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THE YOUNG ONES
Once upon a time Ben Elton was a dangerous and dynamic comedy writer, and 'The Young Ones', along with 'Blackadder' and 'The Thin Blue Line', was one of his, and British TV's, finest comedic offerings. The other two writers of 'The Young Ones', Rik Mayall, and then girlfriend, Lise Mayer, wrote together, while Elton wrote on his own. The scripts then collided into the chaotic, ingenious comedy that was 'The Young Ones'.
Though they had made their mark in other things, 'The Young Ones' really catapulted Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Christopher Ryan, and Alexei Sayle into the big league. Beloved of students in the early to mid '80s (has there ever been a more popular comedy for students?), it was a weird and surreal show, and wasn't really trying too hard to be successful. It had a 'we like it, so we'll do it, and hope someone watches' type feel to it. No real compromises seemed to have been made, apart from maybe Cliff...Everyone loves Cliff, don't they?
Rik Mayall was Rick - a would-be subversive who thought Cliff Richard was the king of cool. Dreadful poet, and dreadful pig-taily type hair; Ade Edmondson was the rock hard punk Vyvyan (Johnny Rotten was a fan of his) - so hard he once booted his own decapitated head along a railway track, and had studs across his forehead, and fetching ginger punky hair; Nigel Planer was Neil the paranoid, depressed hippie, always worrying about the world, and his own personal safety (but not his personal hygiene) - normally at the hands of Rick and Vyvyan; Christopher Ryan was the spivvy type guy, Mike, and kinda normal. But, 'The Young Ones' needed at least one normal person. A bit like The Stones needed the calm presence of Bill Wyman just to anchor things, not let things get too wild! Rick, Vyvyan, Neil, and Mike were the main four characters, and Alexei Sayle was also a regular as the psychotic, Mussolini lookalike, Polish landlord, Jerzy Balowski.
So, there you have it. If it sounds weird, then it's supposed to! There were lots of special guests such as Keith Allen, Helen Atkinson Wood, Chris Barrie, Robbie Coltrane, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, Terry Jones, Alan Freeman, Lenny Henry, Helen Lederer, Paul Merton, Daniel Peacock, Tony Robinson, Emma Thompson, and Ben Elton himself. There was also a musical guest each episode, including Madness, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Amazulu, Motörhead, John Otway, Jools Holland, and Stewart Copeland of The Police. Also, in these 35 minutes of mayhem, were plenty of visual gags, too, which really burgeoned into Ade and Rik's 'Bottom'. Er, I'll rephrase that, which inspired a lot of 'Bottom'...Also, a bit of animation, too, and it was quite groundbreaking because the BBC was still quite safe in the early '80s ('The Young Ones' producer Paul Jackson deserves a lot of praise for not being afraid to gamble), and shows like 'The Young Ones' and 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' were beginning to push things a bit. It's not all turned out for the best, as pretty much every comedy screened after nine o'clock now has foul language in, and most comedy writers now think that a few swearwords is high comedy. It's not, it's lazy. 'The Young Ones' was, and remains, one of the most inventive comedies ever made by the Beeb.
The Young Ones Main Cast List, Writers & Producer
The Young Ones DVDs available from booksmusicfilmstv.com - in association with Amazon.co.uk
The Young Ones Episode List (and original air dates on BBC2)
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