Saturday, April 5, 2008


'The Young Ones' was an anarchic sitcom (most of the time just sketches loosely tied together by a common plot thread) from Great Britain back in the 80s. The four main characters were Neil the hippie, Rick the effeminate and rather spotty revolutionary, Vyvyan the heavy metal punk, and Mike the cool guy. Plus Alexei Sayles would appear most weeks as yet another member of the Balowski Family.

If 'The Young Ones' existed in Earth Prime-Time, they broke most of the rules of physics and Zonked their way through the TV Land-scape with their references to other TV shows as TV shows. They were serlinguists who talked to the audience viewing at home in the Trueniverse, and were well aware that they were on TV.

(A good example - in the episode "Sick", the opening credits for 'The Good Life' - 'Good Neighbors' to American viewers - suddenly cropped up and Vyvyan burst his way through them and tore them down before he launched into a tirade against my beloved Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers.)

I watched two episodes of the series on Friday, and when I say I watched them, what I actually mean is that I mostly raced through them to get to the best bits and/or the guest stars. The show doesn't really hold up that well twenty years on: but then again, that's not really a topic for Inner Toob. It's not the quality that's ever of concern but whether or not it can fit into the TV Universe properly...

"Sick" was one of those episodes, and that one was most notable for those points I mentioned earlier - the serlinguism, the tele-cognizance, and the many reality bends. The other was my favorite of the entire series, the one that showed them all to best advantage (if such a thing is possible): "Bambi".

First off, "Bambi" had fantastic guest stars - Robbie Coltrane, Ben Elton, Steven Fry, Hugh Laurie, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones, Tony Robinson, and Emma Thompson. It also had a great sight gag that showed how even appliances are alive in Toobworld (and best of all, it concerned the aforementioned and still beloved Felicity Kendal).

Most importantly, "Bambi" established a theoretical premise for the entire series - the world of 'The Young Ones' exists (or existed) in another TV dimension. This is not altogether novel; 'Sliders' made the idea of alternate TV dimensions... well, universal, while other shows explored that theme from 'Buffy' to 'The West Wing'. However, the dimension for 'The Young Ones' is unique in that it's microscopic; as Dr.Carlisle marvelled as he looked at their world on a slide, "Human beings the size of amoebas!"
It's all rather "Horton Hears A Who!", isn't it? Only the good Doctor wasn't quite as protective of them as the elephant. (Speaking of which, Dr. Carlisle met with a patient who was presented as an "elephant man" like John Merrick, but was in fact an actual pachyderm (albeit one who could speak English).

The dimension of 'The Young Ones' mirrors our own... for the most part. The history was similar (as seen in Rick's O-level exam books and the Daily Mirror Big Book o' Facts), so were the customs, and even the same people. However
, their timeline was more accelerated and did not match up with ours or that of Earth Prime-Time. Dr. Carlisle was living during the Victorian Age while 'The Young Ones' was definitely a product of Margaret Thatcher's England.
Getting back to the Doctor's protection of their world.... at the end of the episode, his sticky bun (more like an eclair) fell onto the microscope slide and nearly crushed the guys. Apparently amoeba-sized humans were stuck to the sticky bun and so the Doctor fed it to the elephant. Since Rick, Neil, Vyvyan, and Mike continued on with more episodes, they must have tossed off the eclair and let it fall on the studio audience at "Grenada TV". But they were Upper Class Twits from Footlights College, so bleep 'em.

So we can give 'The Young Ones' a pass when it comes to their many Zonks because they were in an alternate dimension where those other TV shows were no more than TV shows. (Another one "seen" was 'Grange Hill'.)

Does that microscopic world still exist? And if so, where is the slide it resides on? By now, they must be in their space age 22nd Century, if their timeline kept advancing at such a rapid rate. And
we could then add in a few sci-fi shows to their world which don't exactly fit in with the main Toobworld. Several episodes of 'The Twilight Zone' come to mind, especially "Number Twelve Looks Exactly Like You" - Rod Serling specifically states that it was taking place in the year 2000. Those advancements haven't taken place here yet - thankfully - where everybody is made to look exactly the same. But it could have happened on that microscope slide.

I just hope Viveca Scott didn't smash that slide when she killed Karl Lessing in the "Lovely But Lethal" episode of 'Columbo'!

Toby OB

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