Bambi (The Young Ones)

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"Bambi"
The Young Ones episode
Episode no. Series 2
Episode 1
Directed by Geoff Posner
Written by Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer
Produced by Paul Jackson
Featured music Peter Brewis
Original air date 8 May 1984
Running time 34:52
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Flood"
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"Cash"

"Bambi" was the seventh episode of British sitcom The Young Ones. It was written by Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer, and directed by Geoff Posner. It was first aired on BBC2 on 8 May 1984, as the premiere episode of the show's second season. It is one of the most remembered episodes for its famous University Challenge sequence. This scene also showcased the two emerging sides of British comedy at the time: The Young Ones, representative of the new British 'Punk' Alternative Comedy scene, against Comedians who represented the new 'Oxbridge' Comedy Scene.

Plot[edit]

Mike's concern over the quartet's hygiene prompts a first visit to the launderette in almost three years, a decision made all the more urgent, and obvious, by the escape--and subsequent murder--of one of Vyvyan's deadliest socks.

The washing session goes well until one of the washing machines spits out the quartet's putrid clothing and all other machines deny them access. Vyvyan decides to use a "special blend of psychology and extreme violence" to trick one of the machines: he mentions Felicity Kendal's underwear and then forces their laundry into a lustful machine. Unfortunately, the group realises that none of them has the 50 pence pieces required by the machines. Feeling discouraged, they all agree to remain dirty.

Suddenly Neil remembers the housemates are due to appear on University Challenge that very evening to represent Scumbag College. The group's hectic rush to catch the train (while Motörhead plays "Ace of Spades" in their living room) leads to an unsuccessful cross-country train ride, complete with last-ditch swotting from Neil and hissy fits from Rick. Vyvyan claims to have done his homework properly, and tries to show off by having Neil ask him questions from the literature he used, a hefty tome entitled "The Daily Mirror Book of Facts". The answer to both questions Neil asks (The world's record for stuffing marshmallows up one single nostril (604) and World's stickiest bogey) is Toxteth O'Grady, USA.

Vyvyan's self-decapitation, having stuck his head out of the window (contrary to written warnings) as the train went into a tunnel, results in a muddy hitchhike. After two weeks, they finally arrive at the studios, where Vyv tries to smuggle in a pig (which he describes as a ferret named "Bacon Sandwich") as their mascot. They also meet Mike's friend Bambi, the fawn from the Disney classic who is now grown up and has "lost a lot of fur" and is "walking on two legs," as Mike points out. Bambi is the show's host (a play on Bamber Gascoigne's name), but refuses Rick's request to let the quartet win.

During the game, their opponents – the well-to-do Footlights college team, from Oxbridge – take a commanding lead, as Neil becomes preoccupied with asking Bambi for permission to go to the toilet. Frustrated at not receiving questions they can answer, an angry Vyvyan uses a World War II-era German stick grenade and blows up the rival students. Mike's quick answers begin Scumbag College's comeback, much to Vyvyan's dismay (having told Mike some of the answers earlier on the train), before a trick question from Bambi reveals Rick's shenanigans of swapping the question cards.

The affronted audience heckle the group, and begin to hurl items at them. They are suddenly squashed by a gigantic éclair dropped by a medical doctor (Robbie Coltrane), who has been observing the events of the episode as a culture under a microscope. The Doctor then feeds the éclair to Jumbo, his elephant subject, supposedly a horribly disfigured man, a reference to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man.[1]

Cast[edit]

As with all episodes of The Young Ones, the main four characters were student flatmates Mike (Christopher Ryan); Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson); Rick (Rik Mayall); and Neil (Nigel Planer). The titles character was portrayed by Griff Rhys Jones in a parody of real-life University Challenge presenter Bamber Gascoigne, while Jones' comedy partner Mel Smith has a cameo as a security guard. The opposing University Challenge team, from (the fictional) Footlights College, Oxbridge, comprises Lord Monty (Hugh Laurie); Lord Snot (Stephen Fry: who had himself appeared on University Challenge while a Cambridge student); Miss Money-Sterling (Emma Thompson); and Kendal Mintcake (Ben Elton). Alexei Sayle appears briefly as a train driver to deliver his trademark monologue. Robbie Coltrane and Tony Robinson portray the medical doctor and his assistant. The episode's musical guests, the heavy metal group Motörhead, perform the 1980 single "Ace of Spades".

The episode's cast is notable for its extensive overlap with Blackadder. Also written by Ben Elton, the latter programme co-starred Tony Robinson (Baldrick), Stephen Fry (Melchett), Hugh Laurie (George), and repeatedly featured Rik Mayall and Robbie Coltrane in guest roles.

Alexei Sayle's criticism of "Bambi"[edit]

Writing for The Guardian in 2013, Alexei Sayle claimed that "Bambi" had a detrimental effect on the UK alternative comedy scene of the 1980s:

What I didn't understand, despite all my years of Marxist study groups, was that every revolution contains within it the seeds of its own destruction, and ours soon began to mutate in ways I could never have predicted. For me, the turning point, the moment resembling Oliver Cromwell's suppression of the Levellers, was the making of the "Bambi" episode for the second series of The Young Ones, broadcast in 1984.

I turned up for the recording to find several generations of Cambridge Footlights were in the show. "I thought these people were the enemy!" I railed at the writers. "The whole point of what we were doing was surely to challenge the smug hegemony of the Oxford, Cambridge, public-schoolboy comedy network, as well as destroying the old-school working men's club racists!"

"No, that was just you," the writers replied. "We never subscribed to your demented class-war ravings. We think all these people are lovely. Stephen Fry's made us lardy cake, Hugh Laurie's been playing boogie-woogie piano all morning, Mel Smith's going to take us for a ride in his gold Rolls-Royce, and Griff Rhys Jones has been screaming abuse at minions to make us laugh."

I realised that what had begun – in my mind – as a radical experiment was slowly moving towards the centre, and I had ceased to be its leader.[2]


References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Young Ones – Bambi". Transcription of the "Young Ones" episode "Bambi" as it aired on American MTV in the mid-'80s. Archived from the original on 9 March 2007. Retrieved 10 February 2007. 
  2. ^ Sayle, Alexei (22 January 2013). "Alexei Sayle: 'I'm still full of hate'". The Guardian.