Tom and Barbara Good's dream is to live completely self-sufficiently. This means, among other things, raising their own vegetables and animals for food. Trouble is, they live in the suburbs. Their very conservative neighbors, the Leadbetters, look on, horrified, at this bold experiment. Written by
George S. Davis <email@example.com>
Neither as acerbic as FAWLTY TOWERS or ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS or as radical as THE YOUNG ONES, THE GOOD LIFE remains cosily stuck in a middle-class time-warp but happens to be blessed with terrific scripts (by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde) and extremely strong characters, played to perfection by the four principle actors. Originally airing 1975-1978, the series managed to maintain a very high standard despite a slight air of exhaustion that crept into the fourth final series. It was decided to quit while they were ahead, at the peak of the series popularity, with a final episode filmed in front of the Queen.
The basic set-up concerns Tom and Barbara Good (Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal) who decide to opt-out of the rat race and try self-sufficiency in Surbiton. On this slender premise hung all kinds of imaginative plots farmyard animals (and their excretory processes), generators, rotary cultivators (and contraptions of all kinds) as well as political machinations in the local music society headed up by the formidable Miss Mountshaft (often referred to, but never seen).
As the series progressed, the plots tended to depend upon situations guaranteed to cause maximum embarrassment to the Goods social-climbing fully paid-up member of the white middle-classes neighbour Margo Leadbetter (played marvellously by Penelope Keith). Margo's husband, Jerry (Paul Eddington) maintains just the right amount of total resigned bemusement throughout.
Stand-out episodes include 'The Windbreak War' (a feud erupts over the positioning of Margo's windbreak), 'A Tug Of The Forelock' (Tom and Barbara go into domestic service...for Margo), 'Silly...But It's Fun' (the Christmas 1977 episode in which Harrods fail to deliver Margo's Christmas), 'Mutiny' (in which Margo plays Maria in the local music society's production of The Sound Of Music) and 'The Thing In The Cellar' (Tom installs a methane generator which runs on something that comes out of pigs).
It's easy to forget the critical approval and the public appreciation the series gained during it's initial tenure, along with the fame that greeted the actors (especially Penelope Keith who memorably appeared on the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show, the ultimate accolade at the time).
THE GOOD LIFE easily ranks up with the best TV comedies ever produced but, unfortunately, it is not remembered with quite the same fondness as DAD'S ARMY, STEPTOE & SON or the magnificent FAWLTY TOWERS. What is needed is some repeats to correct this shameful oversight.
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