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Red Dwarf USA

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You know, Mr. Lister, I could have sworn you were shorter. And less American.

Red Dwarf USA is the name give to two unaired pilots for a U.S. adaptation of the UK science-fiction sitcom Red Dwarf. The original series was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor; the first U.S. pilot was written by Linwood Boomer, and the second by Grant and Naylor themselves.

Like the original, the show revolves around Dave Lister, a technician aboard the mining vessel Red Dwarf, who is put in stasis for 18 months as punishment for bringing a cat aboard the ship. However, a radiation leak kills the ship's entire crew, and it takes three million years for the radiation to die down to a safe level. Lister emerges from stasis, and discovers his only company is a holographic recreation of his annoying room-mate Arnold Rimmer, an android named Kryten, and the last surviving descendent of his cat, who has evolved into a humanoid form.

The pilot episode met with a poor reception, and was rejected without ever being aired. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor then filmed a second pilot on a minimal budget, but this was considered to be even worse than the first one, resulting in the project being cancelled completely, and Grant and Naylor returning to the UK to resume work on the original series.

First Pilot

Why It Sucks

  1. Lister and Rimmer are written in a much more generic way than in the UK original, the former being turned into an average blue collar guy and the latter a nerdy loser, and thus aren't very interesting lead characters.
  2. Cat barely even gets any screentime, and doesn't do much when he does appear.
  3. Generally poor jokes throughout. Some of them are just ripped directly from the UK pilot, and don't translate well because of the cultural differences, while others are original, and still terrible.
  4. Even though Lister does nothing but act like a jerk towards his would-be love interest, Kochanski, just before he's thrown into stasis she abruptly declares her love for him, with absolutely nothing to hint why she feels that way.
  5. What little likeability Lister has is totally destroyed by his reaction to the reveal of the crew's death; he treats Kochanski's death as just a minor inconvenience, and isn't at all bothered by the death of the rest of the crew.
  6. The sets and Kryten's make-up somehow manage to look worse than the UK originals, despite that show being produced on a notoriously low budget.
  7. Dull and generic theme tune.
  8. The shots of the ship Red Dwarf itself are just taken from the UK version, even though they could probably have afforded to produce some better ones.
  9. Extremely annoying and overdone laugh track, which carries on way too long over moments that are lightly amusing at best.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Kryten, who didn't become a regular character in the UK version until the third season, is in this one from the start, and is even played by his original actor, Robert Llewellyn.
  2. The casting in general is actually pretty good, especially with Jane Leeves as this pilot's incarnation of Holly, the ship's computer.
  3. Enough genuinely funny jokes (mostly from Kryten) not to make the thing completely unwatchable.
  4. The inclusion of bits of backstory and character development that weren't in the original UK pilot.

Second Pilot

Why It Sucks

  1. They clearly didn't have much money to make this with, and had to resort to recycling footage from the UK original, resulting in the UK actors for Rimmer and Lister being visible at points.
  2. The pilot recycles gags from the UK version, but inexplicably ruins them by telegraphing the punchlines much too early. It'd be one thing if this were done by writers who weren't familiar with the original show, but this pilot was made by the guys who created that version (unlike U.S. sitcoms, all episodes of UK sitcoms are typically written by whoever created them)!
  3. Cat's character is butchered even more spectacularly than Lister and Rimmer's; now she's female, and a brave, adventure-seeking action girl.
  4. Rimmer is played by a different actor from the first pilot, and his new actor is absolutely awful. Not surprisingly, he has no known credits aside from this pilot.
  5. They kept the same lame music from the first pilot.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. They at least managed to hang on to Jane Leeves as Holly.
  2. Terry Farrell gives a good performance as the female Cat, even if the character is completely misconceived.
  3. The sets look a bit better than they did in the first pilot, despite the lower budget.