Best Comedy TV (Part 7)

The Young Ones (UK)

Not many people in the U.S. saw this anarchic comedy, I suspect, and theirs is the loss.  Headed by the incomparable Rik Mayall, the ensemble cast of misfits and social failures living in a boarding house somewhere in one of the seedier parts of London managed to savage not only the house itself, but just about every social institution as well.  (The house, despite being partially — and once, completely — destroyed each week, somehow managed to rejuvenate itself by the following episode, much as South Park‘s Kenny was killed each episode and came back to life ditto.)

Trying to explain the plot of The Young Ones in a few lines is akin to doing the same for James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake :  quite impossible, and something I’m sure the late Rik Mayall, one of the principal writers, would have enjoyed to see me try.  But the way the all-male cast played off each other was incredible — the loutish thug Vyvyan, the dreamy hippie Neil, the suave gangster Mike and the hapless homosexual Rick took turns in sabotaging each other’s plans, insulting and /or assaulting each other and doing much worse to the outside world.  Whatever they did, I would cry with astonished laughter pretty much all the way through each episode, before rewinding the VHS tape (yes, that again) to re-watch the show in amazement.

To give you the smallest hint of the insanity, let me just list a few of the bit-part actors who appeared in The Young Ones — and the actors of the time would fight each other to be invited onto the show, such was its cachet.  And the names of some of the guest characters will only hint at the barely-concealed insanity:

Alexei Sayle (the Balowski Family)
Jim Barclay (Policeman in Comic Strip)
Robbie Coltrane (Bouncer)
Ruth Burnett (Goldilocks)
Gareth Hale (Gravedigger)
Dawn French (Easter Bunny)
David Rappaport (Ftumch)
Jennifer Saunders (Helen Mucus)
Alan Freeman (God)
Jonathan Caplan (Knight of the Square Table)
Stephen Fry (Lord Snot)
Hugh Laurie (Lord Monty)
Tony Robinson (Dr. Not the Nine O’Clock News)
Emma Thompson (Miss Money-Sterling)
Damaris Hayman (Woman Pushing Corpse)
…and so on.

There were only twelve episodes of The Young Ones.

There was no regular female part on the show (which kind of added to the fun), so I’m going to feature the ever-silly Dawn French, who appeared in three episodes:


  1. Loved the show. It was on some cable channel or other in the mid-80’s in the US and was a pleasant surprise when I ran across it. The fact that I remember it after all these years says something of the impact it made.

    Thanks Kim!

  2. Dawn French and the crew of “The Vicar of Dibley” made up some of the funniest townsfolk in a comedy show perhaps there ever were, No, No, No, No, No,…. Yes.

    And the photo of Dawn above is a sweet, pleasing, plump, bountiful, five foot tall of grown woman.

    1. (P)Rick: Neil, are these lentils South African?!
      Neil: Well, ummm…
      (P)Rick: You bastard! You complete and utter bastard! Why don’t you just go out and become a policeman?! Become a pig?! There’s no difference, you know! There’s no difference, you know! You think there is, but there isn’t! I suppose you hate gay people too! Hippie!

  3. Loved that show. Remember when Neil tried to crucify himself, but couldn’t figure out a way to drive the last nail by himself?

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