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Goody, Goody, Yum, Yum! By Keith Topping

The Goodies: Series 3-5

By the time that Jim Franklin took over production, in 1973, The Goodies style and structure was fixed and beloved in the public mind. The series targets were the establishment, especially royalty (despite the fact that Prince Charles cited the series as one of his favourites, and even offered to play himself in the episode Scatty Safari) and, at the other extreme, the bland, showbiz celebrities who were (allegedly) queuing up to appear on the show. A Sunday evening institution with a large following across the country, The Goodies was especially popular with students who, perhaps, recognised the 'footlights' backdrop to the humour. Despite the fixed thematic targets of the series, The Goodies were also content to experiment with unusual subject matter, parodying film musicals in The Lost Island of Munga (which brought a return to the series for Henry McGee's Moriarty-style super-villain - he had previously appeared in The Stolen Musicians), sci-fi in Invasion of the Moon Creatures (a story that ripped-off Doctor Who to such an extent that the TARDIS even puts in an appearance), sickness in Hospital for Hire (guest starring Harry H. Corbett and including a memorably understated sight-gag featuring Sooty) and the police in Goodies in the Nick.

Superstar took The Goodies one step closer to the pop-music adulation they craved. DJ John Peel appeared as himself, introducing Bill (now renamed 'Randy Pandy') on a mock-up of Top of the Pops. Later, after Peel had given one of The Goodies singles a slagging in a music magazine, he was beaten up by two of the group in the Marquee Club in London (Peel commented, dryly, that he wouldn't have minded if it had been someone fashionable, but to get 'chinned' by the people who gave the world The Funky Gibbon was a source of great embarrassment to him). For the next few years, Peel bore as many and frequent attacks through the series (he "Bored for Britain" at the Montreux Festival d'Boring in Daylight Robbery on the Orient Express) as more obvious showbiz targets like Max Bygraves, Des O'Connor and, the series particular favourite, Nicholas Parsons (who always seemed to take his slagging with incredibly good grace).

One of the most memorable early episode of The Goodies was the 1973 Christmas special, The Goodies and the Beanstalk, featuring a plethora of guest stars (Alfie Bass, John Cleese, Eddie Waring and Arthur Ellis). The trio, having 'fallen on hard times', leave their Cricklewood base for Everest and an International edition of It's a Knockout with a difference. A week later the fourth season ended with The Race, a wonderfully absurd story of the lads entering their house into the Le Mans 24-hour car race. It includes a plethora of wonderful sight gags and (relatively) staggering special effects.

Possibly the pinnacle of the groups creative career came with the 13 episode season of 1975. This was the era of the groups recording career (they enjoyed two top-10 and three top-20 singles that year) with the seasons most successful episode, Kung-Fu Capers (a visually stunning rip-off of the, then current, fascination with martial arts) spawning its own spin-off song, Black Pudding Bertha.

By this time Monty Python had also ended and Bill Oddie certainly thinks this helped with The Goodies audience figures.

'We have a more tolerant audience, especially since Monty Python's not on... people suddenly realised we were all right, and we've been allowed into this group. Also, we asked the BBC to put us on at nine o'clock... People do tend to be very conscious of their image as viewers, especially in this kind of area where they know, for example, that we appeal to kids. A fully blown Time Out, Sounds and New Musical Express reader would not have been seen dead watching The Goodies at that point. You've got to be a Python fan because that's clever and we're not, we're childish.'

This wasn't just the province of some viewers prejudice, it also extended to the BBC. Oddie again:

'The first two seasons went out at times ranging between twenty-past-nine and half-past ten. By the fourth we were going out at six forty-five. Consequently the BBC started labelling us as a kids show because they realised the kids liked it. So then they started getting uptight about content.'

Ecky-Thump is a classic example of the group at work, taking a currently topical theme, cleverly subverting it to their own off-centre view of the world, getting one of the group (in this case Bill) involved in a 'flip' variant of the main theme and ending the episode with a collection of chases and high-jinx, overplayed with Oddie's music.

 

"Next they were turned into clowns by some unusual US Army surplus tomato soup."

The Goodies took over the British Film Industry in the fifth season opener and, after sacking all of the directors (even Ken Russell despite the fact that they liked him for having burned Oliver Reed at the stake) violently clashed over what sort of films to make. Next they were turned into clowns by some unusual US Army surplus tomato soup. Wacky Wales saw the trio involved with Druids ('The Seventh Day Repressionists' led by Jon Pertwee) and a religious Rugby competition. Scatty Safari (featuring a guest appearance by another of the series regular 'showbiz' targets, Tony Blackburn) was a witty rant against zoo's (and Rolf Harris!), ending in the same manner as the Pied Piper of Hamlyn ("the other side" of the mountain in this case being ATV). The Goodies spent an episode alone on a lighthouse that turned into a space rocket, became involved in South African politics (an episode which showed that Garden and Oddie, despite often being labelled as 'childish' could produce hard-hitting satire with the best of them) and squirted each other to death with Tomato sauce in the infamous Bun Fight At The O.K Tea- Rooms. The season ended with Tim chanting 'I'm a tea-pot' and the trio considering cannibalism when their pad is encased in concrete in 'The End'.

Tim:

I want a son. I must have a son. Graeme, you're a doctor...

Graeme:

Sorry, can't be done.

Tim:

But a man isn't a man unless he exercises his right to fatherhood.

Bill:

You can exercise it all you like but you won't find much use for it!

By now, the series success was exemplified not only by the records, but also the regular books which appeared and included much of the series wackiness. The Goodies File (1975) and The Goodies Book of Criminal Records (1976) cannily expand on the basis of televised episodes and, much as the Python books had, brought the series to a new generation of viewers.

One problem that often hit the programme was its topical nature, whilst Monty Python remains (thematically) timeless, The Goodies often set their series firmly in the, then-present mid-70s. Seen today, the episodes which still work are usually those that are not fixed with any reference point. Goodies Rule - OK?, the 1975 Christmas episode is a good example, set in an irreverent parallel world where, having fallen on hard times (again), The Goodies become Britain's only source of income, play Wild Thing at Wembley to an audience entirely made up of screaming, spliff-smoking policemen, lead to the election of a dummy government which bans humour, and, finally, the memorable sight of televisions puppets taking control, giant Dougal's and Zebadee's destroying Chequers in the process. Again the Christmas episode was an excuse for a number of guest stars (Eddie Waring, Patrick Moore, Sue Lawley and Tony Blackburn along with a regular collaborator, Nationwide anchorman Michael Barrett). Early Goodies episodes had tended to feature mock television news items read by Corbett Woodall in the role of the po-faced BBC newsreader (a role he would repeat in series like The Brothers), although once Barrett had taken over this role, later seasons brought a new proto-realism to these sequences (and when David Dimbleby introduced the election-night shenanigans of Politics, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that we had stumbled onto a (sur)real episode of Panorama).

© 1996 Keith Topping      Visit his website From the North...