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the pathetic caverns - movies by title - Young Ones

eclectic reviews and opinions

Young Ones: Every Stoopid Episode

D: Paul Jackson, Geoff Posner; S: Rik Mayall, Ben Elton, Lise Mayer, Alexei Sayle

DVD, 2002

Funny: I saw (most of) the Young Ones episodes on video years ago. Watched a tape-full on a date this spring and was just a little embarrassed: I'd remembered how surreal and over-the-top weird it was, and how it was spiked with political satire, but I'd forgotten its reliance on fart- and vomit-jokes and its broad homophobic streak. But for all that it really was pretty funny stuff, and if "revolutionary" is too strong a word, "ground-breaking" might not be; the Young Ones systematically and viciously attacked the conventions of the situation comedy. So do The Simpsons, but Young Ones started their onslaught in the early 80's, and some of its moments are still arresting today.

If you've never seen the show, fortunately you have a new opportunity to correct that, with this more-or-less swell DVD package. What's it about, you ask? Four variously repulsive students sharing a house in Thatcher-torn Britain, bound together by their mutual hatred, nominally, but that's really just the surface. It's also about trying to make you laugh yourself into a hernia. And making fun of hippies, and political convictions, and the lack of political convictions, and things exploding, and not-very repressed homosexuality and -- well, all sorts of things. It's sophomoric, but it's also often surprisingly smart, not to say literate. Well, let's say literate, but not in a Merchant-Ivory sort of way.

Since I finally succumbed and got one of the damned things, this was the first DVD reish I went out to seek on the very day it was released. Stayed up late a couple nights running with it. I'd forgotten all about Madness lip-synching with silly balsa wood guitars, then getting caught in a riot (the musical guests are a beguiling mix of "must-see" and "who?" with the mighty Motorhead definitely topping the "must-see" list). And then there's the -- well, I should let you see that for yourself.

The BBC America DVD release gets mixed cheers and jeers. Big cheers mainly for it just existing in the first place, and for the packaging, all hyper lurid dayglo, with lovely postcards of Vyv, Rick, Neil and Mike, helpfully labelled "punk," "poseur," "hippie," and "player.," Jeers for intrusive advertising of the DVD you-must-sit-through-it-every-damned-time variety on all three discs. At least let us hit "stop" and go to the menu, willya? Cheers for optional subtitles: Alexei Sayle's multifarious accents could get a bit thick for us yank wankers and the puppet characters were usually even worse. Half a jeer for subtitles that occasionally miss some of the nuances of the gags. Half a jeer for not-very-good indexing; each of the twelve episodes gets six index points, which means you can't really jump to your favorite bit very readily. Cheers though for a DVD interface that's more usable than many. More jeer than cheer for the bonus disc: two short self-congratulatory documentaries that provide limited insight and a little historical perspective, and an episode apiece of Filthy Rich and Catflap and Bottom, shows that featured many of the same cast members but lacked the essential spark and weird energy of the real thing -- a mildly entertaining assortment, with an unfortunate emphasis on the "mild." But then, the bonus material isn't really the point, is it?.

One other thing I hoped for from the DVD was improved sound quality: many of the characters are shouting loudly almost all the time, and any difficulty I had understanding them seemed to stem as much from the distorted overdriven quality of their voices as from their accents. The DVD doesn't clear that up at all, they still go a bit "WAAAHHH" when they get going -- pity, but I s'pose it was a question of trauma to the original microphones, not a limitation of the VHS transfer.

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