It's been confirmed that cult sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf is returning to TV with a brand new six-part series, to be broadcast on the digital channel Dave, who commissioned the three-part special "Back To Earth" in 2009. Craig Charles (who plays Lister) apparently spilt the beans during a radio interview, and his co-star Robert Llewellyn (who plays Kryten) today confirmed the story on Twitter and his blog.
We already knew Dave had approached Dwarf's co-creator Doug Naylor about writing more episodes, because their 2009 special was an enormous ratings success for the channel, but now fans can rest assured a proper run of Red Dwarf is definitely on the way. Filming will apparently take place this November for three months, so it's likely the new series will premiere in the second half of 2012. The most exciting thing about this news is Llewellyn's reveal that they plan to film infront of a live studio audience, which hasn't happened since 1998.
Now, my thoughts on Red Dwarf are well-known here, but for the benefit of new readers: I was a massive fan of the series during its original run (seriously, I even owned merchandise), but I disliked Series 6 and grew to despise everything that followed. Series 7, with the introduction of Kochanski and deficit of Rimmer? Atrocious. Series 8, with the resurrected crew? Pretty bad. The Easter weekend "Back To Earth" special? Awful. For me, Red Dwarf was a product of the late-'80s/early-'90s and should have been allowed to fade into a cherished memory. Instead, it's been kept alive way past its creative peak, and the early magic's never been recaptured. I consequently refuse to get excited about this new series (which will apparently bridge the gap between Series 8 and the BTE special), not least because the cast are mostly in their 50s now, and far from how I prefer to remember the fresh-faced characters.
However, news they're filming with a live studio audience has brightened a small part of my fanboy soul. It's undoubtedly a wise move. As I've said many times before, performing sitcoms with a live audience in attendance has two huge benefits: (1) the actors can calibrate their performance using the immediate audience feedback; (2) the scripts will have to focus on regular jokes to entertain the audience, rather than indulge moments of straight drama. It's easy to scratch your dramatic itches as a writer when you're not standing in the wings of a TV studio, watching a bored audience's stone-faced reactions. Knowing fans will be watching the filming will hopefully scare Doug Naylor into raising his game.
What do you think? It's been on the cards for awhile now, but Red Dwarf's definitely returning to TV for a proper six-week run! Is that cause for outright celebration, cautious optimism, or indifference?