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June 23, 2011 / mandalaymai

“What’s happened to all your clothes, Neil?”

When I was about 13, my bestie, Anita, made me watch this random TV show that came on in the middle of the “bloody” night on MTV called The Young Ones.  This was our first intro to BBC made BritComs and we were instantly hooked.  Of course, MTV only showed half of the twelve episodes and even then they were hatcheted to bits to accomodate the 30 minute time-slot they were given (and the fact that they were totally allowed to use bad words on TV in England).  The crude shenanigans of four University students was hilarious, surreal and addictive, even when it made no sense at all.   They went to Scumbag College, never went to class, frequently died (like Kenny, and Tom & Jerry and Itchy & Scratchy – only not cartoons) and ate rats out of the garbage. 

I remember going to England one summer not long after and blowing a great chunk of my spending money on videotapes of the episodes we had never seen.  The tapes were even in PAL and I had no way to play them at home, but knew that Anita and I would find a way to figure that out.  I never even questioned the wisdom of that purchasing decision:  we HAD to have it.

Vyvyan, Rik (with a silent ‘P’), Mike and Neil quickly became almost like invisible friends to us.  We SPOKE in Young Ones, throwing lines around as shorthand to convey more meaning through shared remembrences than the words themselves could ever hold.  Anita STILL calls me Mike.  Ever since that first viewing, the language of The Young Ones has been part of our vernacular.  And we didn’t stop at just the two if us, like some weird non-twin thing that just made us weird and isolated.  No, no – we dragged everyone we knew into it.  My sister speaks Young Ones, and lots of our friends resorted to watching it, just to understand what the heck we were talking about. 

Now, twenty years later, I have a copy of the definitive DVD collection, entitled, “Every Stoopid Episode” and I wondered, is it still funny?  Am I remembering them with sentimentality or nostalgia?  Is it going to entertain me today or will it seem dated?  Television can be entertaining without being timeless and sometimes it can be underated in it’s own time but gain a cult following after the fact.  Sometimes it’s great AND classic.  All you need is to Youtube I Love Lucy and I will have proven my point. 

Anyway, as far as the Young Ones goes, I gotta say it holds up spectacularly.  The episode I watched first was the last episode aired called ‘Summer Holiday’ (I’ll get to why in a second).  The plot is that they fail all their exams “You have come bottom in ze whole vorld!” – and Neil gloats when he finds out he was the high scorer of the four of them, “I came top out of us!” which is something we have all been known to say at various times), get thrown out of their flat and resort to robbing a bank.  Of course, my favorite part is when Rik starts justifying the robbery.  “I’m a child of the recession  and I’ve got hate in my eyes!  Ask for me tomorrow and I’ll be gone because I’ve got a one way ticket to oblivion and I’m gonna raise hell getting there!” only to balk when it comes time to actually commit the robbery, “What? D’you mean now?”  I laughed my ass off!  I highly recommend it.

By the way, I was watching because the three of us, my sister, Anita and I, had recently witnessed a friend freak out over nothing and have an irrational reaction of anger totally out of proportion to the cause.  I had to keep myself from laughing in the moment because even twenty years later it so strongly reminded me of the gentle Hippie Neil Pye freaking out and turning to the Incredible Hulk.  After he snaps out if it, one of his friends asks, “What’s happened to all your clothes, Neil?”  So, now the three of have a new catchphrase to let us know someone is very angry – we ask, “What’s happened to all your clothes?”  So, I watched because I really wanted to watch Neil Hulk out.  “I think I better go and lie down for a bit.”  If you don’t get that, watch the episode and you will.

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