The Young Ones (TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Young Ones
The Young Ones.png
Written byBen Elton
Rik Mayall
Lise Mayer
Additional material:
Alexei Sayle
Directed byPaul Jackson
Geoff Posner
Ed Bye
StarringAdrian Edmondson
Rik Mayall
Nigel Planer
Christopher Ryan
Alexei Sayle
Opening theme"The Young Ones" written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett performed by the cast (originally performed by Cliff Richard and The Shadows)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes12
Producer(s)Paul Jackson
Running timeapprox. 35 minutes
Original networkBBC Two
Original release9 November 1982 (1982-11-09) –
19 June 1984 (1984-06-19)
External links

The Young Ones is a British sitcom, broadcast in the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1984 in two six-part series. Shown on BBC2, it featured anarchic, offbeat humour which helped bring alternative comedy to British television in the 1980s and made household names of its writers and performers. In 1985, it was shown on MTV, one of the first non-music television shows on the fledgling channel. The show's title relates to the song of the same name, written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett, and sung by Cliff Richard and The Shadows, which was a No. 1 UK hit single.


The series was met with complete disbelief when the BBC first saw it, but thanks to the beginning of Channel 4 they decided to air it.

Producer Paul Jackson in 2008[1]

The Young Ones originated on London's comedy club circuit in the early 1980s, where most of the show's cast had gained popularity at The Comedy Store.[2] Alexei Sayle was the prominent act, drawing attention as the manic, aggressive compere. Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall worked as the double act 20th Century Coyote, which later became The Dangerous Brothers. Nigel Planer was also in a double act with Peter Richardson called "The Outer Limits".[3]

As The Comedy Store became popular, Sayle, 20th Century Coyote, and The Outer Limits, with French and Saunders and Arnold Brown, set up their own club called The Comic Strip in the Raymond Revuebar club in Soho.[4] The Comic Strip became one of the most popular comedy venues in London, and came to the attention of Jeremy Isaacs of Channel 4. Peter Richardson then negotiated a deal for six self-contained half-hour films, using the group as comedy actors rather than stand-up performers. In response, the BBC began negotiations with Edmondson, Mayall, Richardson, Planer and Sayle to star in a sitcom in a similar style. Paul Jackson was installed as a producer.[5] Richardson's project, The Comic Strip Presents..., aired on Channel 4's opening night on 2 November 1982, with The Young Ones following a week later on BBC2.

The series was written by Mayall, his then-girlfriend Lise Mayer,[6] and Ben Elton (who had attended the University of Manchester with Mayall and Edmondson). Richardson was originally set to play Mike, but clashed with Jackson.[3] He was replaced by Christopher Ryan, the only member of the group who was not a stand-up comedian. The show was voted number 31 in the BBC's Best Sitcom poll in 2004.[7]


The main characters were four undergraduate students who were sharing a house: aggressive punk medical student Vyvyan Basterd (Adrian Edmondson), conceited wannabe anarchist sociology student Rick (Rik Mayall), oppressed paranoid hippie peace studies student Neil Wheedon Watkins Pye (Nigel Planer), and the suave, charming would-be underground mob boss, Mike The-Cool-Person (Christopher Ryan). It also featured Alexei Sayle, who played various members of the Balowski family—most often Jerzei Balowski, the quartet's landlord—and occasional independent characters, such as the train driver in "Bambi" and the Mussolini-lookalike Police Chief in "Cash".[8]

The show combined traditional sitcom style with violent slapstick, non-sequitur plot turns, and surrealism. These older styles were mixed with the working and lower-middle class attitudes of the growing 1980s alternative comedy boom, in which all the principal performers except Ryan had been involved. Every episode except one featured a live performance by a band, including Madness, Motörhead, and The Damned. This was a device used to qualify the series for a larger budget, as "variety" shows attracted higher fees than "comedy".[9]


Stories were set in a squalid house where the four students lived during their time at the fictional Scumbag College.[2] It can be classified as a comedy of manners.[10]

When it was first broadcast, the show gained attention for its violent slapstick, which Edmondson and Mayall had been using in 20th Century Coyote for some time. The show, much like The Goodies before it, also featured surreal elements , such as puppets playing talking animals or objects. Confusion was added with lengthy cutaways with no relation to the main plot.[11] Throughout the series, the fourth wall was frequently broken for comedic effect by all characters at various parts of the show. The wall was usually broken as either a punchline to a joke or to make a plot point more obvious. On several occasions, Alexei Sayle broke both the fourth wall and character to address the audience in his real-life Liverpudlian accent.

The show featured a wide variety of guest appearances by comedians, actors, and singers, including co-creator Ben Elton, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Hale and Pace, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Mark Arden, Stephen Frost, Jools Holland, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Anthony Sharp, Terry Jones, Chris Barrie, Norman Lovett, Lenny Henry, David Rappaport, Robbie Coltrane, Tony Robinson, Andy De La Tour, and Emma Thompson.[12]

Episodes in the second series sometimes included "flash frames" (three frames, equivalent to one eighth of a second), but these were edited out of some repeats. These were included as a mockery of the public's fear of subliminal messages in television and music. Unlike original flash frames, which lasted only one frame, these were long enough to be noticeable without being identifiable. The images included the end caption of Carry On Cowboy, a rusty dripping tap, a leaping frog, a dove in flight, a skier, and a hand making pottery.[13] The episodes lasted 35 minutes, but are often edited to half-hour when repeated on the BBC or satellite channels.

International broadcast[edit]

In the United States, The Young Ones started airing on MTV on 5 June 1985.[14] The show also ran on PBS, USA Network's Night Flight, Comedy Central in 1994, and BBC America in the early 2000s.

In New Zealand, the show premièred late at night on 30 August 1985, after TVNZ purchased the broadcast rights.

In the Netherlands, the show was aired in 1985 by public broadcaster VPRO.

In Catalonia, public broadcaster TV3 began airing the show in February 1986 on a Sunday evening slot. The show became very popular and got several re-runs in successive years. Indeed, in 2016, Nigel Planer appeared in a show involving foreign travellers visiting Catalonia. One of the characteristics of the Catalan dubbing is that Vyvyan speaks with a thick Catalan rural accent, totally opposed to his urban environment in the series.


The series' theme song featured the cast singing Cliff Richard and The Shadows' UK No. 1 song "The Young Ones" (1961), the title song from the film of the same name. Throughout the series there are many references to Richard, as Mayall's character is a devout fan.[15]

The theme over the end credits was written by Peter Brewis, who also created the incidental music on many episodes.[16]

In 1984, after the second series, Planer (in character as Neil) reached No. 2 in the UK charts with a version of Traffic's "Hole in My Shoe". The accompanying Neil's Heavy Concept Album, a loose collection of songs and spoken comedy, included appearances by The Young Ones alumni Dawn French and Stephen Fry.[17]

In 1986 the cast sang "Living Doll" with Cliff Richard and Hank Marvin for Comic Relief. The song, a reworking of his 1959 hit, reached the top of the UK, Australian, and New Zealand Charts.[18]

Eleven of the twelve episodes had a musical guest performing in the house or street. By including the groups, the show qualified as variety rather than light entertainment by the BBC and was allocated a bigger budget than a sitcom. Groups that appeared included Dexys Midnight Runners, Motörhead, The Damned, and Madness, who appeared in two episodes. The one episode that featured no musical act still fulfilled the variety criteria by including a lion tamer whose presence also directly contributed to the plot.[15]

Some of these performances were omitted from DVD release for copyright reasons. Some musical acts were also edited out for similar reasons on some satellite reruns. On the 2007 DVD release, all the music acts are restored uncut.


Mike, Rick, Vyvyan and Neil representing Scumbag College on University Challenge

Mike "The-Cool-Person"[edit]

Portrayed by Christopher Ryan

Mike is the assumed leader of the group (within which Vyvyan is his enforcer) who frequently makes puns, which are either deliberately cheap or humorous. These confusing, profound-sounding phrases baffle the others (for example, when asked by Rick if he stole his half an apple, Mike replies; "Well, if you're gonna sin you might as well be original.") Mike is supposedly the 'ladies' man' and often brags of his prowess with women, although he is shown to share his bed with an inflatable sex doll and practically admitted his virginity to the others in "Nasty". He makes every attempt at wooing the opposite sex, being both forward and unsuccessful. During "Boring", however, he has an encounter with (and also instigated by) Vyvyan's mother, where (until after a comment made by Rick), he makes progress, although her direct approach initially worries Mike.

Mike is a con artist: he always has some kind of plan to make quick money such as renting out Rick's bedroom as a roller disco and taking bids for the unexploded atomic bomb that fell into the house. He also fancies himself to be a rising underground mob boss. Mike attends Scumbag College only nominally as he has blackmailed his tutor and the Dean of the school for grants and successful grades. This is shown in the title sequence of series 1 in which he is seen to pay a bribe in exchange for a qualification. In "Summer Holiday" he muses, "I think I'll ask for one of those PhDs next year." While it wasn't mentioned what he was studying at the college, when it once came up, in "Sick", by Mrs. Wheedon Watkins Pye when Neil was introducing him, he answers her, "I'm in, what you'd call, a school of life, Mrs. Pye" (before groping her).

While Mike often does things at the expense of, or to the detriment of, his housemates, he rarely expresses the sort of open hostility that Rick and Vyvyan do, and seems to cause his housemates trouble only when it benefits him, rather than out of sadistic joy. While it is rare for him to be victim to violence, he has been on a few occasions; such as when he was flirting with a Christian, this resulted in her repeatedly kneeing Mike in the crotch. At the end of the "Living Doll" song with Cliff Richard, Vyvyan hit Mike and everyone else over the head with a hammer, knocking them out. Also when Mike was trying to nail plates to the dining table, he managed to nail his own legs to the table in the process. On another occasion, Mike accidentally knocked Neil out during a game of cricket.

Mike has been shown to be helpful to the others on occasion; if any situation becomes problematic he does what he can to try and restore calm. He also tried to teach Vyvyan how to tell time in "Bambi" and in the final episode "Summer Holiday", he comforts Vyvyan when he bursts into tears after crashing his car and when SPG dies. He also appears to have more sense than the others; while he frequently says odd things and does little to stop his housemates causing chaos, he can be very rational if his own life is at risk or if he feels it's gone too far. Examples of this include trying to stop Vyvyan detonating the bomb, being concerned that Neil might suffocate when sick, forcing Vyvyan to stop using the dangerously modified vacuum cleaner and being the only one to have a (not very good) plan thought out when they rob the bank. Perversely, when it is not of personal interest, he often pretends to misunderstand things that people say or make up nonsense for his own amusement or convenience.

Although generally aloof and laid back, Mike loses his cool when his authority is questioned, however small. For example, in "Summer Holiday" when Vyvyan tells everyone to shut up he was very indignant that this included him. Mike is the shortest member of the four, and the best-dressed and groomed of all of them. In the final episode, Summer Holiday, Mike admits that he came from very poor beginnings out on the streets, and had sworn that he would never again go back to that life, thus his leap into a con artist's life in the first place.

Mike's surname is ambiguous, The Bachelor Boys book refers to him as "The Cool Person" several times, but in different styles including quotes.


Portrayed by Rik Mayall

Rick is a self-proclaimed anarchist who is studying sociology and/or domestic sciences (depending on the episode). Rick writes bad poetry,[19] and styles himself "The People's Poet", believing himself to be the "spokesperson for a generation"; he is in fact a hypocritical, tantrum-throwing, attention-seeking prima donna and Cliff Richard fan, or, as Vyvyan describes him, "The classic example of an only child!" Rick constantly tries to impress the others using wit and humour, despite not having any discernible talent. The only time he comes close to succeeding is when it seems like he has wooed a girl; this turns out to be a lie, however, and he is exposed and punished (beset by Vyvyan) almost immediately. He insults Neil at every opportunity, using Neil as a target and an outlet, picks fights and bickers with Vyvyan and attempts to impress Mike. He is portrayed as being so self-absorbed that he believes he is the "most popular member of the flat" despite being disliked by virtually everyone he knows; even though his housemates hate him, he claims that they all "really are terrific friends". This is further emphasised in the episode "Bambi" when Neil reads graffiti aloud from Rick's History 'O' Level text book; "Prick is a wonker- signed, The Rest of the Class" which Rick dismisses as banter until Neil further reads "I agree with the rest of the class – signed, Teacher."

He can't say the "R" sound correctly and instead enunciates a mixture of a "W" and a "R" sound. In the episode "Bomb", he dictates his name to a woman who looks up in confusion and repeats it back as "Wick?". Vyvyan, for his own amusement, describes Rick's name as being spelled "with a silent P", as he wrote it on Rick's name card ("PRick") during the University Challenge against Footlights College in the episode "Bambi".

Rick's political beliefs vary, depending on how they benefit his particular situation, but can usually be categorised as radical. While Rick sees himself as both a revolutionary and follower of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, in reality he has little understanding of the political ideals he purports to follow, and aspirations that far exceeds his reach. During "Cash" he is shown with a copy of Marx's Das Kapital, seemingly having fallen asleep while trying to read it.

He greatly dislikes Margaret Thatcher, as is noted by his threatening to blow up England with an atomic bomb in the episode "Bomb" if she "doesn't do something to help the kids, by this afternoon", and from negative references to Thatcher and the Conservative Party mentioned in The Young Ones book Bachelor Boys. However, Rick sometimes displays a markedly conservative mindset, contrary to the image he has adopted, as again in "Bomb" while talking to an old man at the DHSS office (which he has mistaken for a post office), and in Summer Holiday comments "That's one thing I'll say for Thatcher, she definitely has put this country back on its feet".

Rick is vegetarian, agnostic,[20] and wishes all men to love each other like brothers, except for Neil, whom he hates. This hatred is ironic as in theory he and Neil share many values, such as a longing for a peaceful world and a hatred for meat and alcohol. However unlike Neil, Rick has been known to both drink (see time sbd interesting[clarification needed]) and is occasionally physically violent, therefore his hatred of Neil merely shows his hypocrisy. Despite this he claims to care for the people but nearly everything he does is hypocritical and self-serving.

Rick exaggerates or lies about his political activism and class background, which is exposed in the final episode, "Summer Holiday", when it is suggested he comes from a well-off family with Conservative beliefs. He is a closet-transvestite, as during "Nasty" Neil finds a dress in Rick's wardrobe with his name stitched in it. In the episode "Cash", Rick admits to Mike that he is unable to tell the time, a trait that he shares with Vyvyan.

In an interview for the BBC series Comedy Connections, Ben Elton described Rick's character as the "try-hard wanna-be Leftie" typically found on university campuses.

Vyvyan Basterd[edit]

Portrayed by Adrian Edmondson

Vyvyan, often referred to as "Vyv", is a psychopathic, sociopathic, sadistic, misanthropic punk medical student. He has spiked red hair and four metal stars seemingly embedded into his forehead. He wears a denim waistcoat over a black T-shirt, a black studded belt across his denim jeans and bovver boots.[21] In the episode "Interesting", he drinks a pint of blue liquid which makes his hair fall out and the number 666 is visible on the side of his head. He is extremely violent and regularly attacks Neil and Rick with pieces of wood, cricket bats, other large objects or simply his fists. For some reason he looks up to Mike, whom he never attacks and often addresses as "Michael". He despises Rick more than he does Neil; for example when Rick, Mike and Neil meet his mother at a bar in the episode "Boring", he calls both Neil and Mike his friends, but refers to Rick as "a complete bastard." This antagonistic relationship between Rick and Vyvyan makes them virtually inseparable, as the two spend by far more time together than with the other housemates, albeit this time is spent fighting.

Vyvyan owns a talking Glaswegian hamster named Special Patrol Group ("SPG" for short) of whom he is very fond, although SPG is also frequently subjected to Vyvyan's extreme violence. This is usually provoked, such as when SPG bit Vyvyan and made him destroy his cardboard submarine in "Flood" or plugging in the TV after Vyvyan swallowed it in "Bomb". Vyvyan's mother is a barmaid and former shoplifter, who named him a girls name "Vyvyan", gave him his first gift (a box of matches) at 8-weeks-old, and before the events of "Boring" had not seen Vyvyan in ten years and still has no idea who his father is. Neil revealed that Vyvyan has more friends than the other housemates but "... apparently he doesn't like any of them."

Vyvyan occasionally displays feats of superhuman strength and resilience, such as surviving a pickaxe through his head, moving entire walls with his bare hands, lifting Neil above his head in a fight with Rick, biting through a brick (making the comment that some of the house's bricks explode), using dynamite to try and cure his hangover, and even being decapitated and re-attaching his own head. He eats just about anything from televisions and dead rats to caviar and cornflakes with ketchup.

Regardless of his violent and mostly simple-minded nature, Vyvyan seems to be the smartest of the group (though Neil does better in exams than him), and he has on a couple of occasions demonstrated his talent as a medical student. In the episode "Flood", he develops a potion to transform a person into an "axe-wielding homicidal maniac", claiming that "it's basically a cure... for not being an axe-wielding homicidal maniac... the potential market's enormous!". On occasion, he has made several eloquent statements regarding subjects ranging from Rick's manifest personality problems to the inherent dullness of The Good Life, and the end of "Oil" implies he manipulated the rest of the household, possibly for amusement. Vyvyan also appears to have good knowledge of electrics and technology; on one occasion he wired the doorbell to a bomb "to pep it up a bit" so the housemates would be able to hear it, and he also added a small car engine to the vacuum cleaner as previously it "looked a bit on the tentative side" which then proceeds to suck up the carpet, the floorboards and a friend of Neil's. The vacuum also prompted one of the few clashes between Vyvyan and Mike; when Mike admonished Vyvyan and told him not to use it any more, Vyvyan replied by calling him a "poof". In the episode "Nasty", the boys trap a vampire in their bathroom, and when he denies being a vampire, Vyvyan successfully tricks him into admitting that he is. In "Bambi" Vyvyan displays impressive mathematical talent as he worked out instantly that he has worn his three pairs of knickers 269 times each since their last wash. However, like Rick, he cannot tell the time from a watch.

Although Vyvyan is constantly unruly, he does possess a compassionate side; primarily in the episode "Cash", when he thought he was pregnant he was considering names to call his baby and he also patted his "bump" saying "that's my boy!" when it hit Rick in the face and knocked him into the fireplace. Also when Vyvyan began having "contractions" he appealed to the other housemates for help, this led to Neil getting a job in the police force (it was later revealed that he just had a really bad case of built-up gas). On another occasion, in the last episode "Summer Holiday" Vyvyan dissolved into tears because he crashed his car and also because it caused SPG's death while he was asleep on the car's radiator.

Vyvyan is the only member of the group who owns a car, a yellow Ford Anglia with red flames painted along the sides and has "Vyv" written across the back window. Neil is forbidden from touching his car, as when he suggested using it to listen to a tape, Vyvyan cheerfully reminded him that he would be killed if he even touched the car. He also appears to have exceptional knowledge of driving and road awareness, as he demonstrated when he tricked the vampire in "Nasty" to admitting he was really a vampire rather than a driving instructor as he had initially said. Vyvyan is not the only house member who can drive, however, during the last episode Rick is briefly seen driving the stolen AEC Routemaster double-decker bus.

Neil Pye[edit]

Portrayed by Nigel Planer.

Neil Pye is a morose, pacifist, vegetarian hippie working toward a Peace Studies degree. He is frequently victimised by the other housemates and forced to do the housework, shopping, cleaning and cooking. He is never acknowledged for it unless it goes wrong. He normally provides tea to drink and cornflakes or lentils for his housemates to eat.

Neil is a pessimist and believes everyone and everything hates him, although he does have three hippie friends; one also named Neil, one named Warlock and a female hippie named Stonehenge.[22] This makes him the second most sociable character behind Vyvyan and also the only character to have a female friend. He dislikes most forms of technology except for televisions and video recorders. He appears to be a fan of cartoon series Scooby-Doo; the possibility of missing an episode is his major concern when the house is transported back to the Middle Ages in 'Time'. He avoids sleep, believing that it causes cancer, and in the episode "Boring" he is shown to merely be standing at his window waiting for dawn. Neil frequently demonstrates a very literal interpretation of terms and phrases. For example, when Vyvyan says that his mother used to be a shoplifter, Neil responds "She doesn't look strong enough... to lift shops".

Neil wants the others to feel sorry for him, or just acknowledge his presence. He claims "the most interesting thing that ever happens to me is sneezing", the force of which is sufficient to blow a door off its hinges.

In the pilot episode "Demolition", Neil is shown to have suicidal tendencies, attempting to kill himself at least three times. However, this was not carried through for the rest of the series, with the exception of the episode "Boring", in which he attempts to kill himself in a desperate attempt at relieving boredom. On only two occasions has Neil shown any form of aggression; this was when Rick insulted Neil's flared trousers in the episode 'Nasty'. He also seemed to enjoy hitting people with his truncheon when he became a police officer in "Cash" and did the same to his housemates when he thought they had committed a robbery.

In the episode "Sick" in the second series, Neil's parents are introduced as upper middle class Tories who look down on Neil for starring in such a disreputable comedy series. His father wonders why his son cannot be in a nice comedy, such as the ones Neil's mother likes e.g. The Good Life. This provokes an angry tirade from Vyvyan, on his hatred of that show, followed by a parody episode of The Good Life where Neil is killed by Rick and covered with garden fertiliser only for several of him to emerge from the ground later on.

As established in Neil's Heavy Concept Album, Neil comes from Twickenham (his name punning on Eel Pie Island). His middle names ("Wheedon Watkins") are revealed in Neil's Book of the Dead.

He is a fan of Hawkwind, Marillion, and Steve Hillage. More information about his musical tastes was revealed when the character 'guest v-jayed' on the still young MTV network in ca. 1985, playing several videos (e.g. T. Rex, "Get It On"), including his own hit "Hole in My Shoe", a cover version of the Traffic song which Nigel Planer, as his character "neil" [with a small 'n'], took to number 2 in the UK singles chart in July 1984.

Balowski family[edit]

Throughout the two series, Alexei Sayle routinely appeared as many different characters, interjecting his own material into the programme in ways that emulated his comedy routines. His main role was that of the flat's landlord Jerzei (Jeremy) Balowski, which was the only character he reprised, appearing in "Demolition", "Flood" and "Summer Holiday". The rest of the time, he was billed as playing various male members of "The Balowski Family", including nephew "Alexei Yuri Gagarin Siege of Stalingrad Glorious Five Year Plan Sputnik Tractor Moscow Dynamo Back Four Balowski"[note 1] (a protest singer), son Reggie Balowski (an international arms dealer), brother Billy Balowski (a lunatic who believed he was a taxi driver), cousin Tommy Balowski (a drunk), escaped convict Brian Damage Balowski, and a medieval jester "Jester Balowski" (with Helen Lederer as his sidekick).

Jerzei was apparently Russian; however, several times during the series he would break character, or in one case the fourth wall and declare directly to the camera "I'm not really foreign, you know – I just do it to appear more sophisticated!" Also during a discussion between the guys about his nationality Vyv comments "He certainly knows a lot about the Mersey Sound."— implying he is in fact from Liverpool, although he is so worried when Mike lies about a visit from Moscow Dynamo ice hockey squad that he allows the gang to renege on their monthly rent.

In the second series, Sayle's characters also included a train driver, a Benito Mussolini look-alike (by day the head of the local police force, by night an entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest), "Harry the Bastard" (manager of the local Rumbelows electrical goods store, disguised as a South African vampire) and, very briefly in an aside sketch that deliberately bore no relevance to the plot, a man in a bowler hat asking if he was in a cheese shop (a reference to the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch).

In-house relations[edit]

Mike is the natural "leader" of the house. Always trying to make himself appear more important and exciting than he really is, he does appear to have done some of the things he claims to have done (such as getting Bambi the "Babycham" Advert in "Bambi"). He experiences little hostility from the other members of the house. If there is any "fruitful" or amicable relationship in the house it is between Mike and Vyvyan. Vyvyan accepts Mike's role as the house leader whereas Mike needs Vyvyan's physique and willingness to act forcibly to enforce his own authority (as was literally shown in "Oil" when Vyvyan became 'Col. Vyvyan', the right-hand-man to Mike's 'El Presidente').

Neil is unpopular, although he is the only one who performs any kind of household chores and is therefore needed by the other three.

Rick is the most disliked although he thinks very highly of himself. He tells poor jokes and stories (but finds them hilarious himself), is a would-be anarchist (although deep-down he is quite conservative), and frequently acts like a child when he does not get his way. He generally vents his frustration (when trying to impress the others) on Neil, since Neil never sticks up for himself and is ignored by the others. The majority of his anger is generated in endless battles with Vyvyan, which he invariably loses.

Rik Mayall once opined that the characters in The Young Ones form the basis of a classic nuclear family, comprising Neil as the mother figure, Mike as the father figure and Vyvyan and Rick as the children, Vyvyan the boy and Rick the girl.[23]

The fifth housemate[edit]

In the first six episodes of the series, a person whose hair covers their face appears in the background of some scenes, such as to the left when Neil gets hit by Vyvyan with a kettle in "Bomb". In the episode Demolition he appears slumped against the back wall when Rick is watching TV.[23] These rumours of a mysterious fifth housemate have been the subject of fan speculation on the internet. In 2016 journalist Peter Farquhar sent members of the cast and crew email enquiries about this unnamed character. Writer Ben Elton replied saying "I have no idea what you are talking about I'm afraid..." but Geoff Posner, one of the directors of the series replied saying that he and Paul Jackson "thought it would be fun to have some ghostly figure in the background of some scenes that was never explained or talked about..." [24]

During an event at the Bristol Slapstick Festival 2018, Ade Edmondson was asked about the fifth housemate during an audience question session and named the person playing the 'fifth housemate' as his university friend Mark Dewison. Mark also played a speaking role as Neil's friend (also called 'Neil') during series one episode "Interesting". He emerges from Vyvyan's full vacuum cleaner bag and ends up being shoved into the fridge by Rick.

In an exclusive documentary How the Young Ones Changed Comedy[25] that aired in 2018 on Gold, series co-writer Lise Mayer stated that the idea was there had been a party at the student house at some point in the past and there was a person who had just never left. This is why you see them just hanging around.


In the final episode, the four students steal a red AEC Routemaster after robbing a bank (Special Patrol Group dies during their escape), only to drive it through a billboard with a picture of Cliff Richard on it and then over a cliff,[26] which the bus tumbles down until it comes to rest at the bottom, at which point they proclaim—in unison—"Phew! That was close!", after which the bus explodes. Although Vyvyan and some of the others have had (what should have been) fatal accidents before without suffering any real effects, this time it really signified the end of the series. Even so, it did not stop The Young Ones from occasionally appearing on TV afterwards for charity, such as in Comic Relief in 1986 with a video clip and live performance of Living Doll.

Filming locations[edit]

Although the series was set in north London, many external scenes were filmed in Bristol, namely the suburb of Bishopston, where the student house is situated at the top of Codrington Road. Other locations include the Fascist Pig Bank, the Launderette and the Army Careers Office, all around the corner on Gloucester Road. The pub in which Vyvyan's mum works, the Kebab and Calculator in the series, was the Cock of the North (since renamed the Westbury Park Tavern) in Northumbria Drive, Bristol.[27] A brief scene in a pharmacy was filmed outside GK Chemists, now taken over by Lloyds Pharmacy, in St Johns Lane, Bedminster. The shop was renamed "OK Chemists" for the scene, in which Mike goes to buy cough medicine, but orders £180 worth of Durex condoms instead—"Force of habit".

All four characters attended the fictional Scumbag College. As Neil sometimes wore a University of London T-shirt, it seems likely that Scumbag is one of the University of London's constituent colleges, although they were never seen attending the institution and were rarely seen studying.

After the series[edit]

The end of the series was not the last appearance of The Young Ones. For the British charity television appeal Comic Relief, the four recorded a song and video for Cliff Richard's "Living Doll", accompanied by Richard and Shadows guitarist Hank B. Marvin. Alexei Sayle was not involved, as he felt collaborating with Richard was against the alternative ethos of the show, but had already achieved chart success in 1984 with "'Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?".

In 1984, Planer released an album of music and skits in character as Neil, entitled Neil's Heavy Concept Album. Musical direction was by Canterbury scene keyboardist Dave Stewart. It featured Stewart's alums Barbara Gaskin, Jakko Jakszyk, Pip Pyle, Gavin Harrison, Jimmy Hastings and Rick Biddulph. "Hole in My Shoe", a single taken from the LP, reached number 2. Soulwax used "Hello Vegetables" to kick off their Radio Soulwax mix "Introversy."[28]

In 1985, MTV aired edited versions of the episodes.

At the 1986 Comic Relief stage shows, The Young Ones performed "Living Doll" live (following a short skit which involved Rick doing a comic song about showing his underwear and bodily parts, before being ejected from the group by Mike, and Vyvyan supposedly having backstage sex with Kate Bush with Neil as his contraceptive). The skit climaxed with Neil claiming Cliff Richard could not perform with them as he was "doing time" (the musical Time was premiering the following week) and John Craven had been booked as a replacement, only for Cliff to then appear. However he was only available to appear on the second night of the run, with Bob Geldof replacing him on the other two nights.[29]

On one occasion, Edmondson, Mayall and Planer as their "Young Ones" characters did a parody of the song "My Generation" by The Who.

Mayall, Planer, and Edmondson reunited in 1986 for the Elton-written Filthy Rich & Catflap. The series had many of the same characteristics as The Young Ones as did Mayall and Edmondson's next sitcom Bottom. Ryan, for his part, was regularly recruited to play roles on associated series (such as Happy Families, Bottom and Absolutely Fabulous). Mayall, Edmondson and Planer have also appeared in episodes of Blackadder.

Both series were repeated consecutively over twelve weeks in early 1985, but went unrepeated for four years, when the second series was shown on BBC2. In the mid-1990s all twelve episodes of The Young Ones were shown on BBC2 in a 30-minute revised format, missing scenes and dialogue. The series was also shown on digital channel UK Gold throughout the 1990s. A mix of both the edited and unedited versions was shown in the 2000s (decade) on UKTV G2 and Paramount Comedy 1.

DVD releases were initially very basic: Only the US "Every Stoopid Episode" edition featured excerpts from existing documentaries, and no extra footage was included. Musical references proved difficult to clear so "The Sounds of Silence" (one line) and "Subterranean Homesick Blues" were excised from the US editions. A new DVD release of all episodes ("Extra Stoopid Edition") was launched in November 2007, containing new documentaries and two commentary tracks. This edition restores the line from "The Sounds of Silence" and "Subterranean Homesick Blues". The music video "Living Doll" featuring Cliff Richard has not been included on any edition, and neither is the live performance done for comic relief in 1986.[29]

American pilot episode[edit]

A pilot episode was filmed of an American version of The Young Ones, titled Oh, No! Not THEM!. It featured Planer as Neil and Jackie Earle Haley,[30] and had a claymation opening credit sequence. The Fox network did not pick up the series. It was produced by David Mirkin.[30]

Robert Llewellyn wrote in his book The Man in the Rubber Mask (1994):

The Young Ones was taken over the Atlantic in the mid eighties, and Nigel [Planer] was the only member of the British cast to go. He had experienced a fairly hideous time, worried sick that he was going to have to stay there for six years with a group of people he hated who managed to make The Young Ones into a sort of grubby Benny Hill Show. He was hugely relieved when the pilot was a flop and he was released from his contract.

Links to other shows[edit]

In the episode "Bambi", the housemates appeared on University Challenge, where they played against Footlights College, Oxbridge, a reference to the Footlights drama club at Cambridge University. The Footlights College team was played by show writer Ben Elton and three actors who were once members of the real Cambridge Footlights: Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, the last of whom had actually appeared on the quiz show while at Cambridge. The episode title is a reference to the show's presenter, Bamber Gascoigne, impersonated by Griff Rhys Jones.[31]

In the episode "Sick", the quartet enter a scenario parodying The Good Life, after Neil's mother says the sitcom should be more like The Good Life and Vyvyan has an outburst against it, saying, "It's so bloody nice! Felicity 'Treacle' Kendal and Richard 'Sugar-Flavoured Snot' Briers! They're nothing but a couple of reactionary stereotypes, confirming the myth that everyone in Britain is a lovable middle-class eccentric. And I hate them!"[32]

Mayall and Edmondson elaborated on some of the series' concepts later in their sitcoms Filthy Rich & Catflap (written by Elton, with additional material by Mayall) and Bottom (written by Mayall and Edmondson. Christopher Ryan also made appearances as the character "Dave Hedgehog").

Most of the regular cast (and several of the guests) also appeared in Channel 4 and BBC2's The Comic Strip Presents comedy shows. All four main actors went on to gain reputations as both dramatic and comic actors.

In 1990, ITV puppet series Spitting Image made reference to The Young Ones when four members of the Margaret Thatcher cabinet reminisced about their younger days, with all four playing one Young Ones character each – Cecil Parkinson as Mike, Douglas Hurd as Vyvyan, Michael Heseltine as Rick and Geoffrey Howe as Neil.


When originally broadcast, episodes were shown on BBC2 Tuesdays at 9 pm.

Series 1 (1982)[edit]

Ep Title Musical performance Original air date PC
11"Demolition"Nine Below Zero
performing "11+11"
9 November 1982 (1982-11-09)101
The boys get a letter from the council telling them their squalid house will be demolished. Vyvyan attempts to stop the demolition by beating the construction crew to it, while Mike tries to sweet-talk the crew, Rick ties himself to a giant cross and Neil attempts suicide.
22"Oil"Radical Posture (with Alexei Sayle)
performing "Dr. Martens Boots"
16 November 1982 (1982-11-16)102
Upon moving into a new house (their old one was hit by a plane in "Demolition"), Vyvyan announces that he has struck oil in the cellar. Mike forces Rick and Neil to do the mining, but Rick retaliates by holding a benefit concert for himself and Neil in the living room.
performing "House of Fun"
23 November 1982 (1982-11-23)103
The boys attempt to fight off boredom whilst several very exciting things go unnoticed around them.
44"Bomb"Dexys Midnight Runners
performing "Jackie Wilson Said"
30 November 1982 (1982-11-30)104
An unexploded atomic bomb falls through the boys' roof and blocks the refrigerator, so Rick tries to hold the country to ransom with it, Mike attempts to sell it to the highest bidder while Neil builds a bomb shelter and Vyvyan tries to detonate the thing. But worse, a television licence inspector calls, forcing Vyvyan to devour the TV.
55"Interesting"Rip Rig + Panic (with Andrea Oliver)
performing "You're My Kind of Climate"
7 December 1982 (1982-12-07)105
The boys host a party that gets out of hand.
66"Flood"No musical performance, but a lion tamer does perform to the song
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by Tight Fit
14 December 1982 (1982-12-14)106
During heavy rains, London floods. Vyvyan briefly visits Narnia during a game of hide-and-seek, and the boys attempt to cook Neil as a solution to their food problems. But the boys are distracted when they realise that they are trapped in the house with a homicidal, axe-wielding Mr. Balowski.

Series 2 (1984)[edit]

Ep Title Musical performance Original air date PC
performing "Ace of Spades"
8 May 1984 (1984-05-08)201
It's wash day and the boys go to the launderette. They also have to get to Manchester to compete against Footlights College, Oxbridge in University Challenge.
82"Cash"Ken Bishop's Nice Twelve
performing "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
Alexei Sayle
performing "Stupid Noises"
15 May 1984 (1984-05-15)202
Vyvyan believes he's having a baby! But the boys are cash-strapped and burning all of their possessions for heat, so Neil is forced (by his housemates) to join the police force to earn money.
93"Nasty"The Damned
performing "Nasty"
29 May 1984 (1984-05-29)203
A strange package from South Africa interferes with the boys' plans to watch a video nasty on a rented VCR.
performing "Moonlight Romance"
5 June 1984 (1984-06-05)204
Rick wakes up in bed next to a beautiful girl, and the house passes through a time warp.
performing "Our House"
12 June 1984 (1984-06-12)205
While ill, the boys must deal with an escaped criminal and worse, Neil's parents.
126"Summer Holiday"John Otway
performing "Body Talk"
19 June 1984 (1984-06-19)206
Summer is here and the lads finally get their results.

Home media[edit]

Both series of The Young Ones have both been released on DVD individually and in a special edition boxset in both regions 2 and 4. Region 1 has two boxsets, one being just series 1 & 2, the other being series 1 & 2 special edition. The entire series is also available for download on iTunes,

DVD Title No. of Discs Year Episodes DVD release
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series 1 1 1982 6 5 August 2002 29 August 2002
Complete Series 2 1 1984 6 18 August 2003 1 October 2003
Complete Series 1 & 2 2 1982 & 1984 12 17 September 2002
Complete Series 1 & 2
Special Edition
3 1982 & 1984 12 13 November 2007 29 October 2007 7 November 2007

The original VHS releases were in a set of 4, each tape containing 3 episodes. Though the Series 1 and 2 DVDs are rated 15 and three of the VHS releases were rated PG. There was also complete series 1 and complete series 2 VHS releases.[33]

Video game[edit]

The Young Ones is a video game based on the British comedy television series of the same name.[34]

The game takes place in the students' home. The player can choose to play as either Mike, Neil, Vyvyan or Rick to explore the house and enter different rooms. The other characters become computer-controlled players. All characters can move around the house, pick up and drop objects, as well as break and fix things. The characters often talk, giving the player clues as to what the character is intended to do. The aim of the game is to try and move out of the house with all the character's belongings in the shortest time possible. This is not so easy, because these possessions are typically not in their preferred condition, or are hidden around the house, and players need various tools to get to them. The other characters will move around the house, behaving in-character, occasionally moving around or further damaging the possessions - making the task harder.

The game was published by Orpheus Software, based in Hatley St George in Bedfordshire. The Young Ones characters were licensed from the owners of the BBC TV series, Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and Lise Mayer.

Due to difficulty in licensing the original series music from the BBC, an alternative music sound track was commissioned to sound similar to the original theme. Over 10,000 copies of the game were sold, mainly through Boots stores, Woolworths, and independent computer stores. Due to obscure bugs in the software, it was impossible to solve the game, although few users realised this at the time. Orpheus ceased trading before the problems could be remedied.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer (1984). Bachelor Boys: The Young Ones Book. Sphere Books ltd. ISBN 978-0-7221-5765-7.
  • Nigel Planer and Terence Blacker (1984). Neil's Book of the Dead. HarperCollins Distribution Services. ISBN 978-0-9075-1642-2.


  1. ^ Referencing the astronaut Yuri Gagarin, the Siege of Stalingrad during World War II, the Five-Year Plans for the National Economy of the Soviet Union, Sputnik the first artificial satellite, and the Moscow Dynamo sports team.


  1. ^ "Rik jokes about uni's 'terrible mistake' as he's made a doctor". 10 July 2008. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2012. Paul [Jackson] paid tribute [...] "The series was met with complete disbelief when the BBC first saw it, but thanks to the beginning of Channel 4 they decided to air it. [...]"
  2. ^ a b "The Young Ones". BBC. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b Duguid, Mark. "Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights (1980)". BFI BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  4. ^ "The Comic Strip Presents..." Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  5. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Young Ones, The (1982-84)".
  6. ^ Monahan, Mark (9 June 2015). "Rik Mayall: his 10 best performances". Telegraph. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  7. ^ "BBC - Britain's Best Sitcom - Top 11 to 100". 2 January 2007. Archived from the original on 2 January 2007.
  8. ^ Smith, Evan. "To understand Thatcherite Britain, all you need is The Young Ones". The Conversation. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  9. ^ Ham, Robert. "Ranking The Young Ones' Musical Performances". Paste. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  10. ^ Macgregor, Jody. "The Young Ones". All Music. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Worst to Best. The Young Ones". Anorak Zone. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  12. ^ Quirk, Justin (20 October 2007). "'Shut up you hippy!'". Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  13. ^ "The Young Ones Flashframe Pictures".
  14. ^ "MTV 30th Birthday". MTV Press. Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  15. ^ a b Giuffre, Liz; Hayward, Philip (2017). Music in Comedy Television: Notes on Laughs. Taylor & Francis. p. 63. ISBN 9781317273578.
  16. ^ "The Young Ones (1982–1984) Full Cast & Crew". IMDB. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  17. ^ Heuck, Marc Edward. ""The Young Ones": The '80s British sitcom helped define the MTV generation's sense of humor". Nightflight. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  18. ^ Davis, Sharon (2012). 80s Chart-Toppers: Every Chart-Topper Tells a Story. Random House. ISBN 9781780574110.
  19. ^ "Rik Mayall, star of The Young Ones, dies aged 56". BBC News. BBC. 9 June 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Interesting". The Young Ones. Series 1. Episode 5. 7:58 minutes in.
  21. ^ Mortimer, Ruth (1 December 2001). "Too bootilicious for your feet: call them what you like -- Dr Martens, Doc Martens, DMs, Docs -- but very few shoes have a youth following like Doc Martens". Brand Strategy. Archived from the original on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2013. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  22. ^ "Cash". The Young Ones. Series 2. Episode 2.
  23. ^ a b "British Comedy: The Young Ones FAQ (2/2) v1.43".
  24. ^ Farquhar, Peter (18 June 2016). "REVEALED: There really was a creepy fifth housemate lurking in cult British TV show The Young Ones".
  25. ^ "How The Young Ones Changed Comedy". Gold.UKTV, producer Sean Doherty. 28 May 2018.
  26. ^ Kamm, Juergen; Neumann, Brigit (2016). British TV Comedies: Cultural Concepts, Contexts and Controversies. Springer. p. 141. ISBN 9781137552952.
  27. ^ "The Young Ones walk in Bristol". BBC. 22 October 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  28. ^ "Neil's Heavy Concept Album". All Music. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  29. ^ a b "Comic Relief 1986". Comic Relief. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  30. ^ a b "Pilots & Series". Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  31. ^ "Bambi". BBC. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  32. ^ Logan, Brian (3 March 2013). "Grieve for The Good Life? Not this Young One". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  33. ^ "Buy The Young Ones". BBC. Archived from the original on 28 September 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  34. ^ "The Young Ones". Giant Bomb. Retrieved 23 September 2017.

External links[edit]