The series was recorded in 1982 and 1984 and produced by Paul Jackson for the BBC. It was noted at the time of its first airing for its violent humour: jokes often involved the main characters hitting each other with various objects within reach.
There was a large amount of surrealism, with each episode also including scenes with puppets playing the part of talking animals or objects. Another notable aspect of the show was that famous bandss would play, for no apparent reason, in the house or the street. In fact the reason was that by including the groups, the show qualified as light entertainment and therefore got a higher budget than a mere sitcom - useful considering the amount of set that got smashed up every week.
The main characters and housemates were the hippie Neil (Nigel Planer), the prat/new waver Rick (Rik Mayall), the punk med student Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson, husband of comedienne Jennifer Saunders) and the rich, lazy Mike (Christopher Ryan, the only non-comedian of the four). Alexei Sayle played various different roles, including the students' Russian landlord and his family members. There was also a regular puppet character - Vyvyan's pet hamster, SPG (Special Patrol Group).
Many episodes originally included "flash frames" lasting only a fraction of a second, but these were edited out of most reruns.
The theme tune to the series was the cast singing the Cliff Richard song "The Young Ones" and many references to Cliff were included in the show since he is Rick's idol, despite Rick's claim to be an anarchist. The four housemates even got to sing with Cliff for a Comic Relief special - the song "Living Doll" was a number one hit in the UK.
Mayall and Edmondson elaborated on some of the series' concepts later in their sitcoms Filthy, Rich and Catflap (written by Elton) and Bottom (written by themselves).
See also: British sitcom
The series originally ran to 35 commercial-free minutes per episode, and many episodes were cut for timing when repeated on the BBC or satellite channels. Even the DVD versions omit some musical performances for copyright reasons.