A Trail of Disaster

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

For the Radio Times, 5-11th May 1984

The Young Ores, Tuesday 9.0 BBC2

Was it fair to send an unarmed writer on the trail of The Young Ones? In retrospect, no. But at least Johnny Black is an older and wiser man for the experience

I should have sniffed danger right away, when Radio Times asked if I’d ever had experience of rat catching, ‘Slippery devils,’ they said, squirming a bit. ‘You grab ’em tight round the throat then bite their heads off.’ At the time I couldn’tt see what possible connection this had with interviewing The Young Ones. After all, they’re just actors, aren’t they?

So I set off to find them. That’s when I located a riflebutt and a brick covered in blood, real blood, in Television Centre, Studio Five, where they’d just finished filming episode one. Fetchingly titled ‘Sick’. I cornered the show’s production manager, Ed Bye. ‘No, they’ve all gone off to stop Rik bleeding,’ he said consolingly. ‘Looks like he might need stitches.’ Attempting to leave the scene I opened a door and found myself in a bedroom drenched with nauseous green slime…

The first time I actually considered biting the head off a Young One was shortly after I arrived at Ashton Court Mansion in Bristol where they had been shooting episode five, ‘Time’, A burned building smouldered in the grounds, and the locals were asking if anybody had actually seen the terror. After all, there had been a very loud explosion. But there was no sign of the Young Ones.

As I headed back to London, I noticed something lying beside the road at a railway crossing, I stopped the car, got out, and found a severed head. Had someone got to them before me? Looking along the line, I saw several more, and confirmed from local people that the BBC had been filming there all day.

Next day, after several angry phone calls, I established that they were in Television Centre, filming episode three, ‘Nasty’. I drove over to find another recently deserted set containing a bath full of brown sludge occupied by two copulating teddy bears, more severed heads and a video machine stuffed with toast. But no Young Ones.

A chap from the special effects team tipped me off that they were having a meal that night at an Indian restaurant in London’s Westbourne Grove with legendary punk band The Damned, their guests in that episode. I entered the restaurant to find that they had been evicted half an hour earlier after The Damned’s Captain Sensible clambered on top of their table to perform a lengthy, tuneless rendition of Happy Talk.

Drowning my sorrows with a colleague that night, I unfolded my tale of woe and was momentarily unnerved by his sharp intake of breath. ‘Didn’t you hear about the punch up?’ he asked.

I sighed with relief. I’d heard about several punch-ups, but compared to the holocaust trail I’d been following, they seemed insignificant. Which punch-up did he have in mind? ‘Well, after they’d filmed an episode called ‘Bambi’, Nigel Planer (Neil the hippy) was beaten up by three drunks dressed as security men as he left the BBC. He was badly bruised, got a huge black eye…

I yawned. ‘Boring,’ I said, and shambled off home, having decided to give up. As I crawled into bed, the phone rang. It was Young Ones producer Paul Jackson. ‘Listen mate,’ he said, ‘I think you could meet them tomorrow at….’ I didn’t want to know. I cut him off, shouting ‘Why don’t you go to Hell?’ ‘Done that, old son,’ he quipped. ‘Episode three.’