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Red Dwarf (Danny is second from left)

Red Dwarf fans are known to be among the most loyal and passionate (and numerous) in the sci-fi worl…sorry, universe. And yet, for the cast of the hit BBC comedy, their time on the show wasn’t the endless parade of free champagne and shoulder rides around the office that it might have been.

In fact, according to Danny John-Jules, who played the Cat, the show was often overlooked, despite international acclaim, video sales and huge viewing figures. And y’know what? He’s still a little miffed about this.

In a lengthy interview with Digital Spy, to promote his new BBC drama comedy Death In Paradise, he said: “The BBC never really pushed Red Dwarf as one of their flagship shows, even though it was so successful. I mean, we were more successful than Top Gear – they were always beneath us in the ratings on BBC Two – but as you can see, the push that they have on Top Gear is the complete opposite to what we had.

“I think it all stems back to the commissioning days, when the BBC turned down Red Dwarf twice.”

And it’s not as if the show doesn’t represent some decent core values, either: “Everybody keeps harping on about diversity in television, and you cannot get a better beacon of diversity than Red Dwarf – there you have a show where two out of the four characters are black, but skin color’s never been mentioned.

“It also has a diverse audience, which if I’m not mistaken is what the BBC is still trying to achieve now. They don’t push something that does exactly what they’re trying to convince us is on the agenda at the BBC!”

Speaking about the new version of Red Dwarf, which has been made for the British digital channel Dave, he said: “The new series has to do well – Dave have taken it on the neck and we are there to make sure that they are not disappointed. I think the fact that a show can get 3 and a half million viewers on a digital channel says it all really. If that was on the BBC, it would’ve got 10 million viewers, there’s no question of that. We were getting 8 million when they said that there was no audience for it!

“I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes, but I think that there’s nothing out there really that took the place of Red Dwarf. They’ve tried a couple of shows that have been Red Dwarf-esque, and they haven’t really worked. They certainly haven’t lasted 23 years!”

“But we never get invited to comedy awards shows or BBC luvvie shows, anything like that. Red Dwarf has made untold millions all over the world, but we’re still not part of the furniture, if you know what I mean.”

Some of the problem is simply to do with the way British television celebrates success, it seems: “There’s no question that if I was in a show in Hollywood that had been running for 23 years, I’d be able to hang out with [Barack] Obama! We’ve not even had a cup of tea at the BBC! But it’s not like it worries us – it’s great to be a bit controversial.

Friends used to get four and half million on Channel 4, when we were getting eight million, and they were on a million dollars an episode. So that sums it up basically. Look at the press they used to get – English people were falling over those guys! Meanwhile, we were getting twice the viewing figures and we never had a pat on the back from anyone. But we’re happy with that.

“We didn’t mind being ignored at the BBC canteen and in the rehearsal room.”

So if you see the man, do fetch him a cuppa, won’t you? He must be parched.

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Filed Under: Red Dwarf
By Fraser McAlpine