A demented British comedy that ran from 1982 to 1984 about four impoverished nutcases sharing a squalid student house. Episodes were rambling and unstructured, frequently wandering off to unrelated comedy skits or musical numbers. Surreal and/or incomprehensible jokes were aplenty, frequently making light of the acrimonious political climate of 1980s Britain, and violent slapstick abounded. The action would often and suddenly shift into animation, claymation or some form of puppetry. Bands often appeared on the show to perform, usually completely at random (as a financial device, as the inclusion of music performances got the show classified as variety instead of light entertainment, thereby earning a higher budget). Numerous episodes ended with everybody dying.
The main characters were:
- Rick (Rik Mayall): The hypocritical, Cliff Richard-loving lefty activist who was convinced that he was a Marxist rebel, a poetic genius, the voice of an entire generation and the most well-liked and attractive member of the household; he was spectacularly wrong on all counts;
- Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson): The psychotic but strangely child-like punk who couldn't go an entire episode without destroying something — or, usually, several somethings;
- Neil (Nigel Planer): The whining, put-upon and suicidal hippie who acted as the dogsbody for the entire house and is convinced (accurately) that no one likes him and everyone is out to get him;
- Mike (Christopher Ryan): The (would-be) Charmer of the flat; a smooth, flash and mysterious con-artist who tried it on with every girl he came across, still waiting for it to actually work;
- The Balowski Family (Alexei Sayle): An entire family all played (on separate occasions) by one man; various Balowskis of varying degrees of sanity appeared, but the most common was the boys' Russian-emigre landlord Jerzei.
- The running gag of Sayle playing a Balowski was dropped in the second season as it became harder and harder to write one into an episode. If a one-off character had a large enough number of lines, it was given to Sayle regardless of surname (although this was occasionally lampshaded, as Jerzei appeared twice that season and one of the boys would offhandedly remark "You look a bit like my landlord" to a Sayle character).
Worth a mention as a show which never relied on cliché to any extent; any tropes that popped up were usually subverted and double-subverted within minutes, if not seconds. The entire premise of the series, such as it was, was a particularly odd subversion of the Dysfunctional Family trope. Its spiritual descendant, Bottom — basically Mayall and Edmondson playing even more unpleasant Expies of their Young Ones characters — premiered in 1991.
Now has its own Best Episode Crowner.
This show provides examples of:
- Abbey Road Crossing: During the "House Of Fun" sequence in the episode "Boring".
- Actor Allusion: In "Bambi", the challengers from "Footlights College, Oxbridge" are played by Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Emma Thompson. Thompson, Fry and Laurie know each other from their time in the Footlights Club at Cambridge University, and the plotline was inspired by Fry's appearance on the real University Challenge in his student days. "Bambi", whose bias toward Footlights College drives this part of the plot, is played by Griff Rhys Jones, who was also in the Footlights Club. (The real life Bamber Gascoigne was a member in the 1950s too.)
- Adorkable: Neil can be quite endearing when he isn't moping.
- All Just a Dream:
- Almost Dead Guy: Lampshaded — the two men who are the recipient of the message aren't terribly concerned with it.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Vivian is, indeed, a man's name, though it's generally one you'd find among Victorian upper crust toffs, which is to say the exact opposite of Vyvyan.
- Amusing Injuries: All the time. It has the cartoonish violence of the Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry cartoons. The most notorious/memorable one was when Vyvyan got decapitated by sticking his head out of a train window. His body spent a few minutes trying to find his head. His body then kicks his head down the tracks for a bit, just for good measure.
- Animated Actors: In "Nasty" a cutaway shows the four main actors insulting Alexei Sayle behind his back.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Rik is not good at the hardships of being miserably poor.Rik: We've got no food, we've got no heat, we've got no lights, and now I've got a whacking great splinter up my bottom!
- Author Tract: Vyvyan's tirade against The Good Life (see Berserk Button) mirrors series writer Ben Elton's own affected disdain for the programme and all others like it.
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Mike is in the habit of referring to himself as "Mike the Cool Person". It might actually be his name - Mike Thecoolperson.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
Rick: Stop making him paranoid, you slag!
- Oddly enough, this happens between Vyvyan and SPG - despite the violence owner and pet display towards each other, Vyvyan is still devastated when SPG falls asleep on the radiator and dies in "Summer Holiday."
- Happens very briefly in "Oil" between Vyvyan and Rick. They're quietly watching TV together, then Rick gets up to go to bed and they wish each other "nighty night" without any of their usual malice and sarcasm.
- There's a very brief moment in "Bambi" when Neil starts crying when remembering the infamous scene where Bambi's mother died, and Rick seems rather concerned for a moment.
- In the very first episode ("Demolition"), the lady from the council who has come to oversee the demolition of their house politely asks Neil a question, making him freak out completely. Even though Rick has been pretty callous towards Neil the entire episode, he's surprisingly quick to come to his aid. (Of course, at the time he is protesting the demolition by crucifying himself on the façade, so maybe his priorities have temporarily shifted, but still.)
- Ax-Crazy: Vyvyan in "Oil" and Jerzei in "Flood", even contains the line "Heeeeeere's Jerzei!"note .Vyvyan: It's a potion I've invented where, when the patient drinks it, he turns into a axe-wielding homicidal maniac. It's basically a cure... for not being an axe-wielding homicidal maniac. The potential market's enormous!
- (It turns into a completely lampshaded Chekhov's Gun.)
- Bad Liar: Rick. He once tries to convince an axe-wielding landlord not to enter a room by shouting, "There's no one in here, Mr. Balowski! We're all holograms!"
- Baleful Polymorph: The titular "Bambi", who's implied to be the original Disney character only with no fur and walking on two legs.
- Batter Up!: Vyvyan makes use of a cricket bat in "Oil" as Colonel Vyvyan, "El Presidente" Mike's chief enforcer to subdue Rick and Neil. The bat returns in "Summer Holiday" when Vyv tries to alleviate his boredom by using it on Rick.
- A narrator shown on the lads' telly took a cricket bat with a brick nailed to it to various sticky food items, as part of a cautious-driving PSA.
- Behind the Black: Vyvyan gives this as a justification for pointing everything out in one episode.Vyvyan: Look, here comes the postman.
Mike: Vyvyan, why do you keep telling us what's just about to happen next?
Vyvyan: Because it's a studio set, Michael, and they can't afford any long shots.
- Berserk Button:
- The Good Life causes Vyvyan to erupt in rage over its extreme niceness. This in turn leads Rick to angrily and unexpectedly defend Felicity Kendal's honour.Vyvyan: No! No! No! NO! We are NOT watching the bloody Good Life! Bloody, bloody, BLOODY! I hate it! It's so bloody nice! Felicity "Treacle" Kendal, and Richard "Sugar-Flavored-Snot" Briers! What do they do now? Chocolate bloody Button ads, that's what! They're nothing but a couple of reactionary stereotypes, confirming the myth that everyone in Britain is a lovable, middle-class eccentric— AND I! HATE! THEM!
Mike: That was a highly articulate outburst, Vyvyan. I only hope they're not watching.
- Picking on Neil's flares isn't the best idea either, at least if Vyvyan's there to egg him on.
- "YES..... WE'VE. GOT. A. VIDEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"
- The Good Life causes Vyvyan to erupt in rage over its extreme niceness. This in turn leads Rick to angrily and unexpectedly defend Felicity Kendal's honour.
- BFG: Vyvyan finds a howitzer, which he uses to get Rik to admit to being a virgin.
- Big "SHUT UP!": Various characters are told to shut up by another character. But the biggest one is the one Vyvyan gives to rather dramatical postman from Nasty, who can't seem to keep his mouth closed even after leaving the scene.
- WILL YOU SHUT UP, PLEASE?!
- Blackmail: One of Mike's many ongoing, off-camera scams.Rick: Oh, by the way, Mike: your tutor said to tell you that if you don't turn up again next year, then he and the dean may have to seriously reconsider your grant.
Mike: Well, you can tell my tutor I still have the photographs of him and the dean.
- Book-Ends: The show as a whole starts with (P)Rick's obsession with Cliff Richard, and ends with him talking about Cliff Richard.
- Brick Joke:
- Frequently. Most are called back within ten minutes, but some go almost the entire episode.
- Notably, the bogie-related trivia questions Vyv answers early in the University Challenge episode all come up in the final round of the game show because Rick tampered with Bambi's question cards.
- Done literally once, as Vyvyan tries to eat the house to prevent the council knocking it down because it's such a craphole. He leans out the window and bites a brick which disintegrates loudly.Vyvyan: Some of these bricks EXPLODE! That's good, innit?!
- British Brevity: A grand total of 12 episodes were made, spanning two seasons.
- Neil and Rick:Mike: You saw the dummy run with the sack of potatoes?
Neil: That wasn't a sack of potatoes, Mike, it was a packet of Smashnote !
Mike: Well everyone knows they're better than real potatoes!
- Also:Rick: Oh, Vyvyan, what repartee! Sticks and stones may break my bones!
Vyvyan: That is the first sensible thing you have said all day. (picks up a loose floorboard and smashes Rick in the head with it)
- Neil and Rick:
- Vyvyan rewrites some of the Community Chest cards in Monopoly due to his belief that the game is boring. Most of them involve committing acts of violence against Rick.
- When Mike, Vyv and Rick play strip poker in "Cash", Mike and Vyv instigate a rule that any player with the letter r in their name is only allowed one card, ensuring Rick loses every hand and must sacrifice a piece of clothing to the fire to keep them warm.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: According to Neil, Rick has passed out after half a glass of cider, which of course Rick considers "a bit anarchic!"
- Casanova Wannabe:
- Mike believes he is irresistible to women. However, in "Oil", we see that he merely creates this illusion by leaving women's underwear strewn around his room and playing a recording of a woman moaning "Oh, Mike!" repeatedly. In "Sick", he tries flirting with the girl at the chemist's by ordering £180 worth of Durex condoms, and a few seconds later we see her literally throw him out.
- Rick also believes all the ladies love him. Of course, he is very wrong.
- In Nasty, it is confirmed that all four housemates are virgins. Due to a shared belief that vampires only attack virgins, Mike proposes the only solution: that all four of them lose their virginity to each other, right now.
- Rick and Vyvyan love to call each other, and everyone else (especially Neil), "BASTARDS!"
- Vyv is also partial to "Brilliant!"
- Neil's favorite adjective is "heavy", and he often complains that he's "having a really bad time".
- "Mike, the cool person..."
- Character Celebrity Endorsement: For whatever reason, the DuPont carpet company chose Vyvyan as the spokesman for its mid-'80s carpet-selling competition in the UK. This is the audio promo that was distributed to DuPont salespeople. Lampshaded by the overacting delivery man in "Nasty": "Little squirt, he does one advert and he thinks he's Dustin Hoffman!"note
- Classically Trained Extra: Parodied. The delivery guy in "Nasty" acts like he's in a Shakespearean play and continues Chewing the Scenery even after he exits the house to a round of applause from the audience.
- Coincidental Broadcast: While the gang is arguing over the young woman who's in their house, the radio warns about a dangerous murderess who has recently escaped. When no one but the woman in question notices, the radio announcer first repeats saying he really has important news, then screams in frustration that he's trying to tell them the girl with Mike is a psychopath, and finally yells that they're throwing the radio at the wrong target when they start using it as a weapon in their fight.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Vyvyan picks up a half-empty coffee mug and looks inside. Whatever was once in there has gone bright green and has white bits floating in it. He takes a swig, spits out and snarls "No sugar!"
- In an episode where the boys are having trouble with a vampire, Mike goes by the vampire lore that vampires only attack virgins. Rick points out that if anyone gets bitten - they've been outed as a virgin.
- Cosmic Plaything: Rick.
- Cranium Chase:
- Two headless ghosts wandered through the lads' apartment having an argument. Both drop their heads, and their bodies grope around for anything spherical (a goldfish bowl, a grapefruit) that they can tuck under their arms. Later, the two reappear arguing about which head the body with the nicer bottom belongs to.
- Vyvyan gets his head knocked off by looking out of a train window. His body is directed by his head to pick it up, but the body keeps kicking it along instead.
- Crossdresser: Although he is never seen in women's clothes, Rick is obviously a crossdresser. At one point, Neil comes downstairs in a Gingham dress and says that because he couldn't get into his own room to get dressed, he went into Rick's room and found a dress. When Rick denies it, Vyvyan points out the nametag says 'Rick'. Also, Rick has several very feminine habits, such as braiding his hair and crossing his legs and reading Cosmopolitan. In addition, when Vyvyan asks Rick if he intends to "burn his bra" when he gets a bit political, he replies "Well, someone's got to."
- Curse Cut Short: In "Sick", during the Grange Hill parody, one of the kids says:Mr Liberal: Hang on, you pair of young scruffy tearaways! Don't you realise the way you act is influencing millions of children to talk Cockney and be insubordinate?
Pupil: Well, come on Sir, don't be silly, we're the only kids in Britain who never say fu—(CUT)
- Crystal Clear Picture: Taken to extremes — it's taped to the screen.
- Cutaway Gag: The show features quite a few, and most of them tend to last around 10 minutes. Lampshaded in one episode where a matchstick box says "Don't look at me, I'm irrelevant".
- Delegation Relay: when someone knocks on the door:
- Mike: Someone at the door, Rik.Rik: Someone at the door, Vyvyan.Vyvyan: Someone at the door, Neil.Neil: Someone at the door, Mike.Mike: I know![another knock at the door]Mike: (louder) There's someone at the door, Rik!Rik: (louder) There's someone at the door, Vyvyan!Vyvyan: (louder) There's someone at the door, Mike!Neil: (louder) There's someone at the door, Neil?
- Deus ex Machina: Played for laughs in 'Cash' - the lads are broke and have burned just about all of their possessions to stay warm...and then a lorry carrying vast amounts of money and luxury goods crashes through the wall.
- Distracted by My Own Sexy: In "Bomb", just the atom bomb in their living room is about to go off, Mike is distracted by his own reflection.Mike: Mike, the cool person, stays steady as a rock while all around him is chaos! He checks his reflection! (looks out window) That's good! That's very good! That's the only way to go!
- The Ditz: Miss Money-Sterling (Emma Thompson), one of the players for the Footlights College team at University Challenge. Her other teammates were at least trying to answer Bambi's questions.
- Bambi: What is the chemical equation...Miss Money-Sterling: I've got a porche!
- Double Entendre: "May the seed of your loins be fruitful in the belly of your woman."
- Drink Order: Babycham, for Vyvyan. Which is laughably ironic, since it's considered a rather girly drink.
- Dynamic Entry: Vyvyan's Establishing Character Moment.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot takes place in a different student house (their move to the house they would occupy for the rest of the series was necessitated by an airplane falling on it in the episode's final scene). The opening credits fade directly into the first scene, with a reverse Diegetic Switch employed — Rick is listening to the theme song on the radio. Rick and Vyvyan have shorter hair, and Vyv's is more obviously dyed, which is probably why the fandom is divided over whether or not red is his natural color. And the musical act, Nine Below Zero, performs live instead of lip-synching.
- Eat the Dog: Vyvyan, not wanting the bother of caring for the plants and goldfish, had Neil cook them on the lads' first day in the house.
- The Eeyore: Neil. Although having to live with Rick and Vyvyan probably caused it.
- Eldritch Location: The student house. Although the layout and architecture are static and generally make sense, it’s full of Animate Inanimate Objects, portals to other worlds, and wormholes through which various weirdos, strange creatures, and musical acts can enter.
- Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Wick. He doesn't seem to have difficulty pronouncing "L", though.
- Engineered Public Confession: In the episode "Bambi" during University Challenge.Bambi: And for five bonus points... Who's been tampering with my question cards?
- Escalating Brawl: In "Sick", a misunderstanding between two men outside the Young Ones' house escalates into a full-blown street riot that even manages to draw in the episode's guest band Madness.
- Establishing Character Moment: Rick dancing to Cliff Richard, Neil miserably cooking lentils, Mike strolling in and announcing his presence, and Vyvyan crashing through the kitchen wall carrying a severed leg.
- Evil Is Petty: The South African vampire driving instructor from "Nasty" was really Harry the Bastard in disguise, distracting the boys long enough so they can't return their VCR in time, and will thus be forced to pay him.
- Everything Explodes Ending: The end of the pilot and the end of the series finale.All: Phew! That was close!
(cue everything exploding)
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "My name is Captain Blood, and you are listening to the Dull Religious Music Program."
- Extreme Omnivore:
- Vyvyan has eaten teabags, exploding bricks and Neil's lentil and seaweed casserole, and at one point in the series eats the television to hide it from the television license inspector.Television License Inspector: Aha! The old trick, eh? Eat the telly before I have a chance to nick you!
Vyvyan: (electric cord hanging from mouth) It's a toaster!
- Mike has at least one brief moment too. During the first episode, while trying to seduce the woman from the council, he eats the cube he was chalking a pool cue with. Either that, or he was using a marshmallow because he didn't have a real chalk-cube.
- Vyvyan has eaten teabags, exploding bricks and Neil's lentil and seaweed casserole, and at one point in the series eats the television to hide it from the television license inspector.
- Fauxreigner: Quickly subverted by Jerzei Balowski in "Demolition" - despite assuming the persona of a foreigner in denial about being foreign. (Furthermore, most of the other Balowskis have English accents.)Jerzei Balowski: (in Alexei Sayle's natural Scouse accent) I'm not really foreign, you know. I just do it to appear more sophisticated! I mean, nobody'd buy Evian water if it was called "Blackburn Water", would they? Nobody'd wear Kicker boots if they were made in Scunthorpe! ABBA? ABBA, Swedish? I knew them when they were a Lancashire clog-dancing trio! Arthur, Betty, Boris and Angela! Solzhenitsyn, Solzhenitsyn — a former pipe-fitter welder from Harrogate!
- Fiery Redhead: Redheads don't get much more fiery than Vyvyan.
- Flipping the Bird: Vyvyan flips Vs to Rick, Neil, the Balowskis and/or his Mum every other scene. He even tries to hitchhike by flipping Vs to passing cars.
- Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Rick is the Optimist, Neil is the Cynic, Mike is the Realist, and Vyvyan is the Apathetic.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Rick is sanguine, Vyvyan is choleric, Neil is melancholic, and Mike is phlegmatic.
- Funny Background Event: In a Call-Back to Neil's comment about the penny arcade owner bringing in his pennies, when the lads start the robbery and the bank's customers lie down, you can see a wheelbarrow full of small change.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The random images cut into every episode of the second series, including a dripping tap, a jumping frog, the end screen from Carry On Cowboy, a clay pot on a potter's wheel, and various others.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Vyvyan is able to supercharge the vacuum cleaner (which works too well) and has a good working knowledge of explosives.
- Gargle Blaster: Vyvyan mixes his drinks with paintstripper and bleach, resulting in a very strong hangover (which is cured by him detonating a stick of dynamite on his head).
- Gender-Blender Name: "Vyvyan". It doesn't seem to bother him much, at least until you explicitly remind him that it's a girl's name.
- Genius Ditz: Despite being unable to tell the time and generally being Ax-Crazy, Vyv has a surprising knowledge of machinery (as evidenced by his souped-up vacuum cleaner) and can be surprisingly insightful and even manipulative. Plus, he's a medical student.
- He can create a potion that makes anyone who drinks it as Axe-Crazy as he is, somehow, and is implied by the ending of "Oil" to have manipulated the other lads For the Evulz. Then again, he didn't realise the obvious problem that would arise from keeping that potion in a coke can, (sure enough, the Balowski of the week drinks it and goes librarian), and his involvement in "Oil" resulted in a pickaxe to the skull from Neil.
- Genre Savvy: When an explosion goes off in "Time", Rick's first instinct is that Vyvyan is to blame.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The "subliminal" images, which somehow weren't cut from the U.S. release.
- Giant Food: One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse once dropped a gigantic sandwich on the lads' house, so they turned it into a sofa.
- "Bambi" ends with the gang being hit by a house-sized chocolate eclair.
- Giftedly Bad: The work of the "People's Poet" is howlingly wretched. Even more so when he recites it:"Pollution! All awound! Sometimes ... up! Sometimes ... down! But always ... awound! Pollution, are you coming to my town ... or am I coming to yours? HA! We're on different buses, pollution ... but we're both using petwol! (turns away from the bathroom mirror, looks into the camera) BOMBS!!"—"Bomb""What do you think you're doing, PIG?...Do you really give a FIG, PIG?...And what's your favourite sort of GIG, PIG?...Barry Manilow? Or the Black And White Minstrel Show?..."—"Flood"
- Gone Horribly Right:
- Mike, after watching Neil break several plates in an attempt to nail them to the table, actually succeeds in doing so. And also drives the nails through his own legs and chair in the process.
- Vyvyan decides to soup up the vacuum cleaner, as he feels it's lacking in power. It's able to suck up the rug and the floorboards, before flying out the window and sucking up Neil's hippie friend before the bag fills.
- Good Thing You Can Heal, Vyv. Good thing indeed.
- Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: "Nasty" features the boys attempting to watch the Video Nasty Sex with the Headless Corpse of the Virgin Astronaut.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Parodied.
- Gratuitous German: Vyvyan shouting "Achtung!" just before he blows up the Footlings College team at University Challenge.
- Groin Attack: "Ha, ha, joke's on you, missed both my legs."
- Hideous Hangover Cure: Subverted by having Vyvyan cure his extreme paint-stripper and bleach hangover by detonating a stick of dynamite attached to his head...
- Hitler Ate Sugar: Parodied in "Bambi", where Rick accuses Vyvyan of being sexist for claiming a woman has big tits, and that "evwybody has them!". Vyvyan responds by saying he doesn't have breasts - "yes, and nor did Adolf Hitler!".
- Hot-Blooded: Rick and Vyv, though Mike and the Balowski family sometimes qualify.
- Hot Paint Job: Vyvyan's car, a yellow Ford Anglia, is (ironically) decorated with red flames.
- How We Got Here: "Nasty" opens with the lads bearing a casket to the local cemetery, and then flashes back to show the events that led up to that point.
- Humanity Ensues: Apparently, Bamber "Bambi" Gascoigne and Bambi are one and the same, having turned human since Mike last saw him.
- Hypocritical Humor: Most of the scenes involving Rick.
- Vyvyan spent most of "Time" trying to make Rick admit he was a virgin, despite the previous episode "Nasty" revealing all of them are virgins.
- The radio DJ from "Flood", who's been asking trite, superficial questions of an equally-superficial newbie punk musician, freaks out when the station starts filling with water and asks why nothing about this had been announced on the radio.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: A single-word adjective (or occasionally noun). The only exception is the last episode "Summer Holiday".
- If I Had a Nickel: From "Bomb":Neil: If I had a penny for every time I had to answer the door, I'd have £5.63.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: Neil botches his every attempt at suicide (gallows rope too long, can't hammer in the last nail to crucify himself), so eventually resorts to putting his head in the path of a worker's sledgehammer, remarking "You'll be doing me a favor." The demolition-worker just lifts the hammer higher to strike the wall above Neil's head.
- I Lied: It was a complete lie about the oil.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Discussed when the characters are trapped in their house with no food.Neil: Hey, wouldn't it be terrible if we ended up having to eat each other. Like those sailors did in that movie, um, "We Ended Up Having To Eat Each Other".
- Implacable Man: Vyvyan gets decapitated by a train and survives. Played for laughs, as his disembodied head starts shouting abuse at his body (which, in turn, starts kicking his head down the tracks).
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Just before their bus drives through a billboard and runs off the cliff, Rick shouts, "Look out! Cliff!" It's a Cliff Richard billboard.
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: One so powerful, it damaged Neil's clothes.
- Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: Played with:Policeman 1: We had a row, and I said something about the Pope.
Policeman 2: That's a bit stupid, you know she's Catholic.
Policeman 1: Yeah, I know she's Catholic; I didn't know the Pope was.
- Insult Backfire: Rick is appallingly bad at, well, everything. Insults are no exception:Rick: Always so bloody pleased with yourself, aren't you Mike? Always think you're so bloody clever?
- It's All About Me: Rick. His response when he finds out his parents are dead? "THE SELFISH BASTARDS!"
- Jerkass: Rick and Vvyvan, their favourite targets being Neil and each other.
- Keet: Rick. Possibly ties into him being a Manchild. He's very hyperactive, loud, and feminine.
- Kid with the Leash: Mike in relation to Vyvyan. Why they have the most amicable relationship among the lads is never explained.
- Kill 'em All: in the final episode, "Summer Holiday". On the other hand, the lads survived similar explosions in both "Demolition" and "Cash" so it's hardly conclusive. Jerzei Balowski, on the other hand, is obliterated when he is struck by lightning.
- Lack of Empathy: Everyone. Mike is notably bad, especially towards Neil; Rick is even worse.Rick: My parents are dead... THE SELFISH BASTARDS!
- Large Ham:
- Alexei Sayle as various members of the Balowski family.
- Rick and Vyv, especially when they're arguing with each other.
- Turned up to eleven by the drunk luvvie postman.
- Loophole Abuse: A strange... version with regards to the treatment of their newly acquired VCR:Mike: Maybe you shouldn't have poured all of that washing-up liquid into it.
Vyvyan: It says here "ensure machine is clean and free from dust"!
Mike: Yeah, but it don't say "ensure machine is full of washing-up liquid"!
Vyvyan: Yeah, but it doesn't say "ensure machine isn't full of washing-up liquid"!
Mike: Well, it wouldn't would it? I mean, it doesn't say "ensure you don't chop up your video machine with an axe, put all the bits in a plastic bag and bung them down the lavatory!"
Vyvyan: Doesn't it? Well maybe that's where we're going wrong!
- Made of Iron: Vyvyan has survived having his head chopped off. Also having a pickax driven through his skull, crashing his car, and a brick exploding in his mouth. The only times he actually seems to have felt pain were when he cut off his own finger trying to do a magic trick and when his Mum did something painful off-camera that left him holding his crotch and apologizing for his sexist remark.
- Mike recovers very quickly from having nailed his own legs to the table, and may have felt no pain initially, considering he did it twice.
- Neil has had his head smashed through windows on more than one occasion and showed no pain aside from being a little upset that his so-called friends would do that to him.
- Meaningful Name:
- Parodied with "Mike Thecoolperson". While Mike speaks of himself as "Mike the cool person", there is no indication in the series that that is his last name. There is however is a book of the series, Bachelor Boys in which they feature official paperwork about the characters. In the book at least Mike's surname is Thecoolperson. The book's canonicity has been debated.
- Played absolutely straight with Vyvyan (translates to "lively") Basterd, as well as with Rick Pratt (a synonym for "arse" and a slang term for a person of minimal intelligence and inflated ego).
- The TV detector man introduces himself as Bastard, "but you can call me Right Bleeding". No indication whether he's related to Vyvyan or not.
- Harry the Bastard is indeed a complete bastard.
- Mr. Seahorse: Averted/subverted with Vyvyan.
- Some Hilarity Ensues:Rick: How did this happen?!
Mike: How old are you, Rick?
- Even funnier:
- In the end it turns out that Vyvyan was never actually pregnant — he was just suffering from a particularly bad case of trapped wind, which comes out in the form of the world's longest, loudest fart. Said fart is then ignited by Mike's cigar, and the resulting blast all but destroys the house.
- There's also Vyvyan's friends from the party who are wondering how one of them isn't pregnant after kissing a girl. And like Vyv himself, these friends are med students.
- Some Hilarity Ensues:
- Muppet: SPG ("Special Patrol Group"), the Violent Glaswegian hamster, and many, many others.
- Mysterious Past: Mike is the only lad for whom no definite Backstory is given.
- The Napoleon: Subverted with Mike, who is the shortest member of the flat but at the same time The Ace. His height is Lampshaded twice-in "Bambi" in the Swapped Roles bit with Christopher Ryan as Neil, now suddenly much shorter; and in "Nasty", when the boys are carrying the coffin, Mike is simply holding his arm up and walking along side them.
- Narrating the Obvious: Lampshaded.
- Negative Continuity: As noted, everybody dies multiple times. Lampshaded in "Time":Rick: Oh no! The whole house has been surrounded by angry medieval peasants!
Mike: They think we're witches and they're gonna burn us!
Vyvyan: We're completely trapped! The outlook is bleak!
Neil: Oh, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do?
Vyvyan: ...Oh, who cares. (Episode ends.)
- Never My Fault:(the front door explodes noisily)
Rick: (groans) Oh, no, the front door's exploded! Vyvyan!
Vyvyan: "Vyvyan, Vyvyan, Vyvyan!" Honestly! Whenever anything explodes in this house, it's always "Blame Vyvyan"!!
Mike: Well, who do you suggest we blame?
Vyvyan: No! Blame whoever rang the front doorbell, 'cuz they obviously triggered off the bomb I set up!
- No Ending: Inevitably for a comedy where most episodes feature the absurdity piling higher and higher, rather than trying for an anticlimactic resolution, they sometimes simply end with no attempt at a resolution. For example, "Time" ends with the lads sitting down to a game of cards as their house is invaded by a horde of mediaeval peasants, while "Sick" ends with the house set moving aside to reveal the set of a glitzy variety show hosted by Neil's parents and Brian, the Bolowski of the Week.
- No Fourth Wall: Characters will often point out they're on a set or address the audience directly. In the first episode, Alexei Sayle (Jerzei Balowski) breaks character as soon as the the others leave the scene to deliver a rant similar in style to Sayle's standup routines, then goes "oo, back to the acting" when the others return to the scene.
- No Indoor Voice: Rick and Vyvyan are pretty much always shouting at the top of their voices. Usually at each other.
- Noodle Implements: What Vyvyan needs to dispatch the title object in "Bomb" are the drill, the hedge trimmers, and some ordinary household bleach.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever it is that's about as clever as going to the toilet without removing your trousers.
- No Periods, Period: Averted.
- "It's a telescope! A telescope with a MOUSE in it!"
- The second series featured the lads watching a video with an advert featuring Dawn French and Helen Atkinson Wood:Helen: That strange washed out feeling that you just can't explain.
Dawn: She's talking about period pain.
- Oh, Crap!: All the lads (except Vyvyan, who is positively smiling) as they watch a plane fall out of the sky directly over their house.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The intro to "Flood"; "dominus ad nauseum" (repeated to the point of inducing nausea) is pure Lampshade Hanging. It might also be a Shout-Out to the flagellant monks in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- One-Note Cook: Neil does the cooking for the household; unfortunately, he only seems to be able to cook lentils.
- One-Word Title: The episode, "Nasty".
- Only Sane Man:
- Mike. Well, in comparison to the other three, anyway.
- Neil in "Bomb". He's the only one with good sense to try and survive an explosion.
- Our Vampires Are Different: The South African vampire driving instructor. Who turned out not to be a vampire at all, but to actually be Harry the Bastard in disguise, as a ploy to distract the boys long enough so they can't return their rented VCR in time, forcing them to pay him.
- Overly Long Name: Alexei Yuri Gagarin Siege of Stalingrad Glorious Five-Year Plan Sputnik Pravda Moscow Dynamo Back Four Balowski.Alexei: Me Dad was a bit of a Communist, know what I mean?note
- Parachute in a Tree: After moving into a new house, Mike discovers Buddy Holly, still alive and guitar in hand, hanging from a parachute in one of the rooms. He has apparently been there since 1959 (23 years at that point). Mike tries to capitalise on the songs Buddy has thought up since then, only for the parachute to give way and Holly to fall screaming through the floor.
- Mike (looks at audience): Well, I'd probably get a few quid on the guitar!
- Perpetual Poverty: The lads never have much money, being Starving Students dependent on their grants. They're pretty much forced to live on lentils and cornflakes. By the finale, it turns out they are seriously behind on their rent and are evicted as a result.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The protagonists are university students. Good luck trying to catch them going to classes — although Rick studies occasionally, and all the cast sit their exams with Neil coming top.
- Lampshaded in "Boring", when Neil's suggestion that the guys should try alleviating their boredom by actually going in to university is greeted with aghast shock from the others.Mike: Now, Neil. Now, listen. Things may be bad, but there's no need to panic.
- One on occasion, Rick actually does plan to attend a lecture, only to be informed that it's Saturday.
- On other occasions, it is implied that Mike doesn't study because he's either bribing or blackmailing his tutor (or possibly both).Mike: I think I'll ask for one of those Ph.D.s next year.
- An actual pirate appears in a side-skit, who failed so badly at piracy that he's resorted to operating a radio program from his ship.
- Lampshaded in "Boring", when Neil's suggestion that the guys should try alleviating their boredom by actually going in to university is greeted with aghast shock from the others.
- Playing Gertrude: Vyvyan has a rather youthful-looking mother, whom we also meet in "Boring". The actress, Pauline Melville, is only nine years older than Adrian Edmondson.
- Prison Rape: A television liscensing inspector arrives at the house, Rick panics and immediately starts shrieking "I can't go to pwison! I'm too pwetty! I'll get waped!"
- Psycho Serum: Vyvyan's potion designed to turn a person into an axe wielding homicidal maniac.Vyvyan: It's basically a cure... for not being an axe wielding homicidal maniac! The potential market's enormous!
- Real Men Wear Pink:
- Suave ladies' man Mike is seen wearing a pair of pink pyjamas early in the episode "Bomb".
- Vyvyan has a girl's name, owns a pet hamster and his favourite drink is the rather girly Babysham.
- Real Song Theme Tune: A cover version of Cliff Richard's "The Young Ones".
- Rearrange the Song: Most of the time the opening credits used Rik Mayall singing Cliff Richard's 'The Young Ones', but rearranged this on two occasions. 'Nasty' began with a typical horror sting, concluding with a gentle xylophone version of the theme, while 'Time' featured the song rearranged in the style of Dallas's opening theme.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Rick and Vyvyan are the Red to Neil and Mike's Blue.
- Reduced to Ratburgers:
- Vyvyan eats a dead rat he finds in the lentil pot. "Brilliant!"
- Buddy Holly apparently survived for decades on bugs after getting his parachute tangled in the lads' roof.
- Riddle for the Ages: Mike never does get an answer to why there was a large fish in his bed.
- Rule of Funny: The entire series, but Vyvyan getting decapitated and his body getting yelled at by his head is a major example.
- Running Gag: Whenever Neil sneezes, something explodes.
- Sadist Show: In varying ways, each character is chewed on at different points. Even Vyvyan gets his share of it, with him being an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
- Sanity Ball: Each character holds onto it now and then, usually commenting on something relating to the episodes theme just to point out the absurdity of what they're doing.
- Schmuck Bait: "'Do Not Lean Out Of The Window'. Wonder why?" Cue decapitation.
- Seen It All: Vyv isn't the first one to try and fool the Television License Inspector by eating the telly.
- Severed Head Sports: Vyvyan does this with his own severed head after it talks back to his body.
- Shirtless Scene: Neil has one in Summer Holiday. It's... not altogether unpleasant.
- Sick Episode: The (appropriately titled) episode "Sick" — not the typical sickness plot, just an excuse for everyone to act even more horrible to each other.Vyvyan: You know, it's funny, but being ill makes me lose my usual tolerant, and easy going approach to communal living. (throws Molotov cocktail)
- Slobs vs. Snobs: Neil's upperclass parents express total disdain at their son living with the other three and starring in a comedy show.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Rick thinks he's "The People's Poet." He's very, very wrong; the closest he gets to punk poetry is a few sarky comments about Thatcher. He also thinks he's an anarchist, but is a big fan of Marx, who is more associated with communism, and upon any pressure whatsoever morphs back into a social conservative.
- Smoking Is Cool: The only housemate who doesn't smoke (cigarettes, anyway) is Neil.
- Soft Glass: Generally played straight and for laughs, though notably defied in one instance — Vyvyan tries to throw their television out the living room window when a TV licence man visits, only for the glass to remain intact and the television to bounce off harmlessly.Mike: That I did not expect!
- Something That Begins with "Boring": Rik's botched game of "Botticelli" with Mike and Vyvyan.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Neil's letter (written by committee) to the bank.Darling fascist bully boy, gimme some more money you bastard. May the seed of your loin be fruitful in the belly of your woman. Neil
- Split Screen: Parodied during the University Challenge sequence in "Bambi". It turns out it's not a split screen, their team is really sitting directly above the opposing team. When losing, Vyvyan kicks through the floor and throws a grenade at the opposing team.note
- Squee!: Rick in the music video for "Living Doll". "It's Cliff Richard!!"
- Standardized Leader: This might be the reason why Mike isn't as popular (or funny) as the other three - he is the "leader" of the house, and is relatively grounded and subtle in his mannerisms. He helps to balance out the craziness of everyone else, and has his own gems occasionally though, as well as driving key "plot" moments and setting up some jokes for the rest of the cast. One could say he gives a little more direction when it's needed, and comes up with all the plans.
- Starving Student: Taken to ridiculous extremes. The lads can't actually afford the rent on their shithole of a house, serve one corn flake to each guest at their party and their staple diet appears to be cornflakes and lentils (which almost always end up spilled on the ground). "Cash" shows them burning everything in the house so as not to freeze to death.
- Strawman Political: Rick — although the character is more making fun of university students who become political without really studying up on the subject. Or alternately, a parody of how conservatives see leftists.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Rick is still a virgin!
- Suicide as ComedyNeil: Vyvyan. Can you, like, actually kill yourself with laxative pills?
Vyvyan: I don't know, Neil. But I'm sure going to stay and find out!
- Doubles as Toilet Humour given the effects of laxatives and the outrageous churning noises that subsequently come from Rick's guts.
- Neil's several botched attempts: using too long a rope for his gallows, alleging he's tried to crucify himself many times but can never get the last nail hammered in, etc.
- Subliminal Seduction: Parodied: at the time there was a great fuss over — and paranoia of — subliminal messages in shows or adverts. Thus, throughout the second season, the show inserted at least one "subliminal message" in each episode: a non-sequitur image flashed up on the screen for five frames.
- Sunglasses at Night: Mike, frequently, though he is seen without them.
- Surreal Humour: Yes. This is the same group of four students whose house seems to keep odd things like talking ants having discussions about discos, where flies have conversations about being a fly on the wall, and where vegetables have discussions about their lives.
- Swapped Roles: "Bambi" features a brief, surreal segment where the boys rush down the stairs in the morning to reveal the characters/actors have inexplicably swapped roles; Nigel Planer (Neil) is now Rick, Rik Mayall (Rick, duh) is Vyvyan, Christopher Ryan (Mike) is Neil and Adrian Edmondson (Vyvyan) is Mike. Aside from a lampshade from 'Neil' about how he "doesn't feel himself today", this is never commented on, and they're back to their usual roles the very next scene. Combined with a bit of Stylistic Suck, as the actors aren't much good at playing each others' characters (exept maybe Edmondson as Mike and Mayall as Vyvyan). Edmondson's quip about laundry being Self-Deprecation rather than Mike's usual boastfulness suggests this is deliberate, not just poor acting. It is also a Casting Gag, as the actors were all going to play each other's roles at one point.
- Take That!:
"Did you see that? Did you? 'The voice of youth!' They're still wearing flared trousers. Why don't you try some poetry, ya hippies!"
- Several aimed at Margaret Thatcher.
- The police get several shots taken at them as well..
- "God, I'm bored. I might as well be listening to Genesis.
- "He'll bite us and we'll be vampires. Dead and yet somehow alive. Like Leonard Cohen".
- The Show Within a Show Nozin' Around was a dig at youth-orientated shows of the 1980s.
- When Neil says that he leads an alternative lifestyle, Rick replies that he's "about as alternative as Channel Four".
- Tantrum Throwing: Rick, usually because he wants attention.
- Tempting Fate: From Summer Holiday, after Rick has just been informed about his parents' deaths, Neil's birthday is ignored and everyone is bored and annoyed, Mike says "At least the holiday can't get any worse." Cue Jerzey Balowski smashing in through the window to inform the guys of their eviction.
- Threw My Bike on the Roof: This trope could also very well be named "The Vyvyan".
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Neil gets a chance at confronting Rick about all the nasty stuff he says/does to Neil in "Summer Holiday", though it doesn't last very long.
- Tim Taylor Technology: Mostly done by Vyvyan. The best example is in "Interesting" when when he attaches a car motor to a vacuum cleaner which destroys part of the living room floor, flies out of the window and sucks up Neil's friend.
- Titled After the Song: "The Young Ones", by none other than Rick's favorite artist, Cliff Richard.
- Toilet Humour: Literally in a few cases, especially with the animated toilet that eats a plunger and Neil's returning of a "golf ball" to Mike (which Rick catches).
- Too Dumb to Live: Everyone. And they pay for their stupidity with their lives several times over.
- Trash the Set: Vyvyan tends to do this a lot, particularly in his Establishing Character Moment by bursting through the wall, then kicking the sink just to wash his hands. He also gets bored of University Challenge and responds by blowing up Footlights College with a hand grenade.
- Two Decades Behind: Mike has been at college for much longer than the other three, something demonstrated by the fact his fashion sense is still stuck in The '70s: Aviator specs, huge ties, three-piece suits with bell-bottom trousers and so on...
- Unknown Character: The Young Ones had a fifth housemate.
- The Unintelligible: All four lads have instances of this. If you're not British, watching with subtitles isn't a bad idea.
- Unplanned Crossdressing: Neil ends up in a dress after he fell out the bathroom window and his room was nailed shut. He raided Rick's room and found only a dress with Rick's nametag on it.
- The Unreveal: Vyvyan's sex (Vyvyan was never pregnant).
- Unspoken Plan: Subverted. Mike whispers his plan for the bank robbery and asks "Got it?" Neil replies with the whispering noise Mike just made.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist:
- Rick is an arrogant, radical poseur.
- Vyvyan is an ultraviolent, psychopathic punk.
- Mike is a shady con artist.
- Your Milage May Vary with Neil, depending on whether you read him as guilt-trippingly manipulative and unpleasantly passive-aggressive or seriously depressed. Then again, it's easy to feel sorry for him considering how he's The Chew Toy.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: The tie-in video game (promo here, complete with hilarious voiceover fail) included some bugs the developers missed that made it impossible to finish. Once the game's buyers figured this out and complained, its manufacturer pulled it from the market with only about 10,000 copies sold.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
- Neil becomes one in the episode "Sick" when he manages to trigger a riot in the neighborhood just by sneezing out the window.
- There's a Running Gag in the series that whenever Neil sneezes, something explodes.
- Vague Age: Mike can somehow blend in fine with other university students, despite looking like he's been there for ten years at least (Christopher Ryan was 32 when the series premiered). Rick and Vyvyan still suffer from acne, which would logically indicate late teens, and Neil looks slightly older than them. Still, it's all really anyone's guess. Given that Mike is only registered as a student to blackmail a stipend out of the Dean, he probably has been there for ten years or more.
- Variety Show: The only reason that musical performances were added in was because the show would qualify for a bigger budget, with the addition that these performances would make the show seem more surreal.
- In "Flood", a lion tamer appears in place of a band, probably to absolutely satisfy the criteria for a variety show. This turns into a Brick Joke.
- Madness were the only band to appear twice. This is because BBC 2 was apparently planning to commission a comedy series starring the band, though it wound up never being produced.
- Violent Glaswegian: SPG. Notably his head-butt assault on Footlight College's teddy bear.
- Visual Pun:
- In the pilot, Mike is flipping through the TV Timesnote while a pile of assorted items (including plastic dice, fruit, vegetables, and a dead fish) fall from the magazine onto his lap.Mike: (looks at the camera and recites the magazine's then-current advertising slogan) I never knew there was so much in it!
- In the last episode, they look out the front their stolen bus, shout "AAGH! CLIFF!" and crash through a billboard poster of Cliff Richard...and over the edge of a cliff.
- The pirate radio station that's run by actual pirates.
- In the pilot, Mike is flipping through the TV Timesnote while a pile of assorted items (including plastic dice, fruit, vegetables, and a dead fish) fall from the magazine onto his lap.
- Weirdness Censor: Parodied in "Boring", in which the lads see, overhear, and/or smell hints that one remarkable thing after another is happening all around them, but are too wrapped up in their boredom and bickering to notice.
- Weirdness Magnet: The four lads. All manner of strange things happen to them over the course of their student lives, which they don't really take much notice of.
- In arguably one of the most defining moments of the series, Rick's reaction to a gigantic sandwich falling through the roof consists of the winged words: "... Well that's just typical..."
- Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Parodied/subverted in "Boring" when, during a fight, Rick suddenly decides to try appealing to everybody's better nature:Rick: Guys! Guys! Look at us! Squabbling! Bickewing, like childwen! What's happened to us? We never used to be like this!Vyvyan: Yes, we did.Mike: Yeah, he's right, Rick. We've always been like this.
- With Friends Like These...: All the boys, except Vyvyan and Mike, who have a Kid with the Leash relationship.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Rick's ideas about the life and music of Cliff Richard. In particular, his conviction that "Devil Woman" is a song about Margaret Thatcher.
- You Bastard: The show's main catchphrase.