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.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting what you say re Christopher Ryan, as the only other roles I remember him playing were in Only Fools and Horses (as a gangster) and Young Ones spiritual sequel Bottom.

    I can add that the Young Ones was a source of much glee when I was 13/14 for it's slapstick comic tone, and the more surreal touches ("Don't look at me, I'm irrelevant") still make it watchable on occasions to this day.