Laughing Matters — The Young Ones on University Challenge

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

During my first year of college, I quickly established regular Sunday night plans with a cohort of likeminded pals in my residence hall. After a run to the grocery store to stock up on junk food supplies (and, every other week, devoted listening to the WWSP-90FM’s The College Count-Up), we’d trundle down to the TV room in the basement and commandeer the set to watch MTV’s 120 Minutes.

When we were properly efficient in our preparations, we just might get settled in on the bottom floor’s couches of questionable cleanliness in time to also take in an episode of lead-in The Young Ones, the British import that was a rambunctious, absurdist sitcom about four combative roommates. The series originally aired from 1982 to 1984 in the U.K. and amassed only twelve total episodes. We knew those episodes by heart and took special pleasure when the installment dubbed “Bambi” cycled back around, all because it concluded with the lads representing their institution of higher learning on the quiz program University Challenge. By consensus, we considered it the finest, funniest five minutes the show every offered, and that was before we understood that the foursome they faced off against, representing Footlights College, was a murderer’s row of British comic talent, including future two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson.

Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Laughing Matters” tag.

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