Newest Review: ... I'm sure most people have heard of the Young Ones even if they have never seen the TV Programme. The main characters in this programme are... more
Anarchy in the UK
Young Ones, The
Member Name: steerpyke
Young Ones, The
Advantages: still watchable after twenty five years
Disadvantages: you either love it or you hate it, there is no in between
One word that summed up the show was anarchy. Even at the writing stage with Mayall and Mayer writing as a team and Elton working alone, the blending of the disparate threads of their scripts made for some strange links and storyline bridges, which were often dealt with in the most unsubtle and illogical fashion. The idea of four students sharing the flat from hell seemed to be offering little new, considering that this was meant to be the flagship of the breath of fresh air that was taking over the scene. But it was the style of The Young Ones rather than the idea that gave the show its individuality. It gloriously reflected the free-basing, high-octane, in-your-face, unpredictable quality of 'alternative' comedy and turned its back on all of the old, established rules and clichés of television humour to present 35 minutes of rampaging, violent slapstick which had more in common with Warner Brothers cartoons than with situation comedy as known to this point. A huge range of bizarre ideas was tethered to the loosest possible storylines and sudden cutaways to characters and situations not involved in the plot deliberately added confusion. The show also had musical guests - a first for a sitcom - whose appearances somehow had to be accommodated within the story. And normally it was as logical as someone saying, “Bloody hell Motorhead are playing a concert in the kitchen” or something as believable as that.
On reflection it has been noted that underneath all of the mayhem there is a veiled allusion to a family unit, a mum, a dad and two bickering kids. If there is a father it is Mike “the Cool Person”. Often seen, as the weakest character by many, but in reality is a breathing space and a balance between the more volatile madmen around him, Christopher Ryan played this father like figure. Looked up to by the other members of the house he spends his time promoting his image as some sort of shady and mysterious gangster figure and is always oddly indifferent to the antics around him. Nigel Planers hippie Neil Pye fills the role of the put upon mother, the one who always ends up doing all of the chores, is always the butt of the scathing remarks, he is permanently depressed and is likely to say things such as “I'm not gonna say anything because I know no one's going to listen to me. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.” The two surrogate children are the most immediate characters. Rik Mayall is somewhat akin to a precocious daughter (complete with tiny pigtails) as the revolutionary, left wing people’s poet and mummy’s boy. His angle is as the anti-Thatcherite flag waver who betrays the real level of his reactionary nature by his devotion to Cliff Richard (also older readers will get the reference in the title of the show, which shares its name with one of his movies). Rik does however get some wonderfully through away lines such as “Neil, the bathroom's free. Unlike the country under the Thatcherite junta.” Finally we have Vyvyan Basterd, the out of control punk spirited anarchist who seems to enter half his scenes by crashing through a wall and spends a large amount of the show hitting Rik with heavy objects, a slapstick routine that came to fruition in their later show, Bottom. There was one other regular member of the show; the one time host of the Comedy Store, Alexei Sayle played various members of the Balowski family, from whom the house was rented. Sayle wrote his own bits for the show adding another style to be thrown into the mixing pot and he would turn up demanding rent or just paying a social visit and firing off an almost to fast to comprehend string of mad tangents and strange monologues.
Amongst the normal off the page scripting, there were lots off strange asides, flies on the wall being filmed by a fly on the wall documentary crew, rats talking about what books they have recently eaten and talking vegetables are just some of the interludes that came from the mind of, apparently, Lise Mayer’s questionable mind. Even stranger were randomly exploding pieces of furniture, talking fridges, 17th century burials in the garden, Buddy Holly being discovered hanging from the ceiling of one of the bedrooms, visits to Narnia and very strange goings on in the basement and you begin to realise the mad horizons that were being strived for here. There were also a few references to previous comedy works, one routine that I’m never sure if it’s a tribute or an attack is a parody of Monty Pythons cheese shop sketch.
Alexei Sayle: 'Scuse me, is this the cheese shop?
Bartender: No sir.
Alexei Sayle: Well that's that sketch knackered then, isn't it?
The two series ran to only 12 shows before it was decided to end on a high, but by then future careers were in the bag, not to mention money was in the bank. Its also interesting to look out for the wealth of supporting cast that reads like a who’s who of comedy, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, Lenny Henry, Helen Lederer, Norman Lovett, Paul Merton to name only a few. The show broke the mould, and like such respected shows as The Goon Show, Spike Milligan’s Q series, Monty Python and TW3 before signalled a change in the way programs would be made. Apart from the videos which can be cheaply picked up on Amazon or E-bay, the reruns are regular features on sky, unfortunately what used to be touted as Anarchy in the UK is now relegated to Anarchy in the UKTV Gold.
Summary: ground breaking comedy in its time