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'The Goodies' were one of the things that made growing up in the Seventies
so much fun! This show may be dated fashion- and special effects-wise, but
the humour is still as original and hilarious as ever.
Oddie, Garden and Brooke-Taylor shared a similar background and history to most of the Monty Python team. They also began as comedians while studying at University and various combination of Goodies and Pythons performed and wrote together for many television and radio comedies throughout the Sixties. Not long after Monty Python debuted on TV in 1969 The Goodies followed with their own series, which ended up lasting much longer. The Pythons aimed at adults, The Goodies at children, but for all their surface differences they shared a similar surreal Goons inspired wit, with an emphasis on wonderfully inventive sight gags.
Unlike Python, the show wasn't a sketch comedy. The basic premise was that out heroes would do anything, anywhere, anytime, which meant that they got into increasingly bizarre situations, which were often just an excuse for silly goings on and funny stuff. And the show WAS funny! Even today the best episodes stand up, and 'Kitten Kong', the unforgettable episode about a giant kitten terrorizing a city, must surely rank as one of THE highlights of television comedy, any decade!
The Goodies were Tim, Bill and Graeme (character names the same as their
real names). The shows ran from 1970 to 1980 and the plot usually involved
one of the three going mad in some way and the other two attempting to stop
him. In the early series there was a guest star who won the honour of being
the baddie for the week, until the Goodies realised that the baddie was
usually the best part to play!
The episodes were written by the trio and all stunts were performed by them as well. Their style was part slapstick and part dialogue driven comedy. Of the 75 or so episodes there are only a handful that do not stand the test of time (or taste, although the team have apologised for some of the incidental racism in the jokes which, however was standard for the time).
Some of the best episodes include The Giant Kitten (where a kitten is fed growth mixture, ends up two stories tall and eating London, and the Goodies have to don mouse suits to get close enough to inject the antidote), Pirate Radio (where the team start a pirate radio station, then pirate post office and Graeme attempts to take over the world), Goodies at the OK Tearooms (a western set in Cornwall where they mine for cream and scones, ending in a gunfight with sauce bottles) and The End (entire episode set in a room encased in a concrete block over a span of 100 years, with brilliant script and forced on them as they had used their series budget up).
The team had their start at Cambridge and Oxford with the boys from Month Python. They wrote a number of TV shows with the python lads and were good friends. The Goodies also starred in a radio series called I'm sorry, I'll Read That Again with John Cleese and some episodes written by Eric Idle which lasted for six years(1965-1971,1973). Monty Python's Flying Circus started about six months before the Goodies.
The Goodies was a classic TV series which is still funny and should be re-released on DVD ASAP.
It's funny how the controller of BBC2 can allow repeats of "The Good
and "Fresh Prince Of Bel Air" (to name but two admittedly excellent
comedies) to be shown over and over but her reasoning for not repeating
Goodies" is that she doesn't want to air too many repeats. But the good,
utterly brilliant, news is that Messrs Brooke-Taylor, Garden and Oddie
themselves have bought the rights to their classic show and plan on
releasing it on DVD and video. At this time it's unknown whether they'll
publish the whole lot with loads of fabulous DVD extras (a commentary
the trio would be wonderful) but the fact that us Goodies fans can
get to see our wacky heroes any time we like is reason for the most
The jokes that sailed too close to the wind and the occasional mis-fired episode have already been discussed here but it still remains that these were some of the funniest guys of the Seventies (and beyond) and deserve a good deal more recognition than they currently enjoy. "Kitten Kong" and "Bunfight at the OK Tearooms" are no doubt their best known sketches but their take on "Bright Eyes" was hilarious and their flat-capped Yorkshiremen knocking nine bells out of each other with blackpuddings were side-splitting (unless you're from Yorkshire and therefore fed up to the back teeth with that kind of "eckie-thoomp" stereotype).
It's about time we finally got to see The Goodies on DVD but while we wait I can highly recommend that you listen to the BBC Radio 4 "quiz" show "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" which features both Graeme and Tim.
I would not miss these guys along with Python when I was in high school, and I'm sure it warped me. I recall a jockey's uprising, no longer able to withstand the indignities of "Apart-Height". There was a couple of lucky scone miners who got squirted in the face when they hit a vein of strawberry jam. And of course, the longest game of 'I Spy' on record with only one piece of furniture in the room. Out of context, yeah, sounds daft, kinda like quotes from "The Aqua Teen Hunger Force".
The Goodies and Monty Python both came out of the radio programme "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again". Python was surreal and got well known for it. "The Goodies" was more consistently surreal and obviously missed the boat because of it. Personally I think "The Goodies" was more consistently funny than Python and, for the most part, as surreal (the chase at the end of "Saturday Night Grease" should be enough to confirm that!) or more so. I just wish that they were as popular so that more programmes were available on DVD! The "card" game in "The Bun Fight At The OK Tea Rooms" is enough to make people agree with that!
As the thirtieth anniversary of the Goodies loomed in the year 2000, there were rumours of a special 'Goodies night' on BBC2 to celebrate the wonderfully anarchic (and hugely influential) surreal humour of this timeless comedy team. Sadly, however, the station's controller spiked the idea, leaving us hardcore Goodies fans with nothing but six episodes on BBC videotapes, memories and those brilliantly camp novelty records the trio released all those years ago. Yes, the special effects have dated. Yes, they were prone to dodgy sexist / borderline racist gags. Yes, they wore flares, union jack waistcoats and star tanktops. But televison was a better, friendlier and crazier place for having known Bill, Tim and Graeme. And it's a sad man who doesn't laugh at Michael Aspel getting stomped by that giant kitten!
The Goodies was a very original comedy series in the 70's, which
appealed to all of us who liked Monty Python. While Monty Python are
built from sketches with no punchlines, instead flowing into each
other, a Goodies episode is built from some kind of theme, but with a
storyline that rarely goes the expected way. The unexpected turns is a
common feature in both shows.
The series is clearly related to both Monty Python and Mighty Boosh. Actually, Mighty Boosh appears to be the closest one, also being built on surrealistic stories rather than sketches. The Boosh members have indeed mentioned The Goodies as a source of inspiration. Monty Python, on the other hand, appeared at the same time, and both teams have a common background, working together in previous projects (like "At last the 1948 show"). I think it is no coincidence that both Goodies and Monty Python left the conventional sketch-with-punchline shows for a more original form.
The series is a mostly lighthearted comedy, wild as a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes it is silly on Benny Hill's level, but even when at that level it is inventive and imaginative. Anything can happen, as they do "anything, anywhere, anytime". The stories are about absolutely everything, including sex (Gender Education), racism (South Africa), monsters (Kitten Kong, Scotland).
Note that it is not always lighthearted comedy. In particular, the episodes The End and Earthanasia are dark stories about life, death and survival. They are good too, but in a completely different way.
Is it dated? Not worse than Monty Python. The only thing that really feels dated is the laugh tracks and some references to then current celebrities. I have to live with that (and there is at least one laughter-free episode on the DVDs). Of course, everything looks like the 70's, not only Graeme's sideburns, but that's not a problem. The special effects vary from primitive (Loch Ness monster, Graeme in the lighthouse) to very impressive, incredible for a TV series (The Movies). Some themes, like South Africa, comment on events in the 70's, but often still works after a quick explanation for the young ones. Apartheid may be gone, but racism is not. So all in all, it has aged very well. Another example of racism, which is really anti-racism, is all the references to "The Black&White Minstrel Show", which they mocked the most in "Alternative Roots". Their statement is clear: They very much know that black-face humor is racist and they are clearly against it. (Incidentally, "The Black&White Minstrel Show" was canceled not long after "Alternative Roots".)
The mix of dialog-driven humor, often funny visuals, and silent slapstick is part of the concept. There is often a slapstick part in the middle (Radio Goodies, South Africa) which gives the shows variation. Children's show? Well, the kids love the slapstick parts, which are sometimes less amusing to adults. But there is more to it than slapstick! The dialog-driven parts and satire are often more adult-friendly. It says "Fun for all the family" in the title, and that is quite correct.
I would like to recommend the following favorite episodes: The movies, Hype Pressure, Snooze, Radio Goodies, Goodies in the nick, Gender education, Kitten Kong.
This is one of my favourite TV shows, it's so funny! OK, occasionally they may have had a dud episode, like the one with them dressed as toothpaste tubes and bouncing around the world for charity, but most episodes are absolutely hilarious, like 'The End' or 'Earthanasia'. Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor are funny and if you can get a chance to watch the show, don't miss it.
The Goodies are a very funny British comedy group that grew out of a radio
show called "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" (sometimes called "The Wonder
Show".) The radio series also had John Cleese and a few
The writing for this group is always very sharp and filled with unexpected and dreadful puns.
If you can find a copy of this, rent, buy or borrow it! (That goes for any of their other movies.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
... or so went the lesser-remembered early version of the theme tune.
It's easily forgotten that The Goodies, running for twelve years, was
spawned out of the tail end of the 60s. This goes from the sneaky drug
references (just check out the initials of Bill's Lemon Sherbet Dip
which gives him all the hallucinations) and the musical numbers by
Oddie which seem to pass them over as wannabe Monkees. The first credit
sequence sees them leaping in the air like some kind of carefree,
youthful troupe, which of course The Goodies never really were.
Corduroy and wild abandon never really sat well together, and Graeme
Garden even confesses that he sprained himself jumping into the air.
But looking back over the seven episodes of the first series from 1970,
it's still difficult to answer the all-important question: are they
still funny anymore? The initial signs weren't good. Seeing the trio on
an old Top of the Pops repeat singing The Funky Gibbon was a painful
realisation that three middle class (well, except for Bill) and
practically middle-aged men dancing around and mugging hasn't followed
us into the new century very comfortably. Dating, of course, is not the
fault of the programme, which was made with the intention of airing to
a 1970-1982 audience, not to be thrown into the harsh light of DVD in
the 21st century. Yet it's strange how one decade's subversion is
another's mainstream, and while at the time it was cutting edge and
quite political, seen in 2007 its surrealism is very much end of the
pier, while even the skits on the Royal Family are quaint in a modern
Naturally, being a product of the 70s, there's much to debate in terms of content. There's a "poof" or "fairy" joke in two of the first series episodes, topless women in three of them, and while blackface doesn't feature here, it was a semi-regular Goodies staple, even being used as late on as the 1981 Christmas special. Heritage is a question among the series. For a long time the stars touted themselves (legitimately) as peers of Monty Python, unfairly regarded as a "kid's show". Such things are not helped by their merchandising ventures, such as my dog-eared copy of The Goodies 1974 annual. Brought out by World, traditionally the makers of children's annuals, it's helped by the interest taken by the Goodies themselves, and there are one or two racy jokes in there, such as the tribal wife named Gentilia. But to allow what is a glorified kid's book (complete with five comic strips) to enter Christmas stocking and then complain about not being taken seriously is a little rich.
The heritage extends further back, with slapstick indebted to both the golden age of cartoons (a series a post-Goodie Tim would present, and directly referenced in Kitten Kong, and more) plus silent comedy, Tim's cries a blatant crib from Stan Laurel. Bringing this forward, one suggestion to give the series latter-day credibility is that its natural offspring was The Young Ones. Watching the staid opening episode might not immediately bring this to mind, but by the time we reach March 1975 and Graeme's eating a foghorn while they strike oil and launch a lighthouse into space, you can see where the claims are coming from. By the time The Goodies left our screens (sacked by a commercial channel who didn't really know what to do with them once they had them) it was the same year Rik, Vyvyan and Neil were due to take their place back on BBC2. That the year before saw the aforementioned final "blackface" incident perhaps indicates the real gulf between them and the "alternate" regime in terms of idealogy.
The 1970 series, then, while not being laugh-out-loud hilarious, is quite charming in its staid way. Sure, there are plenty of counterculture jokes, some bare boobs and Bill's bare backside, but a series that has an episode with Tim pretending to be a woman is a very quaint, almost music hall throwback. The decision to mimic television adverts in the middle of all the episodes is less Python style satire, more the sort of stuff that Benny Hill had been doing since the 1950s. (Having said this, the advert for "Razz" is probably the funniest part of the first series). In fact, "Caught In The Act" is arguably the most dated episode of the lot, one that predicts the rise of women's clubs complete with male strippers but has bawdy sexism, rear nude women and randy housewives as part of its lexicon. In referring back to The Young Ones, then having the third episode centred around police brutality is commendable, though curiously lacking in real edge to a modern audience. By some way the best episode of the first series, "The Greenies" (AKA "Army Games") sees not only a satire of the British military, but also an early dig at Apartheid and swipes at vivisection. The final episode of the first series, "Radio Goodies", is interesting in that Graeme becomes the "bad guy" for the episode, a narrative tool that they would go on to employ more frequently throughout future episodes.
Overall, while the 1970 episodes ARE dated, almost quaint, and linear compared to what came after, the tighter scripts and more verbal based nature means they stand up fairly well nearly four decades later. Not only that, but while the acting may have improved over time, there's a freshness and energy that the last couple of series may have lacked. Oh, one last thing... isn't it weird seeing Bill without a beard?
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