Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nose-Talgia: "The Young Ones"

Way back in the early days of MTV, the channel imported an insane British comedy half-hour from the BBC called The Young Ones. I'm sure many MTV-watchers came upon this wild melange of rock music, knockabout comedy, fart jokes, and total Brit insanity and were puzzled, but the rest of us fell in love with it immediately and still hold it close to our hearts. The basic story was four students -- a punk (Vyvyan), a revolutionary (Rick), a hippie (Neil) and a ladies man (Mike) -- live together in a rundown house and have all sorts of adventures. Boy, do they ever!

Created by the fertile, youthful minds who took British comedy by storm in the early 1980s, The Young Ones was an anarchic romp brought to life by a quartet (and more) of talented performers, including Rik Mayall (the only thing he's really done on this side of the pond is the 1991 film Drop Dead Fred though he's totally British comedy royalty) as Rick, Adrian Edmonson (frequent comedy partner of Mayall and married to Absolutely Fabulous' Jennifer Saunders) as Vyv, Nigel Planer as Neil and Christopher Ryan (whom you might remember as Jennifer Saunders' ex-husband in AbFab) as Mike. Also frequently onboard was aggressive comic Alexei Sayles as their landlord Balowski. (You might have seen him in several episodes of Fox's terrific series Keen Eddie from a few years back.)

Running in Britain in two six-episode chunks (in 1982 and in 1984), The Young Ones was a crazy success and you can also spot other up-and-coming British talents throughout the show, including Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie, and the show was co-written by Ben Elton (Blackadder). The show also featured musical sequences from real bands, who would just sort of show up in the boys' decrepit house and start playing away.

Of course twelve episodes weren't nearly enough, but The Young Ones never reunited per se, however Mayall, Edmonson and Planer later came together to make the comedy Filthy Rich & Catflap, and Mayall and Edmonson were the stars of Bottom, yet another amazing comedy. I highly recommend seeking these all out, especially The Young Ones. They're certainly products of their time, but also examples of the kind of genuinely different comedies that can come out of Britain, shows unlike anything you will ever have seen here. Here's a favorite scene of mine where Neil, the hippie, is out of money and the boys help him write a letter to the bank manager asking for more funds. There are many more clips on YouTube and elsewhere to get you acquainted with this totally original show. There's simply nothing like it.


Helen Leggatt said...

I just couldn't keep schtum when I read your Young Ones post - as an avid watcher of the original airings (yes, yes, I'm THAT old)Thanks to this iconic show I have suffered the nickname Helen-Back ever since :)

Lisa said...

Great to see you here, Helen! So sweet of you to visit us! Once seen, The Young Ones can never be forgotten!

Also, I think you may have the honor of being the only person who ever left a comment that we didn't beg! :-)

I've just taken a wee look at your blogs and can't wait to dive in further! And Happy Belated Birthday, Helen-Back!

Thanks so much for visiting here!

Dean Treadway said...

Nothing like The Young Ones! What a true original. Now I wish I could amend my list, maybe. But it now stands at #102 on my favorites of all time.

Great post, Lisa.