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Goody, Goody, Yum, Yum! By Keith Topping

The Goodies: Series 6-9

 

During 1976, The Goodies got involved in the cod war by breeding the worlds largest fish, started a 50s revival (William and Grayfunkle reaching the 60s as Tim turns into a Mike Mansfield-inspired mad- director and begins plans to 'direct' World War III), became advertising men and sold the world string and, in another genre-hop, saw their sons revive cricket in 2001...And a Bit ("and so it came to pass that the MCC inherited the world and so retained the ashes!") The season ended with an almost live performance of some of the teams best known musical numbers; check out the (unintentionally) hilarious audience participation in Please Let Us Play.

However, by 1977, The Goodies were known to be upset by the treatment of the series by the BBC. Whilst the six-episode 1977 season saw an erratic mix of brilliance (Dodonuts where Graeme finds a dodo in a pet shop: 'Was it going cheap?' asks Bill, 'No, it was going SQUAWK!' is the reply) and ineptitude, many episodes veering radically from the sublime to the ridiculous (notably the trio's blinkered and suspiciously jealous pastiche of the new-wave scene), The Goodies had problems getting script approval from various parts of the BBC. This was notably evident in Royal Command Performance, another sustained attack on the royal family which was scheduled for broadcast on the day that Princess Anne was due to give birth. In the event, the BBC stopped the episodes broadcast, replacing it with a repeat and moving the order of the season back by a week. Garden:

 'To show how "in touch" the BBC were, our administrator said "I've got a solution - instead of putting this one out, why don't you put out the one you recorded last Friday?" We said, "This is the one we recorded last Friday!"'

The Tim of the shows was a patriotic coward, much given to declaiming his views to the accompaniment of Land of Hope and Glory. In The End as Tim begins his standard speech, Bill takes off the record and smashes it saying, 'Silent revolution, Lord Timbo!'

As Oddie notes

'Tim, quite rightly, claims that he is hardly ever seen in a shirt and tie (but somehow he feels he should be). There's no question that he's patriotic in so much as he's pro-Royalty and I'm not.'

Brooke-Taylor added,

'We've taken little sides of ourselves... I am a coward. Once, I was doing my Land of Hope and Glory speech - "We must fight them etcetera" - that originally was all it was, but I said "I'd never do that, I might say it all, but at the end I'd run away". Which is, in fact, how it finished. The other two went out and I went and hid in the cupboard.'

The 1977 Christmas special Earthanasia is one of the finest half- hours of TV comedy ever made, recorded live, in 'real time', in one room with just the three characters (this is also what marks out episodes like The Lighthousemen and The End for greatness). The world is to end in half and hour and The Goodies attempt to spend their final moments coming to terms with their 'worthless existence' (Bill, typically, wants to go out with a bang, skateboarding to Wembley to 'bang in a hat-trick' before sitting in on a reunion concert of the Beatles and still leaving time to 'pleasure' the whole of New Edition, Jane Fonda and 'hold hands with Doris Newbold'. 'You've never held hands with Doris Newbold?' asks an astonished Graeme. 'No' replies Bill, 'I've done everything else but I never held hands!') the episode highlights all that is, genuinely, GREAT about The Goodies, a dark, claustrophobic, apocalyptic and wickedly funny world-view. In Earthanasia sacrifices were made, Bill even shaving his trademark beard off to fit in with the story. Interestingly, it would be over two years before their next season appeared, and it was to be their last for the BBC.

 

The eighth season began in controversy, after one of their finest episodes, Politics, a superb exposé‚ on marketing techniques, and Brooke-Taylor's Rice & Lloyd-Webber-style rise to prominence as Timita - though the episode is chiefly remembered for its dreadful pun 'Don't cry for me, Marge and Tina'. The following story, Saturday Night Grease, apart from being 18 months too late in terms of musical fashion, also landed the series in hot water with Mary Whitehouse. The opening sequence, taken almost shot-for-shot from Saturday Night Fever, caused Mary to blow her top, stating

"Earthanasia is one of the finest half- hours of TV comedy ever made"

'Tim Brooke-Taylor was seen undressing, then dressing to mock John Travolta in an exceedingly tight pair of underpants with a distinctive carrot motif on the front.'

She went on to describe The Goodies as 'too sexually orientated' which proved that she had been watching a different programme from the rest of us for the previous decade. However, the Corporation's disappointingly noncommittal reaction to such criticism convinced Brooke-Taylor, Garden and Oddie that their future lay elsewhere and, after completing the 1980 season (which included the superb Spielberg pastiche U-Friend, Or UFO) the team, including Producer/Director Bob Spiers, quit the BBC to join LWT. In many ways, however, the Saturday Night Grease debacle should have told The Goodies that their days were numbered (the normally effective chase-sequence being particularly self-indulgent). It seemed that The Goodies were running out of ideas.

Although the series they made for LWT in 1982 was not a patch on their BBC work, it did at least include one classic, Football Crazy. Nevertheless, the disappointing reaction to their LWT Christmas special, Snow White 2, must have been seen at the time as the final straw and The Goodies ended in 1982, leaving behind a devoted and vocal following. Brooke-Taylor drifted into awful sitcom (Me and My Girl, You Must Be The Husband) and returned to Radio comedy (Hello Cheeky), whilst Garden and Oddie continued, for a time, as writing partners (penning Yorkshire's Astronauts). Later, Garden returned to medicine (in the sense that one most associates him with fronting programmes about human anatomy). Oddie found success as a children's TV host (Southern TV's The Saturday Banana), as presenter of the Sunday evening quasi-religious series Festival, and as a serious actor. His commitment to environmental matters and wildlife, once used as a source of mockery in episodes of The Goodies (notably Dodonuts), now seems sane and valid in the 90s.

The Goodies, on the other hand, are all but forgotten today, although the UK Gold repeats of the BBC episodes in 1992 have been highly successful. Still, for a few years in the mid 70s, they put a smile on every lover of slapstick, lunacy and vaudeville.

They may have worn Hai-karate, but television was a better place for knowing them.

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