Shiny Shelf

The Young Ones: Series One DVD

By Eddie Robson on 08 November 2002

This is something that should have come out on DVD aaaages ago. The Young Ones easily ranks alongside British TV’s best ever sitcoms, with the added benefit that it stands up to more re-watching than most. I can personally testify to this because three of the episodes on this disc – Oil, Boring and Flood – were on an ancient VHS with no sleeve that I picked up from a car boot sale at the age of twelve. I only had about four videos at the time (the others were Count Duckula, a Troughton-era Dr Who and Goals! Every Goal of Italia 90) and I watched this tape endlessly.

Because I couldn’t really remember a time before The Young Ones – I was three when these episodes first aired – the show didn’t seem rooted in any particular context. It wasn’t until later that I came to appreciate the extent to which it was a reaction to the 1970s, to both the disastrous politics and smug, unchallenging comedy. The criticisms of Thatcher were invisible to me because, by the time I saw it, slagging her off was par for the course. I didn’t even realise that the characters were students at first. After all, they never went to any lectures (which was, of course, the point). All of these things made sense to me later.

Of course The Young Ones is rooted in a context. It’s the ultimate document of a student lifestyle which barely existed in the 1960s and is almost dead today. Whilst today’s students are still a workshy bunch, the abolition of grants and the provision of loans means that students don’t have to be thrifty or live in semi-squalor, they just unthinkingly accept that they’ll be shackled to repayments for the ten years after they graduate, so that when they get out they have to take a job that has little or nothing to do with their degree subject or, indeed, anything that they’re interested in just so they can work their way out of debt.

That’s right. Think on.

Then there’s the other component of The Young Ones, which is the joyful disregard for any kind of dramatic rules or, indeed, any kind of consistent reality. If it’s funny it’s permissible, and that includes talking carrots, musical guests, the magical kingdom of Narnia and flooding London: the show digresses constantly, becoming something else entirely for a minute-and-a-half before returning to this week’s ‘plot’. The characters are also half-aware that they’re only characters in a sitcom and Rik in particular is willing to hijack the show to make pretentious political points. The Young Ones has no time for drama – this is comedy in its purest form.

And now, at last, I can stop worrying about that ancient VHS snapping half-way through scene where Mike finds Buddy Holly hanging from his ceiling.

Buy it now at Blackstar, unless you’re some kind of fascist.

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By Eddie Robson

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