Saturday, June 13, 2009


Just to prove that procrastination is the thief of time, I'm going to spend a few minutes posting rather than write my reflective section of the report that is due on Monday.

I remember during the last month of my first degree asking my sister to return the video of the Young Ones that she'd borrowed so that I could watch them one last time as an actual student. How wrong I was...

The Young Ones have a few aspects relevant to them appearing on this blog:

  1. they were popular both in the UK and Australia, rather like Are You Being Served, and so are a rare cultural touchstone linking the countries (they're rarer than you'd imaging);
  2. erm.. they're students and Vyvyan was a medical student (at a poly.. never!);
  3. They were on the telly when I was very young: like Monty Python, it was the pups that formed the first strong fan base and have perpetuated their popularity (reference needed);
  4. popular opinion is that the series is getting dated and I was interested to see if that's really the case..
So, the main reason for revisiting to see whether they've dated well or poorly. Let's consider different aspects of the programme before delving into specifics. I'm not going to go into details of the programme here. Head over to Google if you're keen.

Lots of anti-Thatcher commentary, so obviously 25 years out of date. Still resonant for those who grew where the effects of Thatcherism were at their most malevolent so perhaps not as dated as all that. However, from what I've seen, the political activist Rik-like student is dead and buried largely due to the pressure of fattening up the CV.

Neil the hippy was always out of date being a character from Nigel Planer's late70s set transported into the format. Nostalgia being what it is, this slight anachronism of the time now seems less obvious and, oddly, Neil now seems to make more sense rather than less. Rik's hair looks like it is, being an early 80's rat tailed nightmare. That's the problem with being up-to-date: you tend to date. Mike looked bizarre at the time and still looks odd. For a man who isn't keen on hippies, he has a predilection for the lapels seldom seen outside 70s school photos. Vyvyan falls into the Neil camp: what kind of punk was he supposed to be? A poorly thought-out hybrid punk / new wave of British heavy metal nightmare. From the neck up, he could pass for a punk with the forehead and nose piercings and a very odd sort of mohican sort of not haircut plus a chain around his neck. His "Very Metal" denim body warmer and Whitesnake T shirt plus wrist bands are pure poodle metal. Waist down, the patchy-bleached jeans and DMs fit either label. Whatever: punk we wasn't. But does he look dated: not really; like Neil, he looked odd then and looks odd now.

Conclusion: doesn't look too bad (except for Rik, particularly when he goes the yellow dungarees).

The live bands selected have stood the test of time... except maybe for Rip, Rig and Panic. Motorhead still look the same as do Madness. Ultra-short term nostalgia being what it is, most of the bands you see are still touring so music isn't problem (ex-Party where a Human League record makes an appearance... but Phil and the girls are still touring too...)

Never the strongest part of the deal, oddball cut-aways to elephant men, Chekov pisstakes and the like look even worse today.

Poorly animated chips / carrots and SPG looked poor at the time and still do now: no more dated now than then.

Student life
Probably the biggest anachronism. There are no grants here or in the UK. Lectures are attended on pain of unemployment with large debts. Medical students don't dress like that (if they ever did). New Universities don't get to go on University Challenge (often). Trips to the laundrette don't happen. Student houses are fully serviced and have broadband. You work your summers. Can't remember last time I saw a rag mag.

That all being said, there's lots of similarities: student parties, acne, poor hygeine, poor housing, etc. And this is, I think, the main thing. Much of the humour comes from recognition of these things, and many more people attend university now than when the Young Ones first aired which has grown the audience of people who recognise the humour.

Watching the programme today, I still find it enjoyable. But then again, it could just be that it's my own Proust's madeleine (Copyright every single lazy writer trying to seem well read).

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