Confirmation of the Red Dwarf Hiatus and Future Reviews

Hi, folks! Just figured I’d confirm what I mentioned in a post last week.
Between the new episodes of Gravity Falls and my desire to finish off season 9 of Scullyfied Simpsons, I figured that I might as well pace my reviews of Red Dwarf. I mean, June and July were almost entirely Red Dwarf based, and I want to re-review the shows in a fresher light.
So, as the title suggests, as of now, and possibly until sometime in the fall, Red Dwarf will not be reviewed. It’s all Gravity Falls and Simpsons, all the time… for good, or for bad.
Oh, and just remember: expect the review of “Scaryoke” to be posted by sometime Sunday afternoon. Remember, it’s on 9/8c on Disney Channel. Watch it live, if at all possible.
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Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 15: "The Last Temptation of Krust"

Airdate: February 22, 1998

“I just read the Season 15 DVD Review! THEY WERE RIGHT!”

Synopsis: At a comedy festival organized by Jay Leno, Bart convinces Krusty the Clown to do some of his standup. However, in contrast to the rest of the material, Krusty’s material is, well, outdated at best. Embarrassed, he goes into an emotional spiral, culminating in him passing out on Flanders’s lawn. While announcing his retirement from comedy, his rant on modern life manages to make the press laugh, and Krusty is back in business.

Review: There’s a nagging feeling I have about the episode… no matter how much I want to like it, it still seems… off.

I’ve taken Krusty to be a deconstruction of the typical kids show presenter: he was washed up, his material is trapped in the 50s, he’s callous off the stage, and only in the business for the paycheque. (Insert Zombie Simpsons joke here.) So why are we explicitly taking an episode out to deconstruct Krusty? It seems a bit expository, like “Hey, this is Krusty’s character!” Besides, as some pointed out, “Krusty Gets Kancelled” already deconstructed Krusty’s character, by having new, more organized competition blow Krusty out of the water. That episode, though, was one of the best in the history of the show. This episode… isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t live up to the heights of “Kancelled”. After all, stand-up comedians doing their schlock may provide the chuckles, but gags like Worker and Parasite and “Old Grey Mare” are timeless.

The art of selling out as mocked here is also pretty ironic. The Simpsons used to relentlessly mock the celebrities that guest stared, or at best, portrayed them as suffering from human flaws. This episode gives Jay Leno a relatively light treatment, one that would be repeated for almost every other guest star since. Oh, and he goes into the house of Our Favorite Family, and helps Krusty. No questions. Remember when it was a town-wide event to see Michael Jackson come to town?

Now, some may be thinking: didn’t the Simpson kids talk with celebrities in “Kancelled” to try and salvage Krusty’s career? However, not only did every one of those celebrities had some form of development, or at least some awesome lines, but they actually tracked every celebrity down, interacted with them like most unfamiliar with celebrities would, and still made the episode a biting satire on its target (TV competition and comebacks). Here, Leno comes to the house just because Bart called in a favor, despite barely knowing him.

This episode is the second one to feature Gil Gunderson, a character whose main joke is that he is a complete and utter failure at life. Outside of the “sock” joke, I really didn’t find the scene with him funny… and it was at the beginning of the episode. Kinda drags the first act down a bit. Of course, it got better by the second half, with Krusty getting wasted and on Flanders’s front lawn and his failed comeback with his same old shtick. The third act was pretty decent, but still, there’s a nagging feeling that they were a bit soft on the modern stand-up circuit, that they were almost embracing them. Sure, “out there” stand up might be alright, but why not try and take them out on the negatives rather than the positives? Krusty quickly sells back out, however, thus cementing a theme that, no matter what, some people are just in it for the monay. Hey, status quo is god!

I did like this episode taking a bit out of the utter devotion that some fans have: they’ll buy anything with a face on it, even if it doesn’t work. However, it sort of backfires wherealizeealise that the rampant sale of merchandise keeps the show on the air, even when it’s well past it’s prime. (Ad revenues are down, though. There is a shot!) Hypocrisy, much? Eh, I don’t think even Scully had any idea that the show would be alive enough to see the 2010s.

There were some decent gags that buoy the episode… strangely, few of them are in the stand-up routine:

  • Kent Brockman filling in for Krusty. Boy, what a cheap station KBBL is.
  • Marge watching Spanish telenovelas, and Lisa translating them.
  • Krusty using one of his licensed swabs… which burns on contact.
  • “IMPEACH CHURCHILL!”
  • “Don’t you hate pants?”
  • “Here’s $42. It’s everything I have. Run home and bury it in the yard!”
  • Ah, the Canyonero ending. All of it. I would’ve put the last part at the beginning of the episode, in lieu of the Gil scene, though.
Sadly, this episode, outside of those gags, largely felt like it needed something else. It just didn’t feel full, or memorable.
Tidbits:
  • The network censors actually had a problem with Krursty’s act. The writers had to put it in context to get it through.
  • There was actually a scene planned that had Bart try and meet up Leno. That actually would’ve made some lick of sense. No, they just go to Leno just being at the Simpson house.
  • Strangely enough, there was a later episode (as in, Season 23) that actually had a decent idea reminiscent of this episode. In “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution”, Krusty, with his agent/lover Annie Dubinsky (Joan Rivers) decide to relaunch his show on cable to target an audience that wants to love things they enjoyed as children. Again, I liked the idea: Krusty deciding to relaunch his show to target a new audience, and mocking the “flashback” cycle that 30-somethings tend to have nowadays. Again, though, they wasted the potential, and made it more about Krusty and his relationship with his agent. End result? This is a better episode.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 2 He burns all of his money. How? He throws matches on the table. Nice one, idiot.
Zaniness Factor: 1.5 Leno showing up to 742 Evergreen Terrace after barely meeting Bart is certainly a bit… off.
Favorite Scene: CANYONERO!!!!! Canyonero!
Least Favorite Scene: I just couldn’t really laugh at the shoe shop scene. Utter canyon of joke-ness. (And I don’t care if I’m making up words at this point.)
Score: 6.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 14: "Das Bus"

Airdate: February 15, 1998

Synopsis: While on the way to a trip to the Model UN conference in Capital City, the kids from Springfield Elementary wind up in a jam after a grapefruit-related brake failure drives the bus off of a bridge. With Otto floating away (“ZEPPELIN RULES!”), the kids wind up trapped on a deserted island. A combination of the island’s lack of resources and their lack of survival skills scuttles their attempts at civilization, and the kids have to live off of the snacks from the bus. All the while, the kids become suspicious of one another.

Meanwhile, Homer, inspired by Flanders’s internet enterprise, decides to start his own internet business… despite knowing nothing about the internet. Thus, we take a look at the rise and fall of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net.

Review: I had to read Lord of the Flies during High School. (Thank you, New York State.) For those that haven’t read the book in a long time, the book focused on a bunch of British students getting trapped on an island after their plane goes down. Their connections to civilization falter, and the kids become more and more savage.

I have to say, watching this episode after thinking about the book, I was a tad bit underwhelmed.

“Das Bus” seems like it was trying to be more of a send-up to Flies, which is alright, except, as others have pointed out, it tends to play to the beats of the novel a bit too closely. The Simpsons is best when it adds twists to the source material. Outside of the ending (which I’ll discuss below), the episode tended to match word-for-word the novel. Kids try to form own civilization after getting trapped on island, yet wind up becoming more and more savage and brutal.

This episode does take quite the stab at the United Nations, as, at the meeting, we see the kids bicker over the relationship between each other, setting the tone for what they would do without supervision from adults. Once they get stranded on the island, they begin looking for their self-interests. Fighting Milhouse for the “food” is a collaborative effort, but in the end, the kids want their own instant gratification. Meanwhile, Millhouse, one of the remaining “civilized” students, winds up acting like a jerkass to Lisa and Bart, asking them to carry him to safety, and repaying them by abandoning the two after crossing the cliff. Is it symbolic of international relations within the UN, and providing a message about the flaws of the organization? Or am I looking too much into this episode? Given Scully’s legacy amongst the general public, I lean somewhat to the latter.

Either way, I think if the episode focused more on UN satire and less on ripping off Lord of the Flies, this might have been more enjoyable… a little bit.

The ending of the plot is actually pretty decent. While the reveal of “the monster” is a bit too in step, it actually does lead to a very interesting twist – one that plays off of the kid’s instant gratification and one that is a direct stab at Lisa’s vegetarianism. I also think the ending ending was a bit of a stab at the ending of Lord of the Flies. Normally, I hold Simpsons episodes that have haphazard-esque endings in a low light. Yet, here, I kind of liked it, given the source material.

Character in the A-plot seemed a bit uneven, yet I can somewhat pass it off, given the stressful situation they’re in. Some of Lisa’s dialogue might seem off given her normally intelligent nature, but it also helps reinforce that she’s still a second grader. Bart’s dialogue also seemed to show that there are flashes of brilliance in him, yet it is also balanced by his naiveté.

Plot “B” mocks the dot-com bubble just around the time it was, well, bubbling. Homer sets up a business with no knowledge of the industry, acts like an idiot, is somehow able to buy advertising (albeit on, apparently, Voyager fansites), and, when it comes time to sell, he gets trashed… rather literally, in fact. (“I didn’t get rich by writing a lot of cheques!”). Sure, it’s a prototype of the “Homer gets a new job and acts like a jackass” plot that would become the center of season 10. However, I must admit, it was pretty damn funny. By far my favorite piece of dialogue would have to be between Comic Book Guy and Homer, as CBG wants faster internet.

Comic Book Guy: “I’m interested in upgrading my 28.8 kilobaud internet connection to a 1.5 megabit fiber optic T1 line. Will you be able to provide an IP router that’s compatible with my Token Ring Ethernet LAN connection?”

Homer: [Stares for a few seconds] “Can I have some money now?”

Overall, while a bit of a disappointment compared to what I was expecting, it was still a pretty decent episode. Maybe my expectations were too high. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Tidbits:

  • Some fans on the internet have complained that Bill Gates, who briefly appeared at Homer’s business, voiced himself, claiming that celebrity guest voices helped kill the show. Hank Azaria actually voiced Gates.
  • This episode was written by David S Cohen. It would be his third-to-last script under the title: after the Writers Guild unionized, he was forced to drop the S from his title, and instead put an X for his future scripts, including the pilot to Futurama, which I think is surprisingly underrated in the science-fiction world.
  • The resolution to Otto’s C-plot is pretty damn funny… it involves Chinese fishermen and slave labor. “I think I’m gonna like it on this boat!”
  • Worth noting that the Model UN was also given a brief shoutout in “Lisa the Drama Queen”, where the meeting goes awry due to the lack of certain representatives… in that case, Lisa. Strangely enough, that episode was also a parody of another piece of media- there, it was the 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. Much like this episode, it’s less of a parody and more of a beat-by-beat retelling. It was a pretty weak episode, especially by the standards of the classics.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 2 Between stealing Marge’s ideas without giving her credit, ignoring her, and telling her to get out when Gates arrives to make himself look good – it’s a bit annoying.

Zaniness Factor: 2.5. An episode of this caliber was always going to be “out there”. It does pull back on the slapstick, however.

Favorite Scene: LOVED CBG’s attempts to boost his internet speed… via Homer. Pretty much sums up Telecom companies.

Least Favorite Scene: Milhouse abandoning Bart and Lisa after swinging over the ditch rubbed me the wrong way. Milhouse is many things, but a jerkass he is not.

Score: 7.

Update: 25 July, 2014 (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Try Out a Schedule)

Image stolen from Google Images.

So, I figured I would try and clear up a few things… and maybe start August with something of a bang.

First off, what I’m going to do with some of my reviews of Red Dwarf and Gravity Falls. This is something I’ve been planning for a few weeks.

Look, these last few reviews of Red Dwarf have gotten me down a bit. During episodes like “Krytie TV” and “Pete”, I wondered why I would consider a show that put out those train wrecks one of my all time favorites. It was incredible: these episodes were so bad, so cheap, so… lifeless.

That last word describes Series VIII perfectly. It was just made, not out of love, but because everybody saw syndication quid and thought “eh, an extra two series couldn’t hurt. Screw quality control!”

Yet, as bad as Series VIII was, I also thought back. Thought back to the early days of this blog. I loved reviewing every other series. With one or two exceptions, every time I watched an episode from those golden years, I left enlightened or laughing. It was a show so brilliant, so perfect, even its missteps were minor. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

At the same time, I took a quick look back at my reviews from the first year of my blog (which was, conveniently enough, last year). I’ll put it this way: with one or two exceptions, they’re all underdone. It wasn’t until about the beginning of this year where I really began to expand on my reviews. I did delve into deeper analysis from time to time in 2013 (like in my “Justice” and “Time Travellers Pig” reviews, but even then, they still seem relatively… simple. Early installment weirdness? Certainly!

So, what to do?

I might redo them. Not only does it give me an excuse to watch the classics again to see how they hold up, but they give me a chance to take a deeper look at those great episodes.

What I’m doing is that I plan to redo my reviews of the first 24 episodes (four series) of Red Dwarf and around the first 12 or 13 episodes of Gravity Falls. I want to see if my opinions changed on the episodes, but more importantly, I want to try and give a deeper analysis of the episodes.

However, this might not happen for a long time. I need a brief break from reviewing Red Dwarf. Another hiatus, if you will. Consider the Red Dwarf reviews on hiatus until at least the end of September.

Second off, I will be doing reviews for season 2 of Gravity Falls as they air. I haven’t done reviews of episodes that have just aired, so I apologize if the first ones are a bit weak. Based on recently leaked material, I think this series will hold up.

Now, as the title implies, this August, I am also going to try using something of a schedule. Yes. A schedule. This will probably fall by the wayside by September, as I start school again, but here’s my intent: post Gravity Falls reviews by Wednesday Night, post Scullyfied Simpsons episodes by Friday Night, and maybe do something else during the week if I have the time. The schedule is only on a trial basis, and I will probably abandon it and reduce the number of reviews I do starting this September.

Just a reminder: “Scaryoke” premieres on August 1st in the States on Disney Channel. The episode after, “Into the Bunker”, airs on Disney XD. Remember the difference; it could save the show.

Gravity Falls Review: Season 2 Preview and Hopes

Yes, folks! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again! Gravity Falls is indeed coming back. Mark your calendars! Those in the US, “Scaryoke” premieres August 1st in the US on the Disney Channel. Those in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia… I’ve got nothing right now. BUT IT IS COMING!

I’ve made it clear that Gravity Falls is one of my favorite TV shows currently in production, and one of my all time favorite shows, period. Season 1, at it’s best, didn’t really break the mold as much as it created an entirely new mold. Even at it’s worst, it wasn’t really bad; it just didn’t excite me as much as the best episodes did. It’s characters, plots, symbolism, and art… all of it ranged from “pretty damn good” to “sublime”. Even characters that seemed like they didn’t get development actually have so much potential to develop, that I’m willing to excuse their lack of focus.

So far, here’s what we know:

  • “Scaryoke”, as mentioned above will launch the season on the Disney Channel. It will ape some plot elements from “Double Dipper”, with a “Mystery Shack is Back” party… this time, it’s overrun by “unwelcome guests”.
  • “Into the Bunker” will be the first new episode premiered on Disney X-D, on August 4th. It will focus on the Mystery Shack employees diving deep into an underground bunker to see the true writer of the books.
  • There will be episodes dedicated to fleshing out characters that previously had bit or supporting parts. These include Wendy and Pacifica, two characters that, in my personal opinion, could’ve had so much more development (see below).
  • One of the writers for this season will be Josh Weinstein… the same Josh Weinstein that (along with Bill Oakley) ran Seasons 7 and 8 for The Simpsons. Seasons 7 and 8 were more well known for their focus on character while also being more down to earth compared to Season 5. Weinstein’s scripts during seasons 5 and (to a lesser extent) 6 were also more “domestic” and less surreal than the rest of the episodes during those two seasons. Oh, he also created Mission Hill, a tragically underrated TV show.

Barring any changes in my schedule, I will be able to catch episode 1 when it airs.

Now, what do I want in this series? Let’s run it down, lads!

  • As mentioned above, two of the show’s most underused characters are Wendy and Pacifica. I saw the untapped potential these two had. They were tragically reduced to relatively one-dimensional roles: Dipper fell in love with the Dave Lister wannabe who was going out with Robbie, and Pacifica acted like a snob. Maybe we could get some depth into their characters. What did they know about the incidents in Gravity Falls? What power does Pacifica hold? Maybe the Dipper/Wendy relationship will be fleshed out to be more professional and more staunchly platonic.
  • Of course, questions have to be answered. Specifically:
    • What power does Stan really have? While I wasn’t too surprised at the reveal at the end of the season, it did open a new wave of questions.
    • “Boyz Crazy”, the platinum episode of the season (and thus far, the series), revealed Robbie to have hypnotized Wendy via music. Where did he get the music? What connections does he have? What was his intent? Is he a perverted jackass, or is there another motive?
  • Hopefully, the plots should take a more dramatic turn. I would implement something of a season-long arc, maybe a self-contained episode or two sprinkled in.
  • While a part of me wants new, creative antagonists, I believe that the show’s best source of conflict will be between it’s established characters.
It’s a bit of a short list, but I think that’s more of a testament to the quality of Gravity Falls than anything else. Really, the big concern I have is that the show should keep up to the standards of the first season. It’ll be tough, but I think the writers will do well.

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII Wrap Up

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Once upon a time, there was a show called Red Dwarf. Initially thought of by newcomers as a show about a bum trapped in space, it slowly established itself as something more. The interactions between the characters gave us some of the best development of each and every one. Even characters used more for outright comedy got some depth to them, while never truly losing some level of their identity. The plots conceived focused on the characters while also being inventive. The humor struck a perfect balance between character comedy, lowbrow comedy (including slapstick), and highbrow comedy, all while not violating the development of the characters. It juggled comedy, drama, adventure, and sci-fi perfectly. It was the best show out there.

Then the show fell in quality in its seventh series. Can’t fault it too much: production had been stilted for a long time, and there were some cast dynamic issues.

Season 8 then came, and proceeded to take every minor flaw that the show had in the past- awkward sexual politics, somewhat strange continuity, weaker special effects, and the occasional flattening of character- multiplied their frequency by a solid hundred, and cranked it up to irritating levels. The end result? If the Ganymede and Titan Silver Survey is to be believed, Series VIII is considered the worst series in the history of Red Dwarf. On average, Series VIII episodes got 2637 points- the lowest number, and trailing far behind the “classics”.

What exactly was the problem with this series, though? Well, let’s delve into the problems listed above, plus more, in my favorite list method… BULLET POINTS:

  • It sent the original premise of Red Dwarf packing: This is probably the biggest error with this series. When Series VI made something of a shakeup by taking away the small rouge one, it at least kept the character dynamic and the mere premise of the show at least somewhat intact. The show was about a bunch of idiots commanding a spaceship with little contact. This series jettisons that suddenly, in favor of a damn prison sitcom in space!
  • The expertly crafted character development was, for the most part, jettisoned. OK, time for some bullet points within bullet points!
    • Rimmer has some level of excuse: he was resurrected, yet not in a form that kept his development over the previous few series. As such, he’s back to being an ambitious loser and a jackass. However, he never really developed beyond this. He acts like a self-centered smeghead from moment one, and it doesn’t let up until the last few minutes- far too late.
    • Lister was really just a puppet. His character really shifts with the wind to what the producers think will suit the plot.
    • Kochanski… well, she had virtually no development. They just made a bunch of “women” jokes.
    • Kryten actually is treated decently: I sorta preferred whatever character was here compared to Series VII. Not saying much, though: he lost all ability to communicate with humans.
    • Maybe it’s the acting slipping, or the poor material, but the Cat no longer has a sense of “coolness” to his behavior. He just comes off as annoying.
  • Worthless Side Characters: OK, Hollister was decent (maybe it’s Mac McDonald’s acting), but did we really need Kill Crazy? Again, Red Dwarf’s appeal was a bunch of idiots being some of the last representatives from Earth (and the Cat). Now, we just have a poor comedy with side characters messing about and doing nothing.
  • The well-balanced humor was, well, thrown off balance… and unfunny: With a lack of focus on character, most of the jokes can be summed up in three words: “overt sexual humor”. Now, Red Dwarf has always made jokes about sex, but they were normally in the context of their sex lives, giving us a bit of insight into their characters. Now, most of these jokes are “haha, men are perverts”, amongst others. The rest of the comedy is slapstick and other vulgar humor. Again, both of these have been done before, but they were balanced out with character comedy, instead of just being there.
  • Subtlety is also tossed: Compare Kryten’s upset at the fact that he’s about to die in “The Last Day” to, well, anytime he gets upset in this series. It’s quieter in the former, yet it also has something more of an impact.
  • Special effects went down the toilet: Let’s put it this way: the BBC should apologize for its fascination with bad CGI in the 90s.
  • Callbacks to far better episodes without knowing the gag’s raison d’etre: The Dibbley Family. Does anybody remember what Dibbley represented? Here’s a hint: Cat shouldn’t be the first to go to the idea!
  • Krytie TV: This sexist, pathetic tedium is probably the worst half hour in the history of the show. The only reason why it didn’t get the 0 is because I don’t blame it for killing the franchise as much as…
  • Pete: I’ll just steal part of a quote from Ganymede and Titan’s Silver Survey:
    • “What more can be said about this shambles? It is categorically and undeniably the worst episode of Red Dwarf – rooted to the bottom of the list, and miles away from its nearest rival. If Derby County’s 2007-08 Premier League campaign was an episode of a science-fiction sit-com, this would be it.” 
What about good things? Things that this series didn’t smeg up? Well, for all few of those, we need some BULLET POINTS!
  • Cassandra: Good episode. Not awesome, but good enough, especially compared to the worst episodes of this wreck of a series.
  • No more overt comedy-drama: Sure, there’s no good comedy, but there’s very little bad drama.
  • Chris Barrie’s back: He puts in a decent performance- although, again, there’s little subtlety. I blame the writing.
  • It got the show into syndication: The last 16 episodes may have largely been subpar, but this series put Red Dwarf over the top. The show could now be shipped as a syndication package: one episode per week would last an entire year.
Now, the prevailing question: who deserves the blame for this trainwreck? Who’s feet should be held to the fire?
I place the blame on the following… yet again, using bullet points:
  • Doug Naylor: He supposedly created the series; he should know how to write for the characters and for the show in general. Hell, a small part of me thinks that while Doug came up with the idea, Rob Grant did the “grunt work”, so to speak. Another part of me thinks that Doug needed that quality check from Rob. Either way, the balance is non-existent. I just think Doug saw the big fat cheque given to him and said: “I’ll see what I can do”.
  • Paul Alexander: In two years, his writing went from merely mediocre to outright horrid. “Krytie TV” and “Pete”, anybody? What happened, man?
  • The BBC: They had to squeeze the syndication money out, eh? While this did ensure Red Dwarf’s presence for years to come (see above), did the BBC ever enforce quality control? Did anybody say “hey, can you make these episodes less bad?”

This is sad. This is a series I would never show to my own worst enemy. It’s one of the worst groups of episodes in the history of British TV. As good as “Cassandra” is, it is little solace for the utter stupidity that is Red Dwarf VIII.

With the exception of “Cassandra” (maybe), I will never watch one second of this series again. In a fairer world, this series would have been struck down from canon or written off as a dream. In a far fairer world, this series would’ve been made, but would’ve been radically different… and so much better.

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 5: "Only The Good"

Airdate: 8 April, 1999

Synopsis: Don’t care anymore. I just want to see this series end.

Oh, alright. A micro-organism makes it’s way aboard Red Dwarf, thanks to a refugee from a derelict. Said microorganism destroys ships. For some strange reason, Rimmer goes into an alternate universe to try and find the cure for the micro-organism.

The crew are also on probation. A misunderstanding between Kryten and Lister gets Lister and Rimmer’s probation in jeopardy. Oh, and Death gets involved.

Review: It’s the last episode of the series (thank smeg), and for ten years, it was the last Red Dwarf episode ever made. And, yet again, it ends on something of a cliffhanger. What is it with Doug Naylor and cliffhangers?

This episode had a ton of potential for a finale: what if Rimmer was the captain of a ship? How would he run it? We sort of saw that during the first six series, where he was technically the most senior officer on the ship (despite being a dead second technician). However, there, he was balanced by the more rational Kryten and the more humanist Lister. We also saw him take some level of total control in “Meltdown”, where he becomes the leader of “Arnie’s Army” and leads them to a brutal pyrrhic victory.

Seeing Rimmer in control of a mining ship, even in an alternate universe story, might have been decent. Seeing the crewmembers in reversed roles might have been good. It had so much potential.

But not like this.

The big problem was that there was far too much material in this episode. Let’s go through the plot: Rimmer wants to be captain, he and the vending machine have a feud, Kryten gets confused about Kochanski’s “time of the month”, he pulls a prank on Lister after realising the misinformation he got, Lister and Rimmer have to drink pure alcohol, have to get hospitalised, try and escape, discover a deadly virus, go back to warn the crew they tried to escape from, get left behind, and try and find a cure for the virus… which involves going into the mirror universe.

It’s bad. I’m not sure what’s worse: “Krytie TV” for being a useless episode with no merit, or “Only the Good” for flushing it’s potential down the toilet.

This episode seems to confirm what we have long feared: this series was never about character. Lister, again, used to have some level of respect, and a strong moral center. Here? He tricks Kryten into holding a party for Kochanski’s “time of the month”. Nevermind the horrid minute or so that follows: it is the lowest Lister ever sinks. I could imagine Lister pulling a trick of that caliber on Rimmer, but on Kochanski?

All of the characters have been stripped to milk out another vulgar joke or utter slapstick… and yet we’re supposed to feel for Rimmer at the end of the episode. At that point, I was just glad that the series was almost done.

I used to care about this show. I used to care about the characters. When the crew faced death in “Out of Time”, I wanted Rimmer to make the ultimate sacrifice. We spent six series building him up. Now, I could care less. I felt for Lister in “Timeslides” because we still knew that he was a decent, if flawed, man trapped in a bad situation. Now, he’s so inconsistent, that I don’t care when he’s left behind to be eaten by a virus. I was genuinely scared for Holly when he was in a massive chess battle, or she only had seconds to live. Now, he can go with the ship. (No wonder why Norman Lovett quit).

I used to care. The characters didn’t revolve around the plot: the plot revolved around the characters. It was fantastic. It was the reason why I consider Red Dwarf one of my favorite TV shows ever. The same claims against this show could be used against other franchises well past their prime, like The Simpsons. At least Red Dwarf was put out of its misery for a few years.

Sure, the final minute is pretty stupid, but give it some level of credit. It sums up the series in a nutshell: it was a massive kneeing to the fanbase.

At least I can finally say… Series VIII is done.

Tidbits:

  • It gets bumped up a point for euthanizing this train-wreck of a series.
  • Another point is bumped up for displaying traces of a decent plot.
  • Even the acting seems to be off in this episode. Everything is exaggerated. It’s hurt the Cat, for one: he just comes off as irritating in his attempts to get into the hospital.
  • Oh, and Death? Played by Ed Bye, the director.

Favorite Scene: Let’s put it this way…

Least Favorite Scene: Kryten celebrating Kochanski’s biology. That is the worst Red Dwarf joke ever. It’s sexist, lowbrow, and just pointless.

Score: 3.

…wait a second…..

…my god…

…it’s over.

IT’S OVER!!! I NEVER HAVE TO WATCH THIS DISASTER OF A SERIES EVER AGAIN!

Red Dwarf Review: "Pete" (Series VIII, Story 4)

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Airdate: 25 March, 1999 (Part I), 1 April, 1999 (Part II).

Synopsis: Lister and Rimmer finally drive Hollister up the wall one too many times, including pulling a prank on Warden Ackerman and slipping a drug into the juice of a basketball team led by Hollister to hinder their performance in a game against the convicts. (Yes, there’s a basketball scene in Red Dwarf, why do you ask?) After their punishment in Spud Duty makes Hollister bald, the two are put in “the hole”, where they meet a professor with a bird. Meanwhile, the Canaries discover a time wand on one of the derelicts. The two paths meet, and the professors bird turns into… a T-rex. “Hilarity” ensues.

Review: I think I’ve mentioned this episode in passing once or twice. It’s often brought up as the nadir of Red Dwarf. As “Back to Reality” is considered the zenith, this is the bottom of the barrel. In both of the surveys launched by the Ganymede and Titan website, Part II of “Pete” ranked dead last in the polls: the 2013 survey put Part 1 just ahead of Part 2, while the 2008 survey put it a few spots ahead. The question is this: does either episode deserve the bad reputation they’ve gotten?

Well, yes, sort of. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 3: "Krytie TV"

Airdate: 18 March, 1999

This is what money does to you, guys. You become involved in the stupidest TV ever made. Damn you, BBC!
Synopsis: When Kill Crazy (amongst the other males in prison) finds out that Kryten has to shower with the women, he is reprogrammed by the prisoners. He goes from a pro-feminist who refuses to exploit his fellow prisoners to a nasty media mogul, who’s lowbrow comedy and programming (under the name Krytie TV) make him wealthy… thanks to beer cans.
Review: …what the hell was that?

This episode is one of the saddest episodes of Red Dwarf ever made… and not in a good way. A solid 90% of the positives that this episode has are nullified due to the pathetic writing. Simply put, as much as “Cassandra” felt like a classic Red Dwarf episode, this feels like nothing of the sort. It feels like I threw on a bad American sitcom.

Remember when Red Dwarf used to have complex characters that I cared for? No, I don’t either. This episode dismisses the development that every character has had the past six, seven seasons to make everybody either sexist, perverted, a jackass in some other form, or some combination of the three. Lister used to have honor and some respect for his friends, and while he lusted after Kochanski, he used to try and do it in something of a respectful manner. He also used to have something of a moral center. Here, the mere thought of Kryten in the women’s showers is considered attractive to him, and he keeps looking at the video of the shower for three hours, barely trying to move out of the room. Why does he want to move out of the room? It’s not because Kochanski and the rest of the women are being violated, no. It’s because it will smeg up his appeal. And as we learn later, it’s an appeal that only deals with his own self-desires. When did Lister become such a selfish git? (Oh, yeah, “Tikka to Ride”).

I know Kryten is something of a neat freak, but come on. He’s not totally gullible… he should’ve known something was amiss with the trash. Nope. Instead, Kryten puts the trash away, and gets knocked out and reprogrammed by… maybe (see below) Kill Crazy! Yup, Kill Crazy, the character who just wanted to shoot stuff up, now knows how to reprogramme a mechanoid (maybe). Could it be character development? It would if we had cared about the character from day one… but read the “Tidbits” below on why I doubt that. Oh, and he loses all desire to shoot stuff. He’s just as much of a perv as the rest of the cast with a Y chromosome (except for Ackerman).

Back to Kryten, how the hell did he become a corrupt executive thanks to beer cans?

Sure, Kochanski gets a scene where she’s livid over the fact that her privacy being violated. But that’s it: she only gets one worthwhile scene. She only gets mentioned twice: once, she’s seen painting her toes with Kryten (who is painting his entire foot), and second, she’s mentioned having gotten over Lister (and, I guess, putting the invasion of her privacy) to date some schmuck who we don’t care about. A part of me is willing to forgive this lack of Kochanski, as Chloe Annett got sick during filming. Still, it’s pretty insulting to make an episode on peeping toms and not have a lot of representation from the “offended” gender.

Rimmer is tragically left in the dust, just there to aid Lister and get knocked down by the now self-centred Scouse. Yet, I don’t feel anything for this character. All of his development, even the one in the previous episode, was erased, and he’s back to being underdeveloped. He shows no defining character traits in this episode other than being a pervert.

TL;DR: the men are all perverts, or motivated by their perversion. Women are left in the dust. Both sides are hampered by sexism!

The humor? Barring a couple of chuckles, it’s all lowbrow, frat humor. I will admit to chuckling at the first “bunk scene” with Lister and Rimmer (post, anyone), and the “Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens” is a bit funny (although I’ll explain later why I may not have found it as comic as others might have), but the rest of the episode’s comedy can be summed up as “men are perverts, Kryten’s a horrible mechanoid, and there are some visual puns.”

Plot? Shifts around too many times to count. So, Kryten’s humiliated because he has to shower with the women because he considers himself more of a man. Instead of appealing and trying to get switched into the men’s bunks, he continues on his merry way until Kill Crazy reprogrammes him and turns him into a Pay-Per-View mogul who films in the showers, amongst other things. Oh, Lister has an appeal, is too perverted to actively care about Kochanski, gets upset about Kochanski walking off, and winds up getting “Krytered”.

There has been quite a bit of debate on the internet on what the worst episode of Red Dwarf is. The most common answer seems to be our next story, “Pete”- specifically, the second part. At that rate, “Pete” must drive me close to the brink of insanity to be worse than “Krytie TV”. It’s staved off the 0 score on an interim basis. If “Pete” is better, “Krytie TV” will get the honor of the first 0 score. Not even a few chuckles can wash out the utter degradation of character, lack of coherent plot, and what feels like sexism against both sides of the coin.

Tidbits:

  • If the Red Dwarf Wiki is correct, this episode is actually said to have replaced an episode that would’ve had the Canaries discover a derelict ship where a sexual magnetism virus is in full effect… to the point where that’s how the crew aboard that ship died. It would’ve ended with Lister trying to kill Rimmer for trying to make love to Kochanski. Apparently, Naylor thought it would’ve been too inappropriate… so instead, this borderline (if not outright) sexist schlock was put on the air.
  • The official Red Dwarf website notes, in an “interview” with Kill Crazy, that Kill Crazy didn’t program Kryten: instead, it was a prisoner that we never saw. I’m a bit skeptical: how are we sure that he’s not lying through his teeth? It feels a bit cop-out-ish.
  • So, yeah, Kryten apparently makes his money off of beer cans. And not just money: his armor is gold, for one. Either it’s “faux-gold”, there’s scarce amounts of beer on ship, or the prisoners have a drinking problem.
  • Second question: HOW THE HELL ARE PRISONERS GIVEN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES?
  • Third, why didn’t any officer stop the exploitation? Hell, where are the officers? All we get is Ackerman flipping out about the lack of his glass eye.
  • Now, about the B-movie parody. While I otherwise found it funny, I find it hypocritical that Naylor is blasting B-movies for stupid plots and poor special effects, when “Pete” is judged to have both a poor plot and poor special effects. (And no, I’m not buying into the “it’s a parody of a B-movie” camp.)
Favorite Scene: Uh, the credits? OK, the “Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens” was alright.
Least Favorite Joke: Too much competition.

Score: 1… for now. This episode is on a pseudo-probation. 

Update 9 November 2014: Actually, giving it a score would give it too much dignity. I won’t give it the 0, but only because that would justify it as an episode of Red Dwarf.

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 2: "Cassandra"

Airdate: 11 March, 1999

“The rest of the series will be held in low light by the fandom, except for “Pete Part Two”… which will cause people to contemplate canceling their TV license.”

Synopsis: Lister gets the crew to sign up for the Canaries, thinking that the Canaries are the prison choir. To their disappointment, they’re the prisoners that get sent on the most dangerous missions, the assumption being that they will die. Whilst on the mission, they come across a sentient computer, Cassandra, who can predict the future. She’s especially good at predicting the deaths of the crewmembers, saying that they will die within 1 hour, with the exception of Rimmer (“YES”), who will be dead in 20 minutes.

Review: One would think that the pathetic excuse of a series premiere would signal that the rest of the series was just a massive time sink. Actually, that’s only partially true.

In fact, this episode was good… almost great, in fact!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s no such thing as pure perfectionism. In my review of “Back to Reality”, I never said that the episode was flawless. I said it came very close, but I also said that I don’t believe in pure perfection. This episode basically takes a look at that viewpoint and asks: is that correct? After all, Cassandra has the ability to predict the future with a 100% success rate. She’s able to predict the demise of the crew… sort of. As the episode goes on, we find out that the Canaries are pawns in Cassandra’s game… possibly. Her screwy (in a good way) wording of the scenario helps confuse the crew, driving Rimmer mad. It’s pretty damn interesting, with the twists and turns keeping the viewer sucked in. It almost feels like I watched an episode from Series IV… almost.

You see, while this episode is good, the very best episodes of Red Dwarf had just a few more complexities that added to character. For example, “Thanks for the Memory”, despite its lack of a “traditional” antagonist like Cassandra, helped develop the relationship between Lister and Rimmer, as well as their characters, in such a strong fashion. This episode, while good, is still somewhat more shallow than what would be done in Series II or III. But hey, small victories.

Despite more of a focus on plot, there is still quite a bit of good character comedy and development. Putting Rimmer with what was essentially his replacement was a strange maneuver, but it worked. This also added a second layer to the new Rimmer’s character, albeit one that’s more subjective: did Rimmer intentionally break the pipes whilst stuck with Kochanski? If so, he’s a perverted jerkass who deserved to be harpooned. If he didn’t… he’s still a pervert, but he’s not completely depraved. I did like how Lister reacts to the truth about Cassandra. Needless to say, it’s a pretty good reflection on his character: he might not be too bright, but his moral center is strong.

Really, the biggest problems with this episode come in act 1. Holly has officially been derailed from just senile and a tad bit loopy to a total idiot. Sure, 200 years alone will do that to a computer, but still. It was better when we saw him have some sense of depth. Oh, and he gets nothing to do anymore. Sure, I should be used to that (the computer wasn’t in Series VI and most of VII), but still. If you’re only going to make him an idiot, why bring him back? There’s also Kill Crazy, who, while getting a few funny lines here and there, will (if I can recall) become one of the most annoying characters in Red Dwarf history.

Humour is alright, for the most part. The damn “canary choir” joke, though… Remember when the Cat, Lister, and Rimmer could make singing funny, and when Doug Naylor could time it perfectly? Remember that?

Even with this episode’s faults, it’s hard to fathom another episode in this series that will match it. It actually feels like a classic episode. While it might not be as fantastically constructed as, say, “Quarantine” and “Polymorph”, it’s still a damn good episode.

Tidbits:

  • Need I say that the acting is still top notch? Even in poor episodes that I’ve reviewed, I have not seen any of the actors put out a wrong foot.
  • Technically, this episode was premiered on 7 March 1999, NOT 11 March. The reason? KTEH-TV, a PBS affiliate in San Jose, chose to send the entire series out on that date. (For those unaware, PBS is sort of like the BBC. However, program schedules are far less centralized: thus, affiliates have more control over timeslots and airdates for non-news programs). However, I am going with the BBC Two broadcast dates.
  • If you know Greek mythology…. this episode becomes more brilliant.
Favorite Scene: The scene where Lister confronts Cassandra. It’s three minutes of television perfection.
Least Favorite Scene: Lister, Kochanski, Cat, Rimmer, and Kryten should never form a choir group. Ever.
Score: 7.75.