Judge Kristin Munson thinks you're all a bunch of fascists.
"We can do just exactly whatever we want to do. And do you know why? Because we're young ones! Bachelor boys! Crazy, mad, wild-eyed, big bottomed anarchists!"
Laden with tangents, unrelated sketches, and musical guests, The Young Ones came hot on the heels of the UK punk movement. A Three Stooges for the Blank Generation, it is loud, slapstick, crude, and willing to do anything for a laugh. Five years after the original DVD release, BBC Video trots out a brand new edition that helps put the "Extra" in Extra Stoopid.
Facts of the Case
Meet Vyvyan, Mike, Neil, and Rick, four of the most unlikable characters ever to share a roof (Reality shows notwithstanding). Students at Scumbag University, they spend their days drilling for oil, having parties, rigging things to explode and robbing banks; anything to avoid going to class or getting along.
Ever hear the phrase "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes?" Well, cut that five down to two and you have the comic philosophy of The Young Ones. Each episode violently ricochets from punning to puppetry, spoofs to slapstick. No laugh is too cheap and no blow is too low. Not only do characters talk to the audience, but they are perfectly aware that they're on a set, filming a TV show. They don't break the fourth wall so much as take a stick of dynamite and a cricket bat to it.
Twenty-five years on and time has treated the jokes well. Vyvyan's rant on how British shows perpetuate the myth that everyone in England is a lovable, middle-class eccentric is as true now as it was then. The spokeswoman in a commercial for a Midol-like product recommending a hysterectomy with cheerful cruelty is as unexpected as ever. Rick's childlike-glee when he finds "a telescope with a mouse in it" inside a girl's purse is still almost as fun as anticipating the moment he realizes he's playing with a tampon.
There's a five-minute difference in run times between Every Stoopid Episode and the Extra Stoopid Edition because the licensing issues that kept a cover of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and a few other scenes off the original DVD release have been resolved. Now before you Young Ones lovers start doing a pogo around the room, I'm going to bring you down: scenes that appeared on Every Stoopid Episode are now missing from Extra Stoopid Edition, most noticeably a moment where two stuffed animals have carnal relations on Rick's bed.
Rather than making this the true definition of "extra," the bonus episodes of actors' later collaborations, early stand-up footage, and talent files from the previous edition have been dropped, and the featurettes replaced with newer, longer ones. Ten minutes each is devoted to guest stars and the alternative comedy movement and there's a nearly hour-long look back at the show's production. Sadly, with input from only two of the five core cast members (Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle) and one of the three writers (Lise Mayer), the new stuff comes up short. It's disappointing that they couldn't muster the troupe for the 25th anniversary, especially Rik Mayall, who, as co-star and co-writer, could share stories from both sides of the camera. Instead, the two episode commentaries are provided by directors Geoff Posner and Paul Jackson, who also produced.
Posner and Jackson both have excellent memories (or were very well-prepared) and there's never a lull in the conversation. Sometimes they'll drop an interesting tidbit—like where the SPG puppet wound up, and how all the actors in one scene of the pilot had originally auditioned for the part of Mike—but mostly it's general trivia. Did you know that "Summer Holiday" is the only episode title in the series to use two words, or that you had to contact Margaret Quant if you needed a tuba for your program?
For an '80s sitcom, the picture quality is fantastic, although there is such a thing as too clean. BBC Video has done such an amazing job restoring the prints that stunt wires are more obvious than ever. The sound is a resounding "OK" and the DVD team gets bonus points for providing subtitles for both the shows and the extras. It's just too bad their editing machine wasn't taken away.
The folks at BBC Video couldn't have picked a better title for the Extra Stoopid Edition, as it pretty much sums up the product and their apparent opinion of consumers. Not only are you getting double dipped here, but neither edition has the original, uncut episodes.
Since the previous release is still available, you have a choice. If you're interested in the production side of things, go with the Extra Stoopid Edition, if you enjoy the actors, get Every Stoopid Episode, and if you'd just like to see the show the way it was aired, give BBC Video the two-finger salute instead of your cash.
The Young Ones is released on its own recognizance. BBC Video is found guilty of obstruction of DVD justice. Fascists.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• The Making of The Young Ones
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