Kamis, 16 Februari 2012

Tenancy Culture Studies: The Young Ones

The Brown Couch has long looked forward to today's entry for Share Housing Month. Brilliant, seminal comedy series The Young Ones was created out of the alternative comedy scene in London in the late 70s, especially the comedians appearing at the Comedy Store and later the Comic Strip. Tenancy is a subject close to the hearts of the creators with the later series' Filthy, Rich & Catflap, and Bottom all centred around flatmates and their relationships.

Adrian Edmondson has spoken before about the basis for the characters being something within them. The Young Ones play upon some fairly ingrained stereotypes of students in share houses and part of the brilliance is, in a very stylised way, that there is truth in the comedy. Some houses, some young people, are raucous, dangerous, pretentious... The Young Ones celebrate this. Many are not, but we all know people who have elements of the characters portrayed here. The other end of the Brown Couch may find this next statement controversial, but this style of comedy is what a previous entry in Tenancy Culture Studies, SBS's Housos, attempts to achieve as well. Enough of that though, it is classic alt-comedy Brits we're interested in here.  

We're not watching the bloody Good Life!

The 4 tenants are all undergrad students at Scumbag College. Our heroes are gloomy hippy Neil, destructive punk Vyvyan, pretentious poet Rik and suave Mike. The relationship between the tenants appears to be a classic co-tenancy- although there are constant tussles around the leadership of the house. With a reckless disregard for each other's property and the house in general you would expect the house not to last more than a few days, but somehow they find the patience to continue to live with each other.

Heeeere's Jerzei!

Despite Vyvyan's destructive streak and the group's generally poor housekeeping, the relationship with their landlord actually seems to be quite friendly. Mr Balowski (and his family) are frequent visitors to the house. In the first episode the boys not only manage to get out of paying the rent, but get rehoused in a new house with Mr Balowski following demolition of their current house. This may say more about Balowski's intelligence and business nous than his generosity but his opening speech suggests that part of the value he receives from these tenants is access to the younger generation.

Joined and severed limbs

Er, jointly and severally liable. Leasing and contract laws have long held the notion that co-tenants are jointly but also individually liable in the eyes of the law for the damage that one may cause to the houses they live in (as well as the unpaid rent!). It seems Neil may well be most hard done by in this situation since he is never shown causing any of the not inconsiderable damage to the premises. If he was to receive advice from a Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service they may well refer him to s102, under which a tenant can sever themselves from a co-tenancy if there are special circumstances. Special circumstances are quite a high bar to reach, and should always be something to get advice on before trying yourself, but given the copious amount of video evidence of the violence perpetrated upon him Neil may well make it.

What do we learn from the Young Ones?

The Brown Couch sees a few lessons we can take from the Young Ones. Firstly, sometimes the relationship with your landlord doesn't have to be based purely on financial concerns. Second, no matter how dysfunctional your share house is, it is possible to get along.

There is another lesson here too - "its funny because it's true". Or is it? Anyone who doesn't have a tale of share-house debauchery from their "student days" surely knows someone who does. Yet we would not find it funny at all if it was happening next door. We laugh at their destruction of property and each other, and their disregard for society's norms because - well, because they are on TV. They aren't next door, and we don't have to deal with these aspirational middle-class kids on a good-times rampage. Given we all have stories to tell from our student days, is it really fair to stick the boot in to today's young people?

Of course, it is entirely possible we're taking it all too seriously and should just sit back and enjoy the sight of a punk losing his head.

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