- The Young Ones (TV series)
show_name = The Young Ones
runtime = 35 minutes (approximate)
Rik Mayall Lise Mayer Ben Elton
Additional material from
Adrian Edmondson Rik Mayall Nigel Planer Christopher Ryan Alexei Sayle
9 November 1982
19 June 1984
num_episodes = 12
"The Young Ones" was a popular British sitcom, first seen in
1982, on BBC2. Its anarchic, offbeathumour helped bring alternative comedyto television in the 1980s and made household names of its writers and performers. Soon afterwards, it was shown on MTV, one of the first non-music television shows on the fledgling channel.
The programme revolved around four
undergraduate students sharing a house: violent punk rocker Vyvyan ( Adrian Edmondson), pompous anarchist Rick ( Rik Mayall), long-suffering hippieNeil ( Nigel Planer), and the mysterious and diminutive Mike ( Christopher Ryan). It also featured Alexei Sayle, who played the quartet's landlord, Jerzei Balowski, and other members of the Balowski family.
The show combined traditional sitcom style with violent
slapstick, non sequitur plot-turns and surrealism. These older styles were mixed with the working and lower-middle class attitudes of the growing 1980s alternative comedy boom, in which all the principal performers except Ryan had been involved.
Although the series was set in
North London, many external scenes were filmed in Bristol. All four characters attended the fictional Scumbag College, although they were never seen attending the institution and were rarely seen studying.
The show was voted #31 in the BBC's Best Sitcom poll in 2004.
The series originated on
London's comedy club circuit during the late 1970s. Most of the cast gained popularity at The Comedy Store. Alexei Saylewas the prominent act, drawing attention as the manic, aggressive compere. Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall worked as the double act, 20th Century Coyote, which later became The Dangerous Brothers. Nigel Planer was in a double act with Peter Richardsoncalled "The Outer Limits."
As The Comedy Store became popular, Sayle, 20th Century Coyote and The Outer Limits, with
French and Saundersand Arnold Brown, set up their own club called The Comic Stripin a nearby SohoClarifyme|date=March 2008 strip club. The Comic Strip became one of the most popular comedy venues in London, and came to the attention of Jeremy Isaacsof Channel 4. Peter Richardson then negotiated a deal for six self-contained half-hour films, using the group as comedy actors rather than stand-up performers.
The first of this series, "
The Comic Strip Presents...", was on Channel 4 on 2 November 1982. In response, the BBC began negotiations with Edmondson, Mayall, Richardson, Planer and Sayle to star in a sitcom in a similar style. Paul Jackson was installed as a producer.
The series was written by Mayall with his girlfriend
Lise Mayer, and with Ben Elton (who had attended Manchester Universitywith Mayall and Edmondson). Richardson was originally set to play Mike, but clashed with Jackson. He was replaced by Christopher Ryan, the only member of the group who wasn't a stand-up comedian.
The series revolved around the squalid house where the students lived during their time at Scumbag College. It can be classified as a
comedy of manners.
When it was first broadcast, the show gained attention for violent
slapstick. Though new to mainstream audiences, Mayall and Edmondson had been using it in 20th Century Coyotefor some time. The show also featured surreal elements, such as puppets playing talking animals or objects. Confusion was added with lengthy cutaways to scenarios not involved in the main plot.
Episodes in the second series sometimes included "flash frames" (three frames, equivalent to 1/8 of a second), but these were edited out of some repeats. These were included as a mockery of the British and American public's fear of subliminal messages in television and music. Unlike original flash frames, which lasted only one frame, these were long enough to be noticeable without actually being identifiable. The images included the end caption of "
Carry On Cowboy", a rusty dripping tap, a leaping frog, a dove in flight, a skier, and a hand making pottery.
The episodes ran 35 minutes, and many episodes were cut when repeated on the
BBCor satellite channels.
In the United States, "The Young Ones" ran on
PBS, MTVand, in 1994, on Comedy Central.
The series' theme song featured the cast singing
Cliff Richardand The ShadowsUK #1 song "The Young Ones". Throughout the series there were many references to Richard, as Mayall's character was a fan.
The theme over the end credits was written by
Peter Brewis, who also created the incidental musicon many episodes.
In 1984, after the second season, Planer (in character as Neil) reached No. 2 in the
UKcharts with a version of Traffic's " Hole In My Shoe". The accompanying " Neil's Heavy Concept Album", a loose collection of songs and spoken comedy, included appearances by "Young Ones" alumni Dawn French and Stephen Fry.
In 1986, the cast sang "Living Doll" with Cliff Richard and
Hank Marvinfor Comic Relief. The song, a reworking of his 1959 hit, reached the top of the UK Charts.
Most episodes had a musical guest performing in the house or street. By including the groups, the show qualified as variety rather than
light entertainmentwith the BBC and was allocated a bigger budget than a sitcom. This helped introduce several British bands to American viewers, such as Dexys Midnight Runners, Motörhead, and Madness. The latter appeared in two episodes; they were under consideration for a Monkees-style show at the time.Fact|date=October 2007
Some of these performances were omitted from
DVDrelease for copyrightreasons. Some musical acts were also edited out for similar reasons on some satellite reruns.
Nigel Planer, Neil Pye, the hippy, is a clinically depressed, suicidal pacifist, vegetarianand environmentalist working towards a Peace Studiesdegree. He is victimised by other housemates (especially Rick and Vyvyan) and forced to do the housework, including shopping, cleaning and cooking. He is never acknowledged for it unless it goes wrong.
pessimisticand believes everyone and everything hates him, which is mostly true, though he does have some friends, two hippys, one also named Neil and one named Warlock. He dislikes technologyexcept for videos and speaks out for Vegetable Rights and Peace. He is a chronic insomniac, believing that "sleep gives you cancer".
Neil wants the others to feel sorry for him, or just acknowledge his presence. His attention-seeking ranges from repeatedly banging himself on the head with a
frying panto attempting suicide. He claims "the most interesting thing that ever happens to me is sneezing".
In the second series his parents - who appear in the episode "Sick" - are revealed to be
upper-middle class. They are conservative Tories who look down on Neil for starring in such a disreputable comedy series.
Neil also says 'heavy' frequently.
Rik Mayall, Rick is a self-proclaimed anarchistwho is studying sociologyand/or domestic sciences (depending on the episode). Rick writes poetry and calls himself "The People's Poet".
Rick is a hypocritical,
tantrum-throwing attention-seeker who loves Cliff Richard. Rick tries to impress the others with his non-existent wit, talent and humour. He verbally insults and often physically assaults Neil at every opportunity. He fights and bickers with Vyvyan and attempts to impress Mike.
Rick is a vegetarian, agnostic [cite episode |title=The Young Ones |episodelink=Interesting (Young Ones episode) |seriesno=1 |number=5 |minutes=7:58 ] and wishes all men to love each other like brothers. However, he rarely does anything that can be attributed to
Rick is portrayed as unlikeable and so self-absorbed that he believes he is the "most popular member of the flat" even though his housemates hate him. Vyvyan describes Rick's name as being spelled "with a silent P". Despite the fact that the other members dislike and disregard Rick, he is heard to say that they "really are terrific friends". Believing himself the 'People's Poet' or the "spokesperson for a generation", Rick exaggerates or lies about his
political activismand class background and is exposed in the final episode "Summer Holiday", when it is suggested he comes from an upper class, Conservative background. He seems to also be a closet transvestite, as Neil found a dress in Rick's closet with his own name stitched on it in the episode "Nasty".
Rick perceives himself as an
anarchist, fond of ideals produced by Vladimir Leninand Leon Trotskyand states his interest in them in several episodes. He claims to dislike Margaret Thatcher, as is noted by his efforts threatening to blow up England with a bombin the episode "Bomb" if she doesn't do something "to help the kids, by this afternoon." This is also noticed in "The Young Ones Book," first published by Sphere Books, wherein negative references are made to Thatcher and the Conservative Party.
Rick speaks loudly and cannot pronounce his "r"s sometimes.
Adrian Edmondson, Vyvyan is an orange-haired, punk rocker and medical student. He is extremely violent and regularly attacks Neil and Rick with pieces of wood, cricket bats and other large objects. He never harms Mike, whom he respects. He despises Rick more than he does Neil, taking every opportunity to insult and attack him. For example, when Rick, Mike and Neil meet his mother at a bar in the episode "Boring", he calls both Neil and Mike his friends, but not Rick, whom he refers to as "a complete bastard." Ironically, this antagonistic relationship between Rick and Vyvyan makes them all but inseparable, as the two spend by far more time together than with the other housemates.
Vyvyan owns a yellow
Ford Anglia, with red flames painted along the sides, and a Glaswegian hamsternamed Special Patrol Group("SPG" for short) which he is very fond of, although SPG is also frequently subjected to Vyvyan's extreme violence. His mother is a barmaid and former shoplifter, who before "Boring" had not seen Vyvyan in ten years and has no idea who his father is.
Vyvyan displays feats of inhuman strength on occasion (moving entire walls with his bare hands, lifting Neil above his head in a fight with Rick, biting through a brick and even being decapitated and re-attaching his own head), surviving a pick-axe through the head, and eats just about anything; televisions, dead rats,
caviarand cornflakeswith ketchup.
Despite being a homicidal maniac, Vyvyan seems quite sociable and creative; In one episode ("Flood"), he has developed his own
potionto transform a person into an axe-wielding homicidal maniac (he claims "it's basically a cure...for "not" being an axe-wielding homicidal maniac...the potential market's "enormous"!"). He has more friends than the others but apparently "he doesn't like any of them." He frequently causes havoc or damage such as wiring the doorbell to a bomband adding a 289 CID Ford V-8 engine to the vacuum cleanerwhich proceeds to suck up the carpet, the floorboards and a friend of Neil's (the vacuum also prompted one of the few clashes between Vyvyan and Mike; when Mike admonished Vyv not to use it anymore, Vyv replied by calling him a "poof"). Disturbingly, Vyvyan also appears to be the only member of the group with a driving licence.
Christopher Ryan, Mike was the odd-one-out of the four. He is the assumed leader of the group, despite his diminutive size, and does not involve himself in the battles between the other three. He makes puns, which are either deliberately cheap or humorous but over-celebrated.
He frequently utters confusing, profound-sounding phrases which baffle the others (for example, when asked by Rick if he stole his apple, Mike replies "Well, if you're gonna sin you might as well be original."). Mike is supposedly the ladies' man of the bunch and brags about his prowess with women, although he is eventually forced to admit his
virginityto the others in "Nasty." Though he is a virgin, as are the rest of the housemates, he makes every attempt at wooing the opposite sex, being quite forward and unsuccessful.
con artist, he always has some kind of plan to make quick money such as renting out Rick's bedroom as a roller discoand soliciting bids for the unexploded atom bombthat fell into the house. Mike attends Scumbag College only nominally as he has blackmailed his tutor and the Dean of the school for grants and apparently passing grades. In "Summer Holiday" he muses "I think I'll ask for one of those Ph.D.s next year."
While Mike often does things at the expense or detriment of his housemates, he rarely expresses the sort of open hostility that the others do, and seems to cause them trouble only when it benefits him, rather than out of sadistic joy. He has, however, managed to nail his own legs to a table, and knocked Neil out during a game of cricket, albeit unintentionally. We only see violence inflicted on him twice (at the end of the "Living Doll" video, when Vyvyan knocks him unconscious with a hammer and in "Summer Holiday", when Neil transforms into the
Incredible Hulk, who picks up Mike and throws him to the ground, however it turns out it was only Neil's imagination).
Throughout the two series,
Alexei Sayleroutinely appeared as many different characters, interjecting his own material into the programme in ways that emulated his stand up comedyroutines. His main role was that of the flat's landlord Jerzy (Jeremy) Balowski, which was the only character he reprised, appearing in "Demolition", "Flood" and "Summer Holiday". The rest of the time, he was billed as playing various male members of "The Balowski Family", including nephew Alexei Balowski (a protest singer), son Reggie Balowski (an international arms dealer), brother Billy Balowski (a lunatic who believed he was a taxi driver), cousin Tommy Balowski (a drunk), escaped convictBrian Damage Balowski, and a medieval jester"Jester Balowski" (with Helen Ledereras his sidekick).
In the second series, Sayle's characters also included a
traindriver, a Mussolinilook-alike (by day the head of the local police force, by night an entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest), and "Harry the Bastard" (manager of the local Rumbelowsstore, disguised as a South African vampire).
Mike is the natural "leader" of the house. Always trying to make himself appear more important and exciting than he really is, he does appear to have done some of the things he claims to have done (such as getting Bambi the "
Babycham" commercial in "Bambi"). He experiences little hostility from the other members of the house. If there is any "fruitful" or amicable relationship in the house it is between Mike and Vyvyan. Vyvyan accepts Mike's role as the house leader whereas Mike needs Vyvyan's physique and willingness to act forcibly to enforce his own authority.
Neil is the second least liked of the four, although he is the only one who performs any kind of household chores and is therefore needed by the other three.
Rick is the least liked. Rick thinks very highly of himself. He tells poor jokes and stories (but finds them hilarious himself), is a would-be anarchist (although deep-down he is quite conservative) and frequently acts like a child when he doesn't get his way. He generally vents his frustration (when trying to impress the others) on Neil, since Neil never sticks up for himself and is ignored by the others. However, on the one occasion that Neil looked as if he was going to retaliate, Rick fled. The majority of his anger is generated in endless battles with Vyvyan, which he invariably loses.
In the final episode, the four students steal a red
AEC Routemasterafter robbing a bank, only to drive it through a billboard with a picture of Cliff Richard on it and then over a cliff, exploding into flames at the bottom of a quarry.
After the series
The end of the series was not the last appearance of "The Young Ones". For the British charity television appeal Comic Relief, the four recorded a song and video for Cliff Richard's "Living Doll", accompanied by Richard and Shadows guitarist
Hank B. Marvin. Alexei Sayle was not involved, but had already achieved chart success in 1984 with "'Ullo John, Gotta New Motor?".
At the 1986 Comic Relief stage show they performed the song live (following a short skit which involved Rick doing a comic song about showing his underwear and bodily parts, before being ejected from the group by Mike, and Vyvyan supposedly having backstage sex with
Kate Bushwith Neil as his contraceptive). The skit climaxed with Neil claiming Cliff Richard could not perform with them and John Cravenhad been booked as a replacement, only for Cliff Richardhimself to appear on stage.
Mayall, Planer and Edmondson reunited in 1986 for the Elton-written "
Filthy Rich & Catflap". The series had many of the same characteristics as "The Young Ones" as did Mayall and Edmondson's next sitcom "Bottom". Ryan, for his part, was regularly recruited to play roles on associated series (such as "Happy Families", "Bottom" and " Absolutely Fabulous").
DVD releases have been somewhat basic: only the U.S. "Every Stoopid Episode" edition featured documentaries and no extra footage was included. Musical references proved difficult to clear so "
The Sound of Silence" (one line) and " Subterranean Homesick Blues" were excised from the U.S. editions. A "bloopers" tape made for the amusement of cast and crew has, according to a BBC employee, gone missing from the BBC archivesFact|date=October 2007.
A new DVD release of all episodes ("Extra Stoopid Edition") was launched in November, 2007, containing new documentaries and two commentary tracks [ [http://www.zetaminor.com/roobarb/showthread.php?t=17483 Roobarb's DVD Forum ] ] (pilot and final episodes only). This edition restores the line from "
The Sound of Silence" and " Subterranean Homesick Blues," but is missing other scenes, most notably the brief shot of two teddy bears copulating on Rick's bed in "Nasty."
In 1986 MTV bought half the episodes to run on their cable systems during 1987.
American pilot episode
A pilot episode was filmed of an American version of The Young Ones. It was called
Oh, No! Not THEM!and featured Nigel Planer as Neil, and it had a claymation opening credit sequence. Fox didn't make the series. In the pilot they were all sleeping in one bed and Rick (not played by Mayall) was having a dream about a hot punk girl and woke up and Neil asks him why he didn't kiss her. Robert Llewellynwrote in his book "The Man In The Rubber Mask" (1994):
* "The Young Ones" was taken over the Atlantic in the mid eighties, and Nigel [Planer] was the only member of the British cast to go. He had experienced a fairly hideous time, worried sick that he was going to have to stay there for six years with a group of people he hated who managed to make "The Young Ones" into a sort of grubby "
Benny Hill Show". He was hugely relieved when the pilot was a flop and he was released from his contract."
Colin Abrahall, member of
Birminghampunk band Charged GBH, appeared in the episode, and it was his one and only acting gig:
* "I have acted in Hollywood, actually. It was a very small part in a very small 'movie'. The band played a party -- our guitarist's wife's sister was studying film in Hollywood when we were staying there, and she was involved in this show that was supposed to be the American version of The Young Ones . There was a nasty landlord, and all these kids living in a house, and they were going to get thrown out, and we did a gig for them to raise their rent. It was all filmed in one take, and we did the gig bit in a garage full of cameramen and extras. It wasn't a very good 'movie', but now I can tell people I acted in Hollywood."
Links to other series
In "Bambi", the housemates appeared on
University Challenge, where they played against Footlights College, Oxbridge, a reference to Footlightsdrama club at Cambridge University. The Footlights College team was played by show writer Ben Eltonand three actors who were once members of the real Cambridge Footlights: Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, and Stephen Fry, the last of whom had actually appeared on the quiz show while at Cambridge. The episode title is a reference to the show's presenter, Bamber Gascoigne, impersonated by Griff Rhys Jones.
Mayall and Edmondson elaborated on some of the series' concepts later in their sitcoms "
Filthy Rich & Catflap" (written by Elton, with additional material by Mayall) and "Bottom" (written by Mayall and Edmondson).
Most of the regular cast (and several of the guests) also appeared in
Channel 4and BBC2's comedy films, " The Comic Strip Presents". All four main actors have since gained reputations as dramatic, as well as comic, actors.
Keith Allen- as Pestilence in "Interesting"
Mark Arden- as policeman #1 in "Boring"; as cornflakes box dad in "Bomb"; as gatecrasher #1 in "Interesting"; as gravedigger #1 and police victim #1 in "Flood"; as headless ghost #1 in "Cash"; as spy #1 in "Nasty"; as manure deliverer #1 in "Sick"
* Roger Ashton-Griffiths - as Orgo the devil in "Boring"
Helen Atkinson-Wood- as the woman in the painkiller advert in "Nasty"
*Nicholas Ball - as Rick's lecturer in "Interesting"
Gary Beadle- as the DJ's servant in "Time"
Chris Barrie- as the ship captain in the wall-poster in "Nasty"
*Paul Bradley - as the pilot in "Demolition"; as Warlock in "Interesting" and "Cash"
*Arnold Brown - as the criminal waiting to be cast in the pit in "Flood"; the chess player in "Nasty"
Robbie Coltrane- as the doorman in "Oil"; as Dr Carlisle in "Bambi"; as the one-eyed pirate DJ in "Time"
Ron Cook- as a convict on the wall-poster in "Nasty"
Lee Cornes- as Spasspecker the Dull in "Time"; as MC in "Cash"
Andy de la Tour- as the co-pilot in "Demolition"; as a convict on the wall-poster in "Nasty"; as the road safety announcer in "Cash"
Ben Elton- as the TV presenter in "Demolition"; as the blind DJ in "Flood"; as Mr Kendall Mintcake in "Bambi"; as the campaigning schoolboy in "Sick"; as the drinker in the lager advert in "Summer Holiday"
Alan Freeman- as God in "Cash" and "Summer Holiday"
Dawn French- as the religious visitor in "Interesting"; as the devil in the painkiller advert in "Nasty"; as the Easter bunny in "Time"
Stephen Frost- as policeman #2 in "Boring"; as gatecrasher #2 in "Interesting"; as gravedigger #2 and police victim #2 in "Flood"; as headless ghost #2 in "Cash"; as spy #2 in "Nasty"; as manure deliverer #2 in "Sick"; as the bank manager in "Summer Holiday"
Stephen Fry- as Lord Snot in "Bambi"
*Gareth Hale - as medieval guard #1 in "Flood"; as gravedigger #1 in "Nasty"; as yokel #1 in "Time"
Lenny Henry- as the postman in "Summer Holiday"
Jools Holland- as the punk in the bank in "Summer Holiday"
Terry Jones- as the vicar in "Nasty"
Hugh Laurie- as Lord Monty in "Bambi"
Helen Lederer- as Gwendolyn the jester's assistant in "Time"; as the repetitive bank teller in "Summer Holiday"
Norman Lovett- as the penny arcade owner in "Summer Holiday"
Pauline Melville- as a bus passenger in "Demolition"; as Vyvyan's mother in "Boring" and "Sick"; as a witch in "Sick"
Paul Merton(under his real name of Paul Martin) - as yokel #3 in "Time"
*Norman Pace - as medieval guard #2 in "Flood"; as gravedigger #2 in "Nasty"; as yokel #2 in "Time"
Daniel Peacock- as the stabbed man in "Nasty"
David Rappaport- as Ftumch [sic] the devil in "Boring"; as Shirley in "Flood"
Tony Robinson- as Dr Not The Nine O'Clock News in "Bambi"
Griff Rhys Jones- as Bambi in "Bambi"
Jennifer Saunders- as Sue the party guest in "Interesting"; as Helen Mucus the murderess in "Time"
Mel Smith- as the commissionaire in "Bambi"
Emma Thompson- as Miss Money-Sterling in "Bambi"
Series 1 (Originally broadcast
9 November- 14 December 1982on BBC2; shown on Tuesdays at 9 pm)
#"Demolition" - The boys get a letter from the council telling them their squalid house will be demolished.
#"Oil" - Upon moving into a new house, Vyvyan announces that he has struck oil in the cellar.
#"Boring" - The boys attempt to fight off boredom whilst several very exciting things go unnoticed around them.
#"Bomb" - An unexploded
atomic bombfalls through the boys' roofand blocks the refrigerator, but worse, the TV Licence man calls.
#"Interesting" - The boys host a party that gets out of hand.
#"Flood" - During heavy
rains, London floods and the boys are trapped in the housewith a homicidal, axe-wielding Mr. Balowski.
Series 2 (Originally broadcast
8 May- 19 June 1984on BBC2; shown Tuesdays at 9 pm)
#"Bambi" - The boys go to the
launderetteand compete against Footlights College, Oxbridgein " University Challenge".
#"Cash" - Cash-strapped, Neil is forced (by his flatmates) to join the
#"Nasty" - A strange package from
South Africainterferes with plans to watch a video nastyon a rented VCR.
#"Time" - Rick wakes up in bed next to a beautiful girl, and the house passes through a time warp.
#"Sick" - While ill, the boys must deal with an escaped criminal and worse, Neil's parents.
#"Summer Holiday" -
Summeris here and the lads finally get their results.
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/y/youngonesthe_1299003473.shtml The bbc.co.uk Guide To Comedy: The Young Ones]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/years/1982/tv1.shtml BBC: I Love 1982: The Young Ones]
* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/476396/index.html British Film Institute Screen Online]
* [http://www.flickr.com/photos/89492733@N00/sets/72157601772650455/ Flickr - BBC's 'The Young Ones' Filming Locations]
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