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The Young Ones

Sue MacGregor reunites five people who made their names in the ground-breaking 1980s TV comedy The Young Ones.

Sue MacGregor reunites five people who made their names in the ground-breaking TV comedy The Young Ones.

In the early 1980s, the most popular TV comedies were cosy sitcoms like To The Manor Born and Last of the Summer Wine. Live stand-up comedy was largely confined to working men's clubs and seaside resorts. Mother-in-law and Irish gags were still a staple.

But, in the backroom of a Soho strip club, an underground venue called The Comic Strip emerged. The non-sexist, anti-racist but violent and bolshy acts drew a fashionable crowd. Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman were among the stars in the audience.

TV producers drew from the performers they saw there for the casting of The Young Ones. The bunch of loud-mouthed scruff bags thrown together as housemates in grotty, tumbledown digs, really broke the mould.

When The Young Ones was first aired in November 1982, ratings were pitiful. But before long, the show, with its wild slapstick and surreal twists, soon won a dedicated following. Within six months, a second series was on TV and the team had a BAFTA award for their mantelpiece.

Like the British classic Fawlty Towers, the team decided that The Young Ones should only run for 12 episodes. By then, everyone involved had made their name and alternative comedy became the TV phenomenon of the decade.

Sue MacGregor is joined by original Young One Nigel Planer who played depressed musician Neil; Chris Ryan who played Mike "The Cool Person"; Alexei Sayle who played members of the Balowski family; Lise Mayer who co-wrote the series with Ben Elton and her then partner actor Rik Mayall; and Stephen Frost who played a number of roles across both series.

Producer: Karen Pirie
Series Producer: David Prest

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

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45 minutes

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