14 April 2012

Alternative Comedy: The Young Ones

Tucked away in the TV pages of the Sun, 31/10/1981, was some interesting news about telly comedy. TV writer Charles Catchpole traced off-beat telly comedy back to Monty Python, which had begun in 1969. And of course that was inspired by The Goon Show, which had first aired in the 1950s. In the early 1980s "alternative comedy", anarchic, left-wing, proto-PC and generally a breath of fresh air, blasted onto our TV screens...

Jimmy Gilbert, head of light entertainment, has commissioned a try-out show for a possible series to be called "The Young Ones".

It promises to be one of the boldest ideas ever tried on telly. It will mix situation comedy, revue humour, fantasy and rock music.

The idea for "The Young Ones" was born out of the success of three off-beat shows - "Boom Boom Out Go The Lights", "Three Of A Kind", and "A Kick Up The Eighties".

It will star Rik Mayall, 23, alias Kevin Turvey of "A Kick Up The Eighties", as a down-at-heel student, sharing a flat with three friends.

Other parts will be played by three of the most promising of Britain's young comedians - Ade Edmundson, Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle.

Edmundson is Rik Mayall's partner in an act called 20th Century Coyote. Planer is half of a double act known as The Outer Limits.

Rik Mayall, who is co-writing the show, says: "We will try to get permission to use Cliff Richard's song "The Young Ones" as the title music.

"But if we can't, we'll get a really dud group to record a crummy new version."

From the Daily Mirror, 9/11/1982:

A new comedy team hits the screen tonight. But be warned... this will be no innocent comedy romp.

It involves four outrageous characters living together as squatters in a derelict house.

They're a pretty shocking mob and their behaviour - and their language - is likely to upset older viewers.

But it's the younger TV audience they're aiming for with "The Young Ones" (BBC2, 9pm).

Rik Mayall, Ade Edmundson and Nigel Planer, who all worked at London's notorious Comic Strip club, team up with actor Chris Ryan to make the foursome.

Alexei Sayle, another of the Comic Strip's star comedians, plays their dodgy East European landlord.

Some BBC bosses were worried about the show at first, saying the comedy was crude and too near the knuckle.

Producer Paul Jackson says: "We were taking a big chance. When the first script was submitted, no one was quite sure if it would work."

But I think it's the most exciting new comedy we've done for years."

Rik Mayall, who devised and helped write the scripts, says:

"We had to cut certain words from sketches because they were considered too naughty by the BBC.

"We are not trying to push censorship back. But when you use swear words in normal life, and then you're not allowed to use them on TV, it's difficult to understand."

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