Still being regularly repeated today, Bottom is and will continue to be one of the most enduring and loved British sitcoms.
Whilst its adult material ensured a late night time slot in the BBCs programming schedule, there would have been countless children and teens – this writer included – who managed to steal a view of the early 1990s show and were far too young to fully appreciate the crude jokes, but nevertheless revelled in the desperate antics of the central characters.
The show revolved around two flatmates living on the dole in Hammersmith: Richie (Rik Mayall), a hopeless sex-obsessed virgin, whose sole focus was to ‘just do it’, and Eddie (Adrian Edmondson), a nihilistic alcoholic who only cared about booze and Emmerdale Farm.
Mayall and Edmondson wrote the show, and whilst it didn’t quite steer into the surreal vignettes of The Young Ones, which they starred in together in the 80s, it was still packed with enjoyable absurd humour.
But it was the perfect comic performances of the two which audiences loved in The Young Ones that was the show’s biggest appeal, whether it was the slapstick violence or bizarre behaviour, such as Richie trying to prove he is ‘great on the phone’ by fantasising about a kidnapping situation.
For the uninitiated, it also provided an alternative introduction of what living in the Big Smoke was really like. The world they lived in was dirty, grimy, and sordid. Was Wimbledon Common really the haunt for perverse flashers and Hobnob loving Wombles? Were all local pubs a dive, full of crass, nefarious behaviour, desperation and misery?
Of course it was an extreme depiction, with everything played for laughs. The timing, natural comedic acting and writing ensured the blatant immaturity of the jokes were hilarious.
Richie and Eddie ostensibly hate each other, regularly attempting to punch, kick and maim one another from the opening titles right through to the closing credits, but really they are best mates unable to live without each other.
It is actually sweet how much they did together, whether it was going camping, trying to pick up ‘birds’, or a trip to the fair.
Edmondson and Mayall’s chemistry was integral to the show’s success. Whilst Mayall was big, brash, and loud, creating belly-laughs by just entering a room, he never stole the show, with Edmondson creating a loveable character out of someone so rude, conniving and selfish – in one episode, Eddie attempts to convince Richie he is going to be dragged to hell by the Grim Reaper in order to steal his inheritance money.
After a third series, the laughter lived on through live shows into the noughties, but the untimely tragic death of Mayall means we would never see if the pair could have recaptured the comedic gold in later years with rumours buzzing that the sitcom was to return or whether indeed they were too old for it.
One thing is for sure, whilst the show may have aged a bit around the edges, the jokes are not tiresome and will never hit a bum note.
Created by: Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall
Written by: Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall
Cast: Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Steve O’Donnell, Christopher Ryan
Channel: BBC 2
Number of episodes: 18
Episode Runtime: 30 mins
Year: 1991 – 1995