Reviews: The Young Ones

The marriage of punk and slapstick: Anger is an energy!

"The Young Ones" was a British cult comedy that broke out from 82 to 84, and was a sort of cathodic counterpart of the raging and inventive intensity of punk in music. Their creators (Lise Mayer, Rik Mayall and Ben Elton) came from the extraordinary experience (an alternative comedy den wherein punks, students, stand-up marxist comediennes and comedians and absolutely unclasified entities of London cabaret used to gather and socialize). They intended to cross the slapstick (that form of physical comedy that experiments with the possibilities of a poetics of violence, cruelty and cathastrophe in scene; a form that tends to be minorized in comparison to other kinds of comedy due its association with unproductive, asocial excess) with punk.

The result was this surreal, abrasive-convulsive, incredible series, regarded by many as an update of "La Bˇheme" in Thatcher's years, starred by revulsive and caustic characters, especially designed by their authors to deliberately displease: four students living together in a house that's constantly falling apart (in every episode, scenarios are literally dismantled with utmost pleasure by their own characters, that smugly come and go through the fourth wall as it was a silk curtain). We got Rick, a camp and hypocritical anarchist poet, fascinated with the Baader-Meinhof and Cliff Richard in equal parts, whose embodiment of anxiety -some says that he reflected someway the fear of unauthenticity that haunted part of the '80 British left- appeals and amplify John Lydon's axiomatic mantra: "anger is an energy". We got Vyvyan, a sadistic, gory punk devoted to unravel all the applicated varieties of the verb "destroy", that's pure unpredictable physicality in action. We got Neil, a melancholic, bittersweet acid-rocker hippie, spiritual reject from the generation of love waking from the dream of flowers to enter in '70/'80 Britain nightmare. We got Mike, a dandyesque '80 casanova obsessed with -love-challenges (and subsequently, blessed with -love- failures) and enigmatic non-sequiturs. And of course, we got the Balowski landlord family, all of them, starred by the amazing, always strange Alexei Sayle (demarcating the disruptive moment of the series when the sitcom narrative and aesthetical register would leave place to the emergence of a sudden and brief stand-up universe).