ByTyler Elizabeth Turner, writer at
South Park goth kid. Horror Junkie. Stephen King wannabe. (Twitter @TETurner96)
Tyler Elizabeth Turner

Anarchic sitcoms were made popular in the late '80s and early '90s by pioneers of alternative comedy, notably the likes of Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. The Young Ones, Blackadder, Bottom and The New Statesman are some of the more popular alt-comedy sitcoms to have aired on the BBC.

Despite their short time on the front line, these sitcoms have lived way beyond their final episode air dates and continue to amuse audiences both old and new, decade after decade. So, why is it that that anarchic sitcoms from yesteryear are still seemingly as relevant as ever?


'Blackadder' [Credit: BBC Worldwide]
'Blackadder' [Credit: BBC Worldwide]

There can be no anarchy television without a corrupt political platform for writers to attack. Some showcase more subtle political undertones in their portrayal of society, which might be reflected in the setting or the characters' mannerisms (as is the case with Bottom). Then there are shows such as The New Statesman that ensure the message is well and truly crammed down your esophagus. Blackadder is particularly interesting, as it looks to the past in order to express a rage that was very much in vogue at the time of release, yet can also be applied to contemporary climate.

Society on the whole - particularly in Britain - hasn't changed much since these shows first aired, bar from the introduction of the odd new gadget. Even the political landscape scarily mirrors that of the time, meaning that that which gave us an escape back then still works just as well today.

Youth Culture

'The Young Ones' [Credit: BBC]
'The Young Ones' [Credit: BBC]

Youth and rebellion go hand in hand, so it's no surprise that shows like The Young Ones attracted fresh-faced audiences at the time of release. Its depiction of student life — however hyperbolic it might be — still resonates with the students of today. Living off lentils, avoiding laundry day and throwing rather questionable house parties are seemingly part of the tradition.

With its use of popular music and its frequent references to the societal and political moods of the time, The Young Ones was able to encapsulate an entire era in all its filth and fury. Its strong, art-school vibes and socialist themes are still as reflective of youth culture as ever, making it highly re-watchable.

The 20-Year Cycle

'The Inbetweeners Movie' [Credit: Entertainment Film Distributors]
'The Inbetweeners Movie' [Credit: Entertainment Film Distributors]

You know how you scoffed at your parents' vintage photographs, laughing at the things they did and the clothes they wore, only for them to come back into fashion a week later? The same goes for just about everything else, and archaic sitcoms are not exempt. As with fashion trends, what comes back around might be the same thing but with a slightly different style to give it a modern twist.

Although not as politically fueled as its forefathers, E4's sixth-form sitcom The Inbetweeners managed to influence and reflect youth culture in equal measures. Much of the show's dialogue has seeped into everyday conversation — whether it be "bumder" or "bus wanker" — and the plot lines are often too relatable to bear. Despite being relatively new, it has already achieved classic status and is bound to keep us cringing for the next two decades and beyond.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the longevity of such such short-lived sitcoms is down to the unconscious desire of viewers to quietly rebel against a political system that is eerily similar to the ones attacked in the past. Maybe it's to find some escapism or comfort in story lines that are reflective or reminiscent of youth. Or, perhaps we keep returning to them simply because they never fail to make us laugh. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: We'll still be watching them all in another 20 years.

What's your favorite anarchic sitcom?


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