I'm concerned

Discussion in 'RED DWARF: THE PROMISED LAND' started by Aractus, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    The announcement that a special will be made is concerning. The last time a 90-minute "special" was commissioned, indeed the only other time, we got Back To Earth. That was split into three episodes despite clearly being formulated as a single story.

    There are actually two 90-minute stories in Red Dwarf, and both in my view are a disappointment. The first was Back in the Red, and the second being Back to Earth. If that's not enough, Pete a two-parter was also a disappointment. Back in the Red is actually really good, it's just that it was spread too thin. As for Pete, it needed to be edited to 30 minutes, one episode.

    This series to-date has had zero success with episodes longer than 30 minutes. That's not surprising, sitcoms only work at the 20-30 minute length. There is no successful sitcom that runs at 45 minutes+. Comedy-action yes, like Leathal Weapon, sitcoms no. Noah Charney explains very well why this is the case - 30 minutes is not long enough to tell a complete story. If you have a complete story it's no longer a sitcom, you've got a comedy drama (or something else). "The whole story has to be on fast-forward,' so simplification is key." They follow a highly structured formula, very basic simple stuff. Good sitcoms are trimmed of all extraneous fat. The fun is in the simple plots, and the subplots that seem very unlikely to be related but are anyway, that we know are going to be resolved, but before they are the characters will fight tooth and nail to subvert them.

    If you don't follow the sitcom formula your show is a disaster. It's really as simple as that. One of my favourite sitcom episodes ever, Black Books S01E01 "Cooking the Books" follows the formula to a T (see the Noah Charney article and also Dan Richter's one for a proper description of the sitcom formula). The main story in Cooking the Books is that Bernard needs to do his taxes, but he doesn't want to. Story B is that Manny is wound up and stressed out by work, and Story C is that Fran has a new product in that she doesn't know what it is. All of those are resolved in the third act. Notably all three of them take their problems to extreme lengths leading to chaos and disorder before they're resolved. This is what makes it funny. This is what makes it a sitcom. It's also what makes it much funnier than S01E02 which didn't really have any clear sub-plots and really follows a single plot.

    Let's describe another great sitcom episode shall we - Red Dwarf S10E01 Trojan. The main plot that carries the episode forward is that Howard Rimmer of the Columbus 3 needs rescuing. The sub-plots are that Lister and Cat want to order Stirmasters, and that Rimmer is teeming with resentment. As with all great sitcom episodes all three story plots are resolved in the third act. The introductions of each story plot, as well as their advancements, provides opportunity for comedy. In Act 2, Lister is on hold, but he and the cat are determined to get their Stirmasters. That scene I felt was a bit of a missed opportunity for a proper comedic scene. Rimmer has delayed rescuing Howard while he makes a futile effort to pass his astronavs that only serve to make his resentment worse. This provides the opportunity for the scene where all three of the other dwarfers are able to answer the lateral thinking question Rimmer is stuck on, while he doesn't know they all knew the answer by chance driving his resentment to breaking point. Great use of comedy. They then precede to dress up as officers in the space corps to rescue Howard. Again this provides ample opportunity for further comedy as their ridiculous charade plays out. Howard's rescue goes awry because he unwittingly brings a hostile stimulant on-board, and Act 2 ends when he has a resentment attack. Act 3 is short and winds everything up. Lister makes a desperate attempt to answer the phone, Howard saves Arnold from the simulant, the Cat uses the resentment file to kill the simulant, Howard repents making Arnold resentful again, and Lister uses the simulant as a Stirmaster to stir his coffee in the end.

    So Red Dwarf at 90 minutes simply cannot feel like Red Dwarf because it must be taken out of the sitcom format and made into comedy drama or something else. That's not nay-saying, that's just facts. We just want a simple sitcom, follow the formula make 3x 22-30 minute episodes and we'd all be happy. Make a 90-minute feature and I fear at best we'll get Back in the Red, at worst we'll get Back to Earth.
     
  2. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    Maybe Doug should just cancel it then? :roll:

    Some of the most successful and critically acclaimed episodes of Only Fools and Horses, The Office, Extras and the Royle Family have all been feature length!

    I find The Last Day, Krytie tv, Camille, Dear Dave and Timewave all equally appalling and boring episodes - but they are all half an hour. So not sure i see the point you’re making.

    You could argue that episodes that are good but with rubbish endings could have done with longer time to resolve them (tikka to Ride - which is far better in its xtended form, DNA and Justice (with their random quick endings). Most of series 11/12 all have very quick fix endings, especially 12!
     
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  3. Alexandra

    Alexandra First Technician

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    I am not worried about time, minutes and rules as you are. Reason I am an dwarfer is they don't force all those rules. And I hope they never will again :adore::adore::adore::adore: we all know what happened when they tryed last time.
     
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  4. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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  5. Titanbeing

    Titanbeing Third Technician

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    I quote Aractus, 'There is no successful sitcom that runs at 45 minutes+.'
    As Ant E rightly said. Fools and Horses 1 hour format worked and the xmas specials. But hard to identify more than 5 others. Like you said, many turn into Comedy Drama's, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet! or Black comedy, like 'Boys from the blackstuff'.
     
  6. talkie3000

    talkie3000 Deck Sergeant

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    Well Doug hasn't had a good track record of extended episodes. Back in the Red, Pete, Back to Earth.
     
  7. Asclepius

    Asclepius Console Officer

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    Back in the Red and Pete weren't bad because of their length, but because wrtiting in series VIII was bad in general...

    And BtE (on TV as I write this) - I think it's underrated a bit. Most of the Earth stuff is rubbish, but other problems are caused by snap production or low budget.
    The story as a whole isn't that bad. It definetely works better in the director's cut, when the viewer finds out all the joy squid stuff in the end and does't have to suffer through all the Earth stuff.
     
  8. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    He should consider urgently altering his plans before filming. Film a 30 minute special instead, or two 30 minute specials. Either of those options would be preferable.

    I'll have to check them out sometime, but I stand by what I said - sitcom is a formulaic genre that only works up to about 30 minutes in length.

    Well not every sitcom episode is good. That can be the case for any series, even highly acclaimed ones. Watch Season 1 of Keeping up Appearances, then watch Season 2. It's dreadful. It's not because any one episode on its own was bad, but because in Season 1 they had fresh ideas, and fresh humour. Season 2 is repetitious, repeating the same jokes over and over and over again. There is much less in the way of freshness and originality.

    The third act is the shortest in sitcom because it comes after the second (and the last) commercial break on TV. We were spoiled in Australia in that Red Dwarf aired on ABC without commercials. But if you're designing it for TV you still have to format it for two commercial breaks, and they should always be between each of the three acts.

    Part of the problem is that sitcom needs to be filmed in front of a live audience (unless it's a cartoon, obviously). This was the major problem with series 7 as well.
     
  9. UltraDevotee

    UltraDevotee Supply Officer

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    The original post was an interesting read and I would agree that of the long-form RD material the only one I truly appreciate as decent is Back in the Red and even that has some "filler" material.

    I suppose really the reason that Doug did not go through with making 2 ninety minutes specials when he was offered the money for them both is what you and others and probably even he feels himself is that he needs to see whether it will work out next year given this track record.

    Saying that - although others hate all of it - I do think the first two episodes of Back in the Red are classic Dwarf and while Part 3 has some obvious padding it is a good rounding off of the story of how they ended up in that comedy prison - floor 13.

    But to be honest really I - and a lot of others too - were expecting and hoping more for the announcement of an entire 6 half-hour episode series 13 four weeks ago today and that had been the original plan for a couple of years. Although 13 is an unlucky number it will be sad if we never see RD in its classic format again especially given the continued success of series 10-12.

    But still despite Doug's for the most part disappointing fortunes with longer-than-usual RD - excepting most of Back in the Red and all of Tikka to Ride Xtended - I am still really excited and anticipating what we are going to get next year especially with his increasing writing confidence from the rather vintage series 11 and 12 and the fact that unlike BTE this time there will be a studio audience.

    TBH, as there is such a long hiatus between Red Dwarf projects nowadays - although at least this will be 3 (or less) and not 4 years this time - I am just delighted there will be more new RD. RD has been on our screens now for so long - over 32 years by the time this new show is revealed - that it almost feels like each new one is like a bonus.

    If Doug can pull it off and make a truly epic, spectacular, comic and tight script for next year's special, then if there can be no more full series I would be grateful to see RD carry on with another/other special(s) after 2020. Like Ant said just because it will be a comedy in special duration does not necessarily mean that it won't be good and the bottom line is at least there is more new RD finally in the pipeline!
     
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  10. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    Thanks for your expertise on the matter. I wasn’t aware you were also a BAFTA/EMMY award winning writer as well? :roll:

    Could you possibly bring yourself to wait for the end product before criticising something you know nothing about?
    Although I’m sure Doug appreciates the comedy critique of some random internet forum member :roll::roll::roll:
     
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  11. Bluey

    Bluey Science Officer

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    I was thinking the same thing. Give the special a watch before criticising it.

    The fans are so pessimistic sometimes.
     
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  12. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    No. I'll criticise now, just as any responsible producer would do. The producer's role is not to wait for the finished product, it's to say "this sounds like smeg, how about we do this instead" but in a way that appeals to the director. I can be proven wrong in a couple of months, but I could also be proven right let's wait and see shall we. If I was the producer I'd be saying "No. Make 2x sitcom specials instead".

    That's interesting you say that, I really like "Cassandra".

    Part of the problem with series 7 and 8 is that they weren't made as sitcom, they were made as comedy-drama. So was Back to Earth. Series 10 returned firmly to sitcom.

    I don't hate it at all, I find Series 8 to be very much "Red Dwarf" despite its problems.

    A short 3 or 4 episode series would also have been fine. Going back to comedy-drama again, sorry Doug, is a fool's endeavour.

    Script or not he doesn't have the actors he needs for comedy drama. The only two that are qualified for that are Danny John-Jules, and Chris Barrie (plus Norman Lovett should they get him back). Case in point: Death in Paradise. Over the last two seasons they lost their two best actors, and their replacements just do not have the range required for comedy-drama. We saw this happen with RD Series 7 - their best actor (at the time) was replaced by someone less capable. Not someone "bad" by any measure, but certainly not as comedic as Barrie.

    So onto S10E06 - The Beginning. This is another solid episode, again it has a simple clear structure, something essential for good sitcom. In the episode's prologue we're introduced to young Rimmer who has a confidence problem, this will be the major subplot. It's a very effective use of a prologue, another good example of a great prologue is "Dimension Jump". The main plot is that RD is under attack by a Simulant Death Ship. In Act 2 the simulants are introduced and they're completely insane. Meanwhile the dwarfers first try to hide, and then entrust Rimmer to come up with a battle plan. He plays his father's message, gaining self-confidence, and produces a battle plan all three of the other dwarfers think is crap. He overrules them telling them "apart from fear, pain, humiliation, failure, the unknown, and death we have nothing to fear but fear itself". Setting up the expectation to the audience that his plan is terrible. This by the way is where a commercial break between the end of the second act and the start of the third would actually help with the anticipation. In the last Act the lines "Blow us up all you like but don't think for one second you're getting away with it. A letter worded in the strongest possible language is going off to Geneva." and "Right, that's it! Dear sir, I was scandalised earlier today by a simulant death ship which contravened treaty 5 of the Geneva Convention." Along with the line about fear, these may just be Barrie's funniest lines since "I've come to warn you, in three million years you'll be dead. Really? Yes unless you do something about it now." Rimmer's plan is completely ridiculous and would never actually work in the real world, of course, this is what makes the climax so comedic. Along with the fact that it's based on that trope from westerns that have the enemies killing themselves in crossfire when the good guys duck.
     
  13. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    You know nothing about what the story is....

    you know nothing about how funny it is...

    You’re basing this on three past episodes (none of which actually were actually broadcast as feature length)...

    you’re not his producer...

    Other than that, yeah I’m sure you’re right about everything :roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll:
     
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  14. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    Although out of interest, what part of series 8 was a “comedy drama”?!!

    And why is this a bad thing? Are you telling me Series 5 isn’t a comedy drama???!!
     
  15. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    No, but I know what sitcom is. Mark my words whatever we get as 90 minute special will not be sitcom.

    Of course I'm not a producer, I'm just justifying my pre-judgement. You asked why not just wait and see, perfectly reasonable question, and my answer is that Doug is not making sitcom and that needs to be critiqued and indeed addressed in pre-production. Let's wait and see shall we? I believe that I'll be proven right, partly because as I said they do not have the actors for comedy drama. Two of them yes, the other two NO.

    Again I love Red Dwarf, I just really, really urge altering the plans and making 2x 30-minute sitcom "specials" instead. Or just one. ! 90 minute special is a fool's endeavour. I'm happy to be proven wrong, very happy in fact, but I remain concerned.
     
  16. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    I just always find it funny, the sheer arrogance of fans who seem to think they know more than Doug.

    Maybe he should quit and hand over the duties to people like you as you’re so experienced

    :roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll::roll:
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
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  17. Asclepius

    Asclepius Console Officer

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    Red Dwarf is broadcast with ONE commercial break now and I suppose there were no breaks in the BBC2 era. This idea with 3 acts separated by add breaks was never used in Red Dwarf. Even the first episode of Black Books isn't example of 3 acts, but rather 3 ideas of the story (well, 2 because Fran's unknown product is more of a gag than a story idea).
    This concept of 3 acts separated by add breaks maybe works with American sitcoms, but it would ruin Red Dwarf.

    Some of the last RD episodes like Siliconia or M-Corp had great story, but it looked like it was limited by the short running time, so if Doug will come out with story good for longer format, the special would be great.
     
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  18. Asclepius

    Asclepius Console Officer

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    As all the G&T Forum smart critics... Episode written by fans would be a total disaster. (otherwise it isn't written by @Eddiebadassdavis)
     
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  19. talkie3000

    talkie3000 Deck Sergeant

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    What Doug needs is a writing and editing filter and he doesn't seem to have one. or if he does, its a not very good one. probably because its just him and his son doing most of the creative stuff with Doug also writing and directing.

    I get the sense this is where Rob Grant is missing. it does seem Rob was very vocal about when something sucked.

    Doug thought Timewave was a good idea. now imagine 2 hours of Timewave and then wonder if anyone has a reason to be abit nervous.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
  20. Alexandra

    Alexandra First Technician

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    I like to believe Red Dwarf will break the rules once more. Please don't suck.... Please don't kill my childhood. :adore::adore: Just stay funny :crying::crying: We don't need another KB
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
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