Darling, We're the Young Ones
It originally aired in Britain in 1982 and 1984, but we in the US didn't see it until much later. Even then it was heavily edited to make room for the kind of bad advertising MTV so loved to give us, plus it aired at some ungodly late hour on Sunday night. As I remember, it was on right before 120 Minutes, the only two-hour period where you could see videos by the likes of the Cure and the Sisters of Mercy. (Momentarily passes out.)
SAVVY: Ooh! I love things that appeared in the late 80s and I'm dying to hear more. (Shakes the Sleeping Dominatrix.) Wake up. You were just about to tell us about The Young Ones.
DOMI: Sorry. I had the weirdest dream: I was talking to bunch of college professors about bad sex in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then I had to dress up as Jane Austen and go to a Halloween party and drink a lot of beer. The whole experience has really shaken my concentration.
SAVVY: Sounds dreadful! But I bet you looked smashing as Jane Austen!
DOMI: Oh, I looked TOTALLY hot. But back to The Young Ones, a group of rather simian college students.
SAVVY: Rather simian? You mean like monkeys? In college?
DOMI: Precisely! Imagine a bunch of monkeys in college, but not just any monkeys: unwashed, surly, broke British monkeys, who never study or attend a single lecture.
SAVVY: Alas, I had no such simians in university with me! You always had better monkey luck than me.
DOMI: But the monkeys themselves aren't really the point, because their identities are fluid, as is the plot. If you're looking for traditional narrative, you'll be frustrated and thwarted at every turn. But if you want to see a very young Stephen Fry (who went on to play Oscar Wilde in Wilde) playing someone named Lord Snot, and two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson as a vacuous socialite whose intellectual capacities are strained by making the statement "I've got a Porsche," you'll be quite happy.
SAVVY: Lord Snot! I love it!
DOMI: Remember a couple years back, when I came to visit you in Hollywood, Savvy, and brought with me selections from my dvd collection I thought you might like? Remember how I had to leave you for a while to visit my friend Sophie, the Polish librarian, down by Culver City? Remember how while I was gone you spent hours watching David Bowie videos and episodes of The Young Ones, and how, of all the identities available for you to channel after that sampling of brilliance, you chose Vyvyan, the foul-tempered ginger-haired punk who likes nothing better than tormenting talentless, pretentious poets?
SAVVY: Ah, yes. The whole bloody, bloody, bloody thing is coming back to me! I do remember the joys of ripping on bad poets.
DOMI: Can anyone who has done it ever forget such joys? And I admit that on the whole, talentless, pretentious poets deserve tormenting. But perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that particular aspect of how you embraced The Young Ones. Because the important thing isn't that you adopted a nasal and unconvincing British accent and spent hours with your face contorted by a malicious sneer, but that you recognized immediately how GREAT the show is--you let it move you, change you, transport you to another reality. I've had other friends who sat in quiet consternation while I showed them my favorite episode or two, gazing at me with increasing distress because I kept laughing at jokes before they actually occurred, just because I knew how funny they were going to be. Although the friend might chuckle once or twice out of courtesy, after the episodes ended he would something like, "Maybe it gets funnier after you understand what's going on. Hey, I just remembered, I haven't emptied my lint filter in weeks. I better be going."
SAVVY: I have never emptied a lint filter in my life! Except that one time I did laundry while on LSD and I thought the whole universe was trapped inside the lint filter. I ate the lint and had the funkiest taste in my mouth for weeks...
DOMI: Sweetie, don't you remember how I told you that anything dingy, gray and fuzzy should NEVER go in your mouth? But the real point is this: if you don't get the show's sense of humor right away, you won't ever get it. OK, it's not linear. OK, it makes almost no fucking sense whatsoever. OK, the characters are all repugnant. OK, there are so many addresses to the audience and so many breaks in character and contintuity that you can neve suspend your disbelief. But despite all that, the show is really FUNNY.
SAVVY: It's like the show was trapped in a lint filter and either you eat the lint or you don't, right? I remember how HOT I thought the guys were, except for the little one who was supposed to be a "ladies man." Rick and Neil were both attractive in their own way, but Vyv was to die for!
DOMI: Hmm.... I have often tried to explain the appeal of watching Rick and Neil and Mike and Vyv interact, but somehow, it never once occurred to me to use the word "attractive" to describe a single one of them.... I do remember using the words "repellant" and "absurd," but even those terms often fail to help people understand why I like the show. So I usually abandon explanations and just ask people to humor me, come over to my house, and watch a couple of episodes for themselves.
SAVVY: You may be surprised to find that many people have very horrible taste in men. I, for example, prefer men who are evolutionarily challenged. Thus, my attraction to Vyvyan. What, might I ask, brought on this sudden bit of nostalgia?
DOMI: I was reminded of all this because I recently showed a few episodes to a friend who had never seen the show but is moving to Britain in December. I awoke one night, panicked and anxious, my brow damp with perspiration, my mouth as arid and parched as if I'd been eating lint. I lay quietly in the darkness, thinking about how awful I'd feel if this friend of mine was walking around the North of England and someone said, "Hands up, who likes me!" and he didn't get the reference because I failed to do my duty as a Young Ones devotee. Or imagine that my friend overheard someone say, "Crop rotation in the 14th century was considerably more widespread after 1172" and thought, "You git! Don't you know that 1172 is not in the 14th century," never realizing that it's a line from a brilliant bit of British telly.
SAVVY: Like "sausages and plants and goldfish!"
DOMI: Exactly! And while I felt that I absolutely had to share with my friend the brilliant absurdity that is The Young Ones, I was afraid this friend might be like the other friends who laughed politely a time or two, then later called one of his other friends to complain about the weird shit this strange Domi chick made him watch. (Though I didn't have to tie him up or anything.) But lo! And behold! He LAUGHED SPONTANEOUSLY, FREQUENTLY AND HEARTILY. He GOT IT. And he was grateful.
SAVVY: We all are. Thanks for reminding me.
DOMI: You're welcome! I admit I feel I've done my good deed for the week.
SAVVY: Indeed you have.
DOMI: It was easy and fun, which is how I like my good deeds. I'd do them more often if they were always so rewarding.
SAVVY: So be it.