The Young Ones is a British sitcom, first broadcast in 1982, which ran for two series on BBC2. Its anarchic, offbeat humour helped bringalternative comedy to 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 main characters were four undergraduate students sharing a house: violent punk Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson), pompous would-be anarchist Rick (Rik Mayall), long-suffering hippie Neil (Nigel Planer), and the suave and diminutive Mike (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".
The show combined traditional sitcom style with violent slapstick, non sequitur plot turns, and surrealism. These older styles were mixed with theworking 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.
The show was voted number 31 in the BBC's Best Sitcom poll in 2004.
The series originated on London's comedy club circuit during the late 1970s. Most of the cast gained popularity at The Comedy Store. Alexei Saylewas 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 in a double act with Peter Richardson called The Outer Limits.
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 Revue Bar club in Soho. 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. 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, 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. He was replaced by Christopher Ryan, the only member of the group who was not a stand-up comedian
Stories were set in a squalid house where the students lived during their time as students of Scumbag College.
When it was first broadcast the show gained attention for its slapstick violent comedy. Though new to mainstream audiences Mayall and Edmondosn had been using it in 20th century Coyote for some time. The show also featured surrealist elements such as puppets playing talking animals or objects.