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Listen: Patty Jenkins on Why 1984 Was the Perfect Year

Patty Jenkins is now known as the director behind celebrated films “Monster” and “Wonder Woman,” as well as the recent gritty TNT limited drama series “I Am the Night.” But her first passion is comedy — and in particular, surreal, absurdist comedy.

“A lot of my friends who I’d known in the comedy world, in the ’90s, in New York, were shocked [after ‘Monster’ was released],” she told Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode” podcast. “They were sort of like, ‘we all thought you were, like, a comedy person — what happened?'”

Jenkins said she’s been obsessed with comedy since listening repeatedly to Steve Martin’s “Wild and Crazy Guy” album. “There was something about edgy, interesting comedy that always has really delighted me and caught my imagination,” she said. “I always was, all through my youth, going out of my way to find kind of underground, comedic things.”

As she entered the hardcore scene in the 1980s, Jenkins also gravitated toward “The Young Ones,” a British sitcom that aired in the U.S. on MTV (and was, in fact, the first scripted series on that network).

Jenkins joined “My Favorite Episode” to discuss her love of alternative comedy, which included other British series including “Absolutely Fabulous,” and also her fascination with the year 1984 — which happens to be the setting for her new “Wonder Woman” sequel. Listen below.

CREDIT: BBC

Jenkins’ pick for favorite episode is “Summer Holiday,” the series finale of “The Young Ones,” a surrealistic British sitcom that ran for 12 episodes between 1982 and 1984. Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer wrote the episode, while Paul Jackson and Ed Bye directed.

In the episode, misfit flatmates Mike (Christopher Ryan), Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson), Rick (Mayall) and Neil (Nigel Planer) are bored — so bored that they destroy their flat and are evicted. Then they decide to rob a bank. And on the lam, they eventually crash off the side of a cliff.

“They’re older than me, but yet it was speaking to me,” Jenkins said. “It was the first really strong example of alternative comedy of my generation that I saw. And so I just couldn’t get enough of it. Because it was all of the different stereotypes that they were playing with in my own generation.”

Jenkins identified back then as a punk rocker, and appreciated the fact that “The Young Ones” showcased a group of outsiders of all different kinds hanging out together. The director remembers taping “The Young Ones” on VHS and watching every episode over and over.

“I remember every line,” she said. “I wore this thing out at some point.”

Jenkins also has a soft spot for true crime, which is where “Monster” first originated and why she gravitated toward the story behind “I Am the Night.” In both cases, the people upon which both stories were based — Aileen Wuornos and Fauna Hodel — both died before the projects were released.

“It’s very strange and puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders,” she said. “When you’re telling any person’s true life story there’s pressure, but this is kind of extra, extra pressure.”

Jenkins has been in the U.K. making “Wonder Woman 1984,” which has allowed her to revisit British comedies, including the ones from her youth — and also think a lot about 1984, which just happens to be the year “The Young Ones” ended.

“1984 was such an incredible, quintessential year of the 1980s, which is why we picked it for the movie,” she said. “It definitely was a very memorable, important time in my life. Look at the movies that came out. You can’t imagine how there was room — there has to have been a hit every weekend. It’s crazy. For me, 1984 was it. That was the ’80s.”

Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode With Michael Schneider” is where stars and producers gather to discuss their favorite TV episodes ever — from classic sitcoms to modern-day dramas — as well as pick a favorite episode from their own series. On “My Favorite Episode,” some of the biggest names in TV share their creative inspirations — and how those episodes influenced them.

Be sure to subscribe to “My Favorite Episode” on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week. 

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