Thursday, 5 January 2017
580 The Young Ones
First viewed : 23 November 1982
This was the comedy series that replaced Not The Nine O Clock News in the affections of the young but not I'm afraid in mine. I remember seeing the episode where Madness appeared first time round but mainly I watched this fairly reluctantly on repeat in my hall of residence, among people who could anticipate whole sections of dialogue.
The series was written by one of its stars Rik Mayall, his friend Ben Elton and American girlfriend Lise Mayer whose father taught the two lads drama at Manchester University. It was based on the exploits of four students in grotty digs provided by eccentric landlord Alexei Sayle. Mayall played Rick a narcissistic anarchist . The others were Vivian, a psychotic punk , Neil an out-of-his-time hippy and Mike , a sharp-dressing jack-the-lad. Comic Strip buddies Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer played Vivian and Neil respectively. Peter Richardson was due to play Mike but , predictably, couldn't work with producer Paul Jackson and the role went to diminutive actor Christopher Ryan instead.
The show was ostensibly a sitcom but had many surreal elements such as talking vegetable puppets and incorporated a live musical performance in order to attract a variety show budget. The performance would normally be incorporated into the story in some way. Madness performed "House of Fun" in the lads' local. Rick asks them if they know Cliff's Summer Holiday to which Suggs replies "You hum it, I'll smash your face in", a rather ironic exchange given the quartets last outing.
Like I said above I didn't really buy into the over-the-top characters, the slapstick or the taken for granted assumption that everyone young is left wing in the writing. Like Fawlty Towers only 12 episodes were made but it was often repeated. The BBC suits were uneasy about some of the content but felt it was necessary for BBC2 to meet the challenge of the new channel.
The series ended in the summer of 1984 but Planer went to do an album as Neil scoring a big hit with a version of Traffic's Hole In My Shoe. Then two years later the gang reunited to do a Comic Relief record with Cliff Richard , a funny-for-one-play version of "Living Doll". As Sayle correctly predicted in refusing to participate , these musical outings ended up damaging the brand. Ryan went his own way as a straight actor after that but the others have reunited on other projects.