I distinctly remember The Young Ones starting on BBC2 thanks to the trailer they made to advertise it before the first episode was shown. The four main members of the cast were sat in a line, and one of them (Rick I think) leant forward and said “This is a trailer for The Young Ones”, whilst holding a little toy car trailer with the title inked on the side. I’m sure there was more to it than that, but I certainly recall that bit.
The Young Ones was a comedy about four students sharing a house, and it made household names out of the aspiring young comedians who starred in it. It was unlike anything else on TV at the time due to its anarchic nature and over the top innuendos. Many sitcoms resorted to the odd double entendre to raise a laugh, but The Young Ones managed to take it to a new level, with many of the saucy quips actually punching the required subtlety for such jokes in the face by just being outright plain rude.
The four students couldn’t have been more different. First there was hippy Neil (Nigel Planer) who was usually on the receiving end of much of the sarcasm and insults thrown around. He seemed to end up doing much of the cooking, which usually involved lentils. Next was Rick (Rik Mayall) who fancied himself as a bit of an antiestablishmentarian (Wow! Never thought I’d ever use that word in a sentence). Rick was actually quite pathetic, and took offence at things incredibly easily, though was quite happy to dish out jokes at other peoples expense.
Mike (Christopher Ryan) was the cool bloke, who was not fazed by any situation, and was usually dressed in a suit. You always got the impression that he was a bit of a wheeler dealer, and he tended to be the one who took charge when the quartet got into scrapes. Last, but certainly not least, was Vyvyan the punk (Adrian Edmondson), who had bright orange hair and four metallic stars running across his forehead. Violence knew no bounds when Vyvyan was around, and entire walls would come tumbling down from one of his headbutts. Ironically I believe Vyvyan was study to become a brain surgeon.
There were two series of the programme, the first airing in 1982 and the second in 1984. One of my favourite sequences is the one where we end up with three versions of Neil. In a parody of sitcom The Good Life, Neil explains to Rick (I think), that if he plants the seed, nature will grow the seed, and then they can eat the seed. Bored by this Rick hits Neil and fears he has killed him, so buries him in the garden. That evening Neil awakes in the back garden, but there are two more copies of him lying in the ground next to him, nature having grown the seed, if you will. Â The episode where the boys represent their university (Scumbag College) on University Challenge is also hilarious.
As the show took its name from a Cliff Richard song there was always a bit of a link to the pop star. Rick was a bit of a fan of Cliff’s, and of course the gang recorded Living Doll with him to raise money for Comic Relief. The last episode also ended in a parody of Cliff’s film Summer Holiday, with the boys driving off a cliff to their presumed deaths in a red London double decker bus, just like Cliff had done (well, minus the driving off a cliff bit) in the film.