Despite England’s image in the U.S. as a bastion of refinement and dignity, television and pop music are both areas over which conservative values hold little sway. When the two cultural forces combine, as they did on this surreal British sitcom (it ran there in the mid-’80s and was later shown here on MTV), the resulting irreverence is staggering. As the first major endeavor by the influential writing-performing troupe known as the Comic Strip, The Young Ones sets the tone for British comedy in the post-Monty Python era.
The show’s outline is elementary. Four extreme student Archetypes — hippie, punk, smooth operator, and pretentious twit-share a London house, bickering and coping amid the squalor. Each episode has a live musical interlude by a hip band woven into the story.
From there, anything goes. The half-hours veer through insane plot digressions with savage slapstick, barbed political satire, and inspired literary allusions. The three episodes collected here are not, in fact, among the series’ best, but they offer an exciting view of television humor at its most unbridled. A-
The Young Ones