After gaining popularity working London venues like the Comedy Store and the Comic Strip (so named because it doubled as a strip club), the comedians who would become famous as the Young Ones were given the green light to film their own TV series. They'd originally planned to do an ordinary sitcom, but looking over the BBC's famously tight budget for comedies, they quickly changed their minds. By incorporating musical elements into the show -- including performances from Motörhead, Madness, and Dexys Midnight Runners -- they managed to position themselves in a different bracket of the budget, one that allowed them the freedom to create the anarchic, destructive comedy of The Young Ones and demolish as many of their sets as they liked.
Named after a Cliff Richard song that was covered by the actors as the theme tune for the show, The Young Ones was part of a wave of alternative comedy popular in late-'70s and early-'80s Britain, much of it reacting to Margaret Thatcher's conservative rule and parodying the social mores she had helped to usher in. The Young Ones was essentially a comedy of manners about characters who had no manners. Adrian Edmondson played Vyvyan, an explosively violent punk, Rik Mayall played Rick, a self-important political agitator, Nigel Planer played Neil, a depressed leftover hippie, and Christopher Ryan played Mike, the token semi-cool character. The four, students of the fictional Scumbag College, shared a filthy north London house. Co-writers Ben Elton and Lise Mayer performed cameos, as did Alexei Sayle and other friends of theirs from the standup comedy circuit, including Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Lenny Henry, Terry Jones, Hugh Laurie, and Stephen Fry.
The Young Ones ran for only two seasons starting in 1982. In America it was broadcast on MTV and was one of the earliest programs shown on the station that wasn't a pure music show. In 1984, Nigel Planer released Neil's Heavy Concept Album with an in-character cover of Traffic's "Hole in My Shoe" as the single, which made it to number two and was performed on Top of the Pops. A charity single of Cliff Richard and the Young Ones performing "Living Doll," released as part of Comic Relief, also made it to the top of the charts. ~ Jody Macgregor