ashcroft bumhole

The Young Ones

You don’t get the chance to mourn TV shows properly most of the time; they get cancelled before they come back from hiatus and you're too busy with summer to notice or they end without anyone - not you, not the people in them - realizing that they won't get the chance to make more.

So when at 15 I realized that I had run out of The Young Ones (and first understood the sweet torture of the six-episode British series structure), I didn't grieve. I'm sure I probably felt some disappointment that they hadn't done a third series, but more than that I was hungry, ravenous, to follow all the branches of influence that sprouted from that one abbreviated, massive show.I was in Saint-Lambert and miserable and alone, even with friends and all the reasons in the world to be happy, partly because I was a teenager and that's always horrible, but also partly because I was different from the people around me in some vague way. No one liked what I liked, no one dressed the way I did, everyone hated the music I listened to, and no one else spoke English at home. While they had fawned over Joey or Jordan or (god forbid) Danny, I had realized I liked boys, fallen in love, with Rowan Atkinson smoking in bed. When the girls confess their crushes in whispers and giggles at recess, how do you tell them that your feelings for boys are potent and mysterious too, it's just that they're all for a 35-yeard old dark-haired rubber-faced British man with a beautiful moustache who perfected contempt with his eyebrows? You can't. I might as well have been from outer space. So I conceived a mild interest in Joey and tried to pass it off as much more.

And I know it might sound at this point like I'm condemning them for their sameness and mythologizing my nonconformity, but I'm absolutely not. I wasn't cool. I am not cool. Being different was extremely difficult and achingly, relentlessly lonely. If I could have, I would have been like them. I'm not sure, even now, that I wouldn't go back and try to pretend to care about hockey instead of Versailles.

After Blackadder ended, I had nothing for a long time, except for music which, you'll recall, cost a fortune. And you weren't exactly going to find Bratmobile singles at Taylor's on Victoria or even across the bridge in Montreal for that matter. So imagine my surprise and my gratitude when YTV began airing The Young Ones (followed by Bottom) in the middle of the night on the weekends, after Saturday Night Live, when I was still up and looking for something, even if I couldn't articulate what that was or why I needed it so much. Yes, all of this is hyperbolic and will get even more so in a few lines. Or right now. The Young Ones was a revelation, the likes of which only Boosh has been for me since, as well as certain books and a few songs. It was so loud and so bright and so, so stupid, but in that way that makes you get over yourself and laugh at snot and people's heads falling off. And the astonishing music, one song an episode, bands I never, ever would have heard of otherwise but ushered me towards New Wave and even (lamentably, regrettably) ska, a welcome change from ebbing grunge and ascending SoCal punk. And the gleeful hatred of Thatcher, that I'd already learned from Spitting Image and my own common sense, but proclaimed relentlessly in horrible, shouty poems and rude hand gestures. It is a testament to the significance of that show that I didn't know how the British gave the finger until I saw it.

There were all kinds of references I didn't understand like Roger Bannister and half-day closing and polos (!) and The Good Life and not much of an internet to look them up on, but it didn't matter; it was all the more exotic for it, and new, even though it was already fifteen years old at that point. It could have been a hundred and it still would have walked and talked like the future to me because there was nothing, not a single lil bit of a thing like it on North American television, except for maybe Kids in the Hall, but that was devoid of music and all of that ranting and the yellow overalls and the filth. If it meant that much to me, more than a decade and three thousand miles removed, I cannot imagine what it meant in Britain. It must have seemed like a veritable fucking earthquake.

I eventually bought the Young Ones VHS boxset, which in 1996 teenager money might as well have cost one million dollars. My parents unwittingly sold it in a garage sale. It didn't really track properly anymore anyway. I then bought the DVDs, my first set of those. I lent them to someone and never saw them again. It's still the only TV show or movie I've replaced, although my series three Boosh discs are ailing now. It would be awfully fitting if that was the second boxset I replaced. It didn't fix my life. None of my friends liked or understood it and I was still lonely and different, but I had something new to hang that alienation on, something that sent me looking in every direction for MORE, more of the humour and the music and the aesthetics and the politics. And started to make me feel, for the first time, like if it charmed me further down the path of difference, maybe that wasn't necessarily a bad thing? So obvious now, but not at all then. The Young Ones was comedy and it was punk rock, both of which I direly needed, and in that precise combination. It helped.

I don't know why this has turned out so long or why I'm so sad right now; I meant it to be just a few words of thanks and memories, but it just kept coming, so I let it. I'm sorry it took Rik Mayall's death for me to acknowledge how much of what I am today and what I love came from The Young Ones, but I'm glad I finally did.
  • Current Mood: melancholy melancholy
It's a very powerful thing when something resonates so much with you in adolescence, especially when it's the only thing you have. My thing was different, but I relate. It's a beautiful post. :)
It's pretty mundane, actually. I've always been a vampire fan. But I grew up in a tiny backwoods town surrounded by fundamentalist Baptists and Pentecostals, and I went to a tiny school where I was stuck with the same people from kindergarten through graduation, and I was already an outcast, so I kept it a secret. I would put book covers on my novel collection so I could read them at school, and when church people were around I would hide my books and tapes (and the picture of Gary Oldman on my bedroom mirror). I wrote and read vampire stories as a form of therapy, and it's always been a very personal thing for me. I suppose the parallel to your boxed sets would be my homemade VHS collection, including two seasons of Forever Knight taped secretly at 2am on the weekends. :D
EXACTLY. Little kids trying to pass as normos - it's heartbreaking. I wish there had been something that told me I was entitled to my likes and loves sooner...