.

What Is It?
A long-running – even longer, considering it was resurrected a couple of years ago for a three episode revival that turned into an ongoing thing – British sitcom set in the far future centering around the last human left alive on board a mining space ship, and his various companions: A hologram recreation of his former roommate, a mutated descendant of his dead cat and the ship’s AI computer (Later, a robot with a fetish for housecleaning and an alternate reality of the lead character’s dead girlfriend were added to the cast). Of course, they have fantastic and amusing sci-fi adventures on their long journey back to Earth to discover if humanity is still alive back there, but the center of the show is the relationship between all of the characters; especially in earlier seasons, Red Dwarf was pretty much a classic “Odd Couple” set-up that just so happened to take place in space after a disaster that might have wiped out the human race, and I’d argue that that was its strength – As the show went on and moved more towards an “adventure of the week” format in later years, it became more generic and more obviously limited by budget, to its detriment. So, what is Red Dwarf? It’s a show about two friends who hate each other as much as they need each other, and the people around them, that just happens to take place in the distant future in space and against a potentially apocalyptic backdrop. The perfect comedy set-up, in other words.

What Could It Be?
I know that there was already a failed attempt to remake Red Dwarf for American audiences – here’s a glimpse at it, if you’re feeling particularly masochistic – but just because something didn’t work once doesn’t mean that it could never work. One of the problems with the failed US remake, I think, was that it was too faithful to the original (There are lines that are pretty much verbatim from the original UK version), which is always a problem in Transatlantic comedy translations; what would likely work much better would be constructing a new Dwarf based around the central conceit but otherwise working off new cloth, even going so far as to work up a new cast outside of the Last Human/Hologram of Roommate pairing if necessary. Use the original series as inspiration, but find your own way from there.

I’d also hope that, following the increased genre-ization of mainstream pop culture in the last few years, something like Red Dwarf would/could be given a warmer welcome by non-nerd audiences if it were launched in America today; if nothing else, I feel like American audiences are already more comfortable with post-apocalypses and the idea of characters who aren’t really there/really people thanks to things like Star Trek: Voyager, Lost and whatever that have come along since Red Dwarf‘s previous attempt at an American outing.

It’s that increased familiarity with genre material – and, separately, the lowered costs in making genre material compared with 1992 – that I think could make Red Dwarf a viable proposition in today’s TV world. Of course, what it’d really need to work are writers who (a) know comedy and (b) know genre, which is why I’d pull The Thrilling Adventure Hour‘s Ben Acker and Ben Blacker in as show runners and see what they could come up with, given the opportunity. If given my choice of all possible leads, I’d go for Donald Glover – I’m not entirely sure why, but let’s chalk it up to a recent rewatch of Mystery Team and excitement over the imminent return of Community, although I am coming up entirely bereft when it comes to who should play the uptight, know-it-all roommate, deceased – Any ideas (Anyone thinking “Jim Parsons!” I am vetoing that idea, I’m afraid)?

Red Dwarf, the original UK version, worked because it was a funny sitcom first, and a sci-fi adventure second; that same idea demonstrates why is should work internationally if done well. Who doesn’t want to see a funny show with a fantastic setting that just opens the show up to all kinds of storytelling possibilities? Never mind Modern Family, TV execs; a show like Red Dwarf could really reinvent the sitcom genre.

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Comments

  • WardenDresden

    NO Lots of NO

    british shows should not be remade in the states EVER, everytime they do thier basicaly and entire exercise in “howto completly miss the point”

    (simular works in reverse – uk remakes just dont have the scale and grandure )

  • Darrenandrews77

    From what I hear The Office worked in the US. You’re right though, Red Dwarf would fall on its arse!

  • Austin

    The Office seems to have only really worked in the US once it got done with adapting the UK material and went on its own, got its own style and humour, at which point it might as well not be an adaptation of The Office.

    Its difficult, I think a Red Dwarf adaptation COULD be possible, there isn’t anything particularly English about its comedy which would be lost in translation… But I would fear it would miss the core values of each character, they would either become far too stereotyped, or made too complex.

    The other question, which you brought up, is which Red Dwarf? The sitcom from s1-2/3 or the the Adventure of the Week from the latter series? I prefer the original premise personally, one of the reasons of which is Lister suddenly became far more intelligent and far more capable a person, as opposed to a lazy f up that made him so fun.

  • Lyle

    Also, there was a little known show called All in the Family which was based on a British sitcom…

  • Anonymous

    No need to remake.

  • Braunrodman

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  • Demoncat4

    yes but like other times us has tried their own versions of brittish tv the exceptions so far being the office and and being human . they wind up watering down the thing  jettsioning some of what made the thing good. which would happen with red dwarf though one could always  hope for a red dwarf film after the latest go round is done.

  • AJR

    I saw par of that American version. Wow, unreal.

  • Gregg

    It would either be terrible and everyone would hate it, or it would be awesome and mainstream viewers wouldn’t “get” it, causing it be canceled in 2 seasons.

  • http://twitter.com/ThePeterWhitney Peter Whitney

    No.  For every one US adaptation that is a success there are countless other failures (Coupling, Life on Mars, Absolutely Fabulous, Kath and Kim (Australia), Prime Suspect, Faulty Towers, Men Behaving Badly, and the failed launch of Spaced.  

    Why not just have some original programming.   

  • http://www.audiocomicscompany.com/ Audiocomics

    But how do you really feel?

  • http://twitter.com/Tiradyn Eric Rich

    The only US remakes of british shows that I’ve liked that I can think of offhand were Touching Evil and Cracker.  It is very rare that they don’t totally **** it up in trying to adapt it.  I love Red Dwarf.  I would not even consider watching a remake. 

  • Darren Wilson

    There’s absolutely no need to re-make Red Dwarf it’s perfect as is.  I never understand the reasoning behind making US versions of shows that are already succesful and in English (the language that both use).  
     
    ‘and more obviously limited by budget, to its detriment’….totally disagree, the worse the effects are on RD the better it was/is.  It’s not Star Trek.

  • http://twitter.com/Greygor Mark

    And of course Series 10 is currently in Post-production back in the UK right now.

     

  • Anonymous

    If it were to be redone, which I’d actually prefer to the current plans for bringing back the original characters, I’d like to see a different conceit whereby the last human and the hologram were male and female and the additional tension of potential romance despite them both being the last person alive they would ever want to be with.  

    From a UK perspective US audiences seem to appreciate those spiky, will they/won’t they type relationships.  Also I’d have Kryten on board from the beginning or at least within the first handful of episodes.

    The only problem I can see with re-doing it though is that sitcoms are a dying art these days.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/200328sept David Fullam

     The original creators did a good enough job of ruining Red Dwarf, so who would want an American version?

  • Kombat Wombat

    If you like it just watch the UK version. It’s not like the UK remakes every fucking show the US churns out.

  • Anonymous

    …and Sanford & Son.

  • davidgrantlloyd

    David Hyde Pearce would make a pretty cool Rimmer (hologram roommate), then again it might be too similar to Niles Crane. Still, he’d probably do a good portrayal.

  • IamtheCat

    Uh, the blogger failed to mention that the UK Red Dwarf has just shot six more episodes scheduled to start airing later this year on Dave TV.

  • SasaharaX

    Red Dwarf was tried before back in 1992 and both pilots sucked. They had 2 different versions of Cat, one male and one female played by Terry Farrel. I think Jane Leeves was Holly and Robert Llewellyn played Kryten.