L-R: Christopher Ryan, Nigel Planer, Adrian Edmonson and Rik Mayall

scene from The Young Ones

In 1982, The Young Ones somehow slipped through the cracks of BBC's notoriously reserved program executives. It became an instant cult favourite and drew a torrent of criticisms. Many even went as far as calling it the worse show on TV. But that's not true. In fact, it is arguably one of the finest sitcoms in British history. Not for the acting, writing or direction, but for its senseless anarchy, irreverence and ground-breaking interpretation of teenage angst.

Lise Mayer, one of the writers of the show, stated that "We were absolutely, blissfully ignorant of how to write, you know, of our TV drama, how to structure it," before adding "I mean that's why it's sort of as chaotic as it is really."

And chaotic it was. The haphazardly written show would occasionally include puppet shows, musical performances, cartoons and sketches with had absolutely no relevance to the main storyline, while the outrageous plots include a nuclear missile, a time warp and an inflatable sex doll.

The Young Ones is the story of four students of Scumbag College - self-professed People's Poet Rick, bipolar hippy and serial failed suicider Neil, medical student and resident punk Vyvyan, and wannabe ladies' man Mike - who all live in a squalid North London council house. Each episode is a bizarre and surreal reimagining of life in in Thatcher's UK, and is filled with an unending stream of insults and weirdness that threatens to nudge even the stiffest of upper lips.

The antics of the four, who incidentally, were never seen studying, attending class or holding a textbook even once during the series, would go on to inspire many budding filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic and has been cited as a comedic and storytelling influence in many films and TV shows during the last couple of decades. After all, how many other shows in the history television have plotlines involving an amputated leg, a South African vampire or an oil well in a basement?


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One of the programmes that brought 'alternative' comedy to British television screens, complete with rambling plots, 'comic asides' and 'musical interludes'. It concerns the daily life and 'adventures' of a group of students living in a sleazy house.

Rick (Rik Mayall) is a fanatical disciple of Cliff Richard, eager to protest his lack of virginity at every opportunity.

Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson) is a total nutter, hell bent on bringing about maximum mayhem and destruction.

Neil (Nigel Planer) is a hippy type who does most of the cooking (mainly with lentils) and cleaning (what there is of it).

Mike (Christopher Ryan) is a smoothie, totally out of step with the rest of the no-hope loonies in the house.

Alexei Sayle appears as various members of the Balowski family and contributes a variety of short 'asides' during episodes.

Series: 2
Episodes: 12
Transmitted: 1982-1984
Channel: BBC2

BBC Television

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