Hot on the heels of the geek’s wet dream that is The Bodysnatcher Collection (review soon), the Red Dwarf crew have seen fit to unleash another Christmas moneyspinner, with this compilation of the two mid-90s outtake videos Smeg Ups and Smeg Outs.
But given that any Dwarf fan worth their salt already has most of the individual outtakes on DVD – grouped by series on the superb two-and-three-disc sets now available – you do have to wonder just where the target audience for it is.
The title is perhaps a giveaway – it’s clearly designed to appeal to the more casual fans (and eight million viewers for the last BBC2 series in 1999 suggests that there are plenty of those) who snapped up the extras-free Just the Shows boxsets. And if you’re going to make any of the bonus features available to the less die-hard viewer, then the Smeg Ups, with their proven sales success (and a brand recognisable to the extent that they’ve been referenced in Little Britain) would seem the obvious choice.
While rushes footage is somewhat de rigeur in the DVD age, the two compilations – clocking in at just under an hour each – haven’t aged badly at all. Rather than just stringing together a load of clips, the makers decided to have Robert Llewellyn (and, in Smeg Outs, Craig Charles) in character delivering links to camera, and these links – scripted by Llewellyn and series creator Doug Naylor – are generally entertaining. Indeed, they also perhaps represent a reason for the truly hardcore Dwarfer to pick up the set, as they’ve never been collected on DVD before.
Of particular note are the two “Most Asked Questions About Red Dwarf” segments, in which the series’ myriad of famed continuity errors are tackled head on, albeit with something of a “So what?” shrug as regards providing any useful explanation. In addition, Outs pads out its running time with deleted scenes, convention footage (featuring some excellent Llewellyn anecdotes) and other titbits of the sort that almost feel like progenitors of modern-day DVD content.
And aside from all of that, it’s easy to forget that the original videos were so successful because, well, the outtakes are largely very funny. The cast spark off each other particularly well, so that the reactions to the fluffs are often more memorable than the scripted joke, while Llewellyn’s face-pulling and Chris Barrie’s Kenneth Williams impression never become tiresome.
Smeg Outs even gets all meta on us, showing Llewellyn corpsing over some of his Ups links. Uber-geeks, meanwhile, will doubtless wince at the damage inflicted on Dwarf’s beautiful modelwork by the failed attempts at getting Starbug to take off.
Bonus Smeg Up material is provided in the form of the made-for-television special from 1998’s BBC2 theme night (which admittedly contains no new bloopers, but at least gives the links, now with added Chris Barrie, a home release they’ve never had) and the shorter compilations provided on the original series VII and VIII videos, which have the added bonus of generally being funnier than anything in those two series themselves.
It’s far from an essential purchase – Dwarfers would be better-advised saving their money for the awesome Bodysnatcher – but it’s a nice companion to Just the Shows, a pleasant nostalgia-fest for those of us who got the videos for successive Christmases a decade ago, and it at least provides something new for the Dwarf mentalist who is guaranteed to buy it anyway, unable to bear the gap on their shelf.
Seb Patrick also writes for Noise to Signal, and even though he plays Doug Naylor in a short film on the series VII DVD, still can’t bring himself to tell you to go out and buy series VII.