Revisiting a Classic British Sitcom of the Seventies
This documentary traces the growth and development of the classic British sitcom THE GOOD LIFE, with the help of contributions from Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, director John Howard Davies, and a host of back-room staff. Gardener Monty Don argues that the sitcom was a timely response to the vogue for self-sufficiency at that time, particularly John Seymour's COMPLETE BOOK OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY, a best- seller that inspired people's desire to return to the land, so to speak, even if they lived in suburbia. The documentary contains some interesting anecdotes; the famous opening titles of the sitcom were apparently inspired by an old UFA film, while the famous adjoining suburban houses that formed the basis for location filming were to be found in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. The documentary contains fascinating archive footage of the sitcom in actual performance in front of a studio audience, with the four actors somewhat sheepishly introducing themselves before beginning the recording. Evidently Briers
in particular - was always nervous before a recording, despite his
brilliance as a comic actor. The only jarring note in this documentary comes from the reminiscences of comic John O'Farrell, who accuses John Esmonde and Bob Larbey's scripts of being relentlessly middle class (with the implication that this rendered the comedy somehow cozy in tone). THE GOOD LIFE was set in suburban London, but it actually set out to challenge suburban stereotypes, even if it did so in a gently satirical way. Margot Leadbetter (Penelope Keith) was frequently presented as a figure of fun in her efforts to 'keep up with the Joneses,' so to speak, while Tom Good (Briers) was relentlessly selfish in his desire to pursue a self-sufficient life, ignoring his loyal wife Barbara (Felicity Kendal). To quote Margot, THE GOOD LIFE appealed to "the silent majority" of the British public - 15 million of them at the comedy's height of popularity.
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