C. S. Lewis, stalwart Christian apologist that he was, may have loved “Flood” in spite of himself. Not only does the sixth episode of The Young Ones—and the finale of the show’s first series—contain a lovingly irreverent homage to Lewis’ enduring fantasy novel The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, it plays on one of the most God-fearing cautionary tales in the history of the human race: the biblical Great Flood. Not that The Young Ones has suddenly, halfway through its iconoclastic run, found religion. But through “Flood,” the show does indeed fervently cling to its unshakeable faith in mankind’s utter—and utterly hilarious—irredeemability.
After Neil and Rick both obliviously (as usual) fail to notice a monastic procession and the subsequent execution of that most wretched of all heretics, a comedian, in their back yard, “Flood” gets flowing. Rick and Vyvyan fight over a comic book of Rick’s that Vyvyan has swiped—SS Death Camp Criminal Battalion Go To Monte Cassino For The Massacre, most likely a prequel to Guardians Of The Galaxy—which only reinforces The Young Ones’ meta-referential fetish; the show, after all, is a moving comic book itself. A debate about the finer points of pacifism and masculinity ensues. (Rick: “You’re deliberately trying to provoke me, aren’t you?” Vyvyan: “Yeah!”) No one wins; everyone loses.
Then, in an interlude that uses The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream” as its transitional music, Rick then imagines he’s a superhero—People’s Poet; he can’t be bothered to have a costume—who confronts a pair of racist, power-abusing policemen and vanquishes them with a bit of snotty doggerel: “And what’s your favorite sort of gig, pig? / Barry Manilow? / Or The Black And White Minstrel Show?” The latter was canceled only in 1978, so Britain’s collective memory of the BBC’s embarrassingly popular blackface program was still fresh enough in 1982 to provide gist for the satire mill.
From there, the plot thickens like a lump of lentils on Neil’s filthy spoon. Vyvyan, it turns out, has formulated a potion that cures one of the most tragic maladies to have ever inflicted homo sapiens: the sad condition of not being “an ax-wielding, homicidal maniac.” Vyvyan’s medicine—stashed in a Coke can, that way nobody will accidentally drink it, goes his airtight logic—is the glaring Chekov’s gun; eventually the landlord, Jerzei Balowski, shows up, chugs it, and goes on an ax-wielding, homicidal, maniacal rampage.
Vyvan’s potion isn’t the only liquid that plays a part in “Flood.” As if trying to milk that motif for all it’s worth, the episode also features, well, milk. And phlegm. And piss. And gasoline. And, of course, rain: The Deluge seems to have come again, complete with a shark swimming outside the window. The House’s laws of physical reality have never been so stretched and distorted so wildly—up to and including a curious detour into Narnia, the magical setting of Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.
While playing hide-and-seek in an attempt to beat the rainy-day doldrums—a step sideways from their last tedium-killing pastime, Monopoly—Vyvyan steps through the wardrobe and into Narnia, complete with The White Witch, who addresses Vyvan as a little boy, pushing Turkish delight on him as if he were the character of Edmund from the novel. It’s jarring mashup, almost eerie, but it also feels entirely natural. The House has already exhibited an ability to plant itself at some multidimensional crossroads, so it only makes sense that Narnia might be just another junction along the way.
The waters rise higher. Jerzei gets choppier. A lion-tamer and his minions pops up as an ostensible non sequitur, although it really completes another elaborate pun; we’ve had witches and wardrobes so far, and the lion makes the trifecta. Neil is about to be chopped up and eaten for food by the rest of the desperate crew, although it’s really Neil’s own fault; did he really have to say “Hey, wouldn’t it be terrible if we ended up having to eat each other, like those sailors did in that movie, We Ended Up Having To Eat Each Other”? Salvation comes at last, abruptly and anticlimactically, as is the way of The Young Ones, when the episode simply pulls the plug on the flood and lets it drain away. The last thing we see is Vyvyan’s long-suffering pet hamster, SPG, floating on a beer can with an olive branch in his mouth, Noah’s-ark-style. SPG may not be a dove—but just like his fellow rodents Rick, Mike, Vyvyan, and Neil, he’ll just have to do.
“Flood” closes the first of the two series of The Young Ones on a strong note. Every element of the show—the off-kilter rhythm, the internal non-logic, the synergistic physicality of the performances (apart from dull, inert Mike), and the chaotic, magic-realist sense of anything bloody goes—are all hitting fever pitch. Half experiment, half dare, the show fulfilled its original, six-episode order with a flourish; “Flood” could have easily served as The Young Ones’ finale, if that had been necessary. Happily, it wasn’t. The show was renewed for another six episodes, including some of its greatest. We’ll pick up next week with the first installment of the second series, “Bambi,” which not only sports some future superstars among its guests, but caused a rift in the cast. Yes, The Young Ones experienced growing pains—and in true The Young Ones fashion, that pain made for even more great comedy.
Musical Guest Report: Nothing to hear here. “Flood” is the only episode of The Young Ones not to feature a musical guest. In lieu of that, let’s have a vote: What British band that existed in December of 1982 should have been the musical guest of “Flood”? And what song of theirs (released in ’82) should that band have played? My top three dream picks:
- The Jam (who barely squeak in, seeing as how they played their last show on December 11, 1982), “Beat Surrender”
- Bauhaus, “In The Night” (Vyvyan would have pogoed like a motherfucker at the end of it...)
- GBH, “City Baby Attacked By Rats” (maybe with the rats from “Demolition” joining in?)
- “Meringue… Boomerang… Long, blue boomerang…” MC People’s Poet gets his freestyle on.
- “For one man to love another, Vyvyan, is not poofy. It’s actually very beautiful. It’s only when they start touching each others’ bottoms that it gets poofy.” So homosexuality is okay in the abstract, as long as it’s not practiced… Is Rick’s middle name Santorum?
- “Exciting new story: Batman gooses The Joker’s crack!”
- Two more shows-within-a-show (sadly unseen) can now be added to The Young Ones’ ever-growing list: Sweden’s Ooh, Where’s My Volvo? and France’s Mr. Poo Poo Goes To The Lavatory.
- The late David Rappaport clocks in with a cameo as Shirley, the diminutive servant of The White Witch in “Flood”’s off-brand version of Narnia. That makes the second appearance of the Time Bandits alum in The Young Ones—the first being his turn as the little demon in “Boring.”
- “Heeeeere’s Jerzei!” The always excellent Alexei Sayle gets his most significant role in The Young Ones to date, reprising his performance as The House’s landlord Jerzei Balowski—only in this case, he’s also channeling his inner, door-chopping Jack Nicholson from The Shining.
- The Monks Who Say Meh: “Dominus ad nauseam,” chant the blasé, been-there-bowed-before-that monks in the episode’s wholly Holy Grail-esque intro scene. The Young Ones’ loving tributes to Monty Python just keep coming, and they’re wonderful.
- Gnostic Subtext Alert: “God, I’m bored. I might as well be listening to Genesis,” Rick quips at the beginning of the episode. The Great Flood takes place in the Book Of Genesis. The Magician’s Nephew, the sixth book in Lewis’ Narnia series, is packed with parallels to the Book Of Genesis. And thus the hidden order of Creation is revealed. All in an episode’s work for The Young Ones.