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Case Number 02349

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The Young Ones: Every Stoopid Episode

Warner Bros. // 1982 // 400 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // October 30th, 2002

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Young Ones (published July 16th, 2002) and The Young Ones: Extra Stoopid Edition (published December 5th, 2007) are also available.

The Charge

Punk. Poseur. Hippie. Player.

Opening Statement

Take Monty Python, add punk rock, marinate in hallucinogenic love drugs, and half bake until done. Thus did The Young Ones come into existence—very bizarre, very warped, and very short-lived. Join the insanity of two seasons, twelve episodes, and a third disc of extra content from BBC America (via Warner), if you dare.

Facts of the Case

Meet the Young Ones! Rick (Rik Mayall), a hyperactive Marxist-spewing left-wing anarchist. Neil (Nigel Planer), a softly mellow no-worries hippie. Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson), a red spiked hair punk bastard with four stars impaled in his forehead. Mike (Christopher Ryan), a slick talking, neat dressing capitalist schemer. Sound like great flatmates, right?

So that you might have some means of distinguishing amongst the cacophony, meet the Young Ones episode guide!

Disc One:

• "Demolition"
Lentils, talking rats, and explosive demolition of the Young Ones' flat, oh my!

• "Oil"
Money troubles are over! The Young Ones have a crude gusher in the basement of their flat! Sadly, the prospect of such riches goes to Mike's head and Vyvyan is more than eager to become his fascist enforcer.

• "Boring"
Nothing is more dangerous than the Young Ones suffering from extreme boredom. Run! Run for your lives!

• "Bomb"
When a nuclear bomb lands next to the refrigerator, the crisis begins. How do you rescue lentils from behind a mound of teetering crockery? If that's not enough, the authorities have come for their unpaid TV licensing fee! What's the group to do? Auction the bomb off to the highest bidder, naturally.

• "Interesting"
The lads whip the flat into shape thanks to Vyvyan's gas-powered vacuum cleaner. The ensuing party is just whizzy, thanks to a door-to-door Bible thumper and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Don't mind the marijuana or the police, they're just passing through.

• "Flood"
War comics are surprising fuel for debate, at least until a sudden rise in flood waters leaves the gang's flat floating freely over submerged London. Just don't mind the lion tamer working in the bedroom.

Disc Two:

• "Bambi"
Thanks to a friend in the TV biz, the Young Ones seek fame and fortune representing their college against the snooty blue bloods of Footlights College, Oxford, on a quiz show.

• "Cash"
Food is scarce, the flat is freezing. The Young Ones are in desperate need of cash! At their wits end, there's no alternative. Someone needs to bring home the money now that Vyvyan's pregnant. Neil needs a job. Police officer sounds swell!

• "Nasty"
The reason you've been assembled in this graveyard on this grim and rainy day is to ask why the Young Ones have a vampire corpse nailed up in a coffin.

• "Time"
After a brief Dallas parody, the Young Ones deal with the aftermath of a really groovy party. How on earth did Rick get a real live (conscious) woman in his bed, and is she really an escaped mass murderess? Furthermore, what's with Vyvyan's howitzer and the hippie knight?

• "Sick"
The whole gang's extremely under the weather. Sounds like a perfect occasion for a refreshing Molotov cocktail, and having Neil's parents along for tea.

• "Summer Holiday"
The school term is over, and it's summertime! What ever will the Young Ones do? Mindless violence, Neil's birthday party, and a joyful eviction, that's what! A robbery of a fascist pig bank is cool, too!

The Evidence

If you have little experience with British comedy, The Young Ones is as close to shock therapy (or perhaps a lobotomy?) as you can get without being committed to a locked mental ward. The comedy is anything but straightforward. Short comic explosions with surreal, tangential detours is more like it, ending up like an alternative live-action comic book. Each episode has a theoretical title, which only modestly relates to the half-hour to follow, as the "plot" meanders over the landscape until it reaches an abrupt and bizarre ending.

Forget about comparisons with Monty Python's Flying Circus. Rather than a knit-together sketch comedy show, spanning the breadth of humor from slapstick to subtle intellectual jokes, The Young Ones is more stream of consciousness alternative comedy improvisation with a musical interlude jammed somewhere in the show. As whacked-out as The Young Ones is, there is a certain pleasure in seeing each episode unfold. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, the sight is grotesquely compelling, with the added bonus of some priceless absurd comedy.

Another reason to watch The Young Ones is to catch a glimpse of the parade of British actors and actresses who have since gone on to greater British and often trans-Atlantic success. Have fun spotting Stephen Fry (Wilde, various "Blackadder" shows, Gosford Park), Emma Thompson (Henry V, The Remains Of The Day, Dead Again), Robbie Coltrane (Goldeneye, From Hell, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone), Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous), and Hugh Laurie (Stuart Little, 101 Dalmatians). Even a Python (Terry Jones) makes a brief appearance!

If you have even a passing interest in the British music scene of the 1980s, then no doubt you will want to get The Young Ones at least for the brief performances by a variety of groups. Ska, punk, reggae and metal, it's certainly eclectic. Look for Madness, Motörhead, The Damned, Nine Below Zero, Rip Rig and Panic (featuring a young Neneh Cherry), and Dexy's Midnight Runners.

Each of the first two discs includes brief promotional trailers for DVD releases featuring French & Saunders, "Wallace & Gromit," "Robbie the Reindeer," and Absolutely Fabulous. The real extra content is on the third disc. "Creating the Young Ones" (13 minutes) is a concise look at how the series was created and produced, featuring the Young Ones (shockingly grown up!) as well as co-writers Ben Elton and Lise Mayer and director/producer Paul Jackson. "The Young Ones and the '80s" is a short (six-minute) look at the television, comedy, and political context that spawned the show. "Rik Mayall: The Theater" (three minutes) is a not at all funny and pointless clip from the "Fundamental Frolics" concert at the Apollo Theater, Victoria on June 1, 1981.

Rounding out this disc are the pilot episodes for two other series from the cast and crew of The Young Ones, namely Filthy Rich & Catflap and Bottom. These pilots lack some of the hyperactive anarchy of The Young Ones, but they still have unique comic vibrancy. All in all, not overwhelming content by any means, but of reasonable quality and welcome all the same.

As you might expect, the full frame video from an early '80s British television show is not reference quality. Still, the picture is clear of significant dirt, flaws, and digital artifacts and only afflicted with some mild "noise." Audio is nondescript stereo confined to the front speakers, which is not exactly a surprise. Though the dialogue and effects are clearly delivered, don't expect a sonic treat from the musical guests. If you want to really enjoy the music, try one of their CDs.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Alexi Sayle (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), who might be referred to as the "fifth Young One," is about as funny as a Saturday Night Live skit in the last half-hour of that show. Sometimes he's tolerable, but more often I would have wished they had omitted his comedy-killer filler and shown us more of the other four principals. (Looking through the talent files, I see that he's described as "one of history's few Marxist stand-up comics." Ah. That explains it.)

Closing Statement

I am not sure who is likely to find The Young Ones appealing, but if you are a college student with a taste for British and punk, or anyone with a few stiff drinks in their bloodstream, it should be right up your alley. The rest of us will gaze upon The Young Ones with a mixture of amusement, fascination, and confusion at the brazenly bizarre comedy. (Funny how a word like bizarre keeps popping up in this review…)

The Verdict

I can't think of a verdict for such a unique creation, so the defendants are free to go. That should give them plenty of time to get to their next psychotherapy session.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 87
Audio: 72
Extras: 84
Acting: 89
Story: 85
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Foreign
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Creating The Young Ones
• The Young Ones and the '80s
• Rik Mayall: The Theater
• Filthy Rich & Catflap Episode 1
• Bottom Episode 1
• Talent Files


• IMDb

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