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The Goodies

From Academic Kids

The Goodies was a surreal British television comedy series of the 1970s combining elements of sketch and situation comedy, starring Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie.

Contents

History and original broadcasts

The three actors in The Goodies met during the eight year production of the mid 1960s BBC radio show I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again which also featured John Cleese (who went on to become a founding member of Monty Python). They also worked on the late 1960s TV show Broaden Your Mind (of which only about ten minutes survive).

The Goodies ran from 1970 through to 1980 on the BBC, totalling approximately 45 thirty-minute episodes and 2 forty-five minute Christmas specials. The Goodies never had a formal contract with the BBC, and when the BBC Light Entertainment budget for 1980 was consumed by the production of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy TV series, The Goodies signed a contract with London Weekend Television for ITV. However, after one half-hour Christmas special in 1981 and a 6-part series in early 1982 the series was cancelled. In recent interviews the cast suggest the reasons were mainly economic - a typical Goodies sketch was more expensive than it appeared.

Repeats and commercial releases

Unlike most long-running BBC comedy series, The Goodies has not enjoyed extensive reruns in the UK, the BBC in fact refusing to do so. The BBC released two videos of the series in the 1980s, but did not seem very enthusiastic about promoting them.

Sky's short-lived Comedy Channel broadcast some of the later Goodies episodes in the early 1990s. Later UK Gold screened many of the earlier episodes, often with commercial timing cuts. The same episodes subsequently aired on UK Arena, also cut. When UK Arena became UK Drama, later UKTV Drama, The Goodies was dropped along with its other comedy and documentary shows.

The cast finally took matters into their own hands and arranged for the release of a digitally-remastered "best of" selection entitled The Goodies ... At Last on VHS and Region 0 DVD in April, 2003. A second volume, The Goodies...At Last a Second Helping was released on Region 2 in February, 2005.

In Australia, the series has had continued popularity. It was repeated through the 1970s and 1980s by the ABC — although, as the show was typically broadcast in the 25-minute 5:30pm children's timeslot, portions often had to be cut. The DVDs are also available in Australia under different titles. In the United States, the series was shown widely in syndication during the late 1970s and early 1980s, but has been little seen since. The series was also shown in Canada on the CBC national broadcast network during those same years, in the traditional "after school" timeslot, but it did not gain the popularity it found in Australia.

Basic plot structure

The series' basic structure revolved the trio offering themselves for hire - with the tagline "We Do Anything, Anytime" (later changed to "Anywhere") - to perform all sorts of ridiculous but benevolent tasks. This pretext allowed the show to explore all sorts of off-the-wall scenarios for comedic potential. Sometimes these were thinly-disguised comments on current events (for example, a show where the government of the day implemented "apart-height", where short people were separated from the rest of society), where others were more abstractly philosophical (where the trio spend Christmas Eve together waiting for the world to be blown up by government edict). This was one of a number of episodes that take place entirely in one room. This was usually because the entire location budget for the season had been spent, forcing the trio to come up with a script that relied entirely on character interaction. These "claustrophobic" episodes often worked surprisingly well.

Characters and production techniques

The show featured extensive use of slapstick (often performed using speeded-up photography and clever, though low-budget, visual effects), parodies of contemporary pop music (in the loosest sense of the term) composed by Oddie (some of which went on to commercial success in the British charts, among them the hit single "Funky Gibbon", a staple of scout-hut discos of the period) as well as character-based comedy. The group also acknowledges their debt to the usage of music in silent movies. Some early episodes were interrupted by spoofs of contemporary commercials.

The characters are based around the personae of Garden (a "mad scientist"), Brooke-Taylor (a conservative, sexually-repressed, Tory-voting royalist), and Oddie (a scruffy, occasionally violent, left-leaning anarchist). The group have suggested that the characters of Graeme, Tim, and Bill represent the Liberal, Conservative and Labour wings of British politics respectively. The characters played up to their stereotypes, but were not necessarily based on the actor playing the character. This is not immediately obvious as they were called by their own names, and had some minor characteristics in common. In reality, Garden is a medical doctor, Brooke-Taylor is not really conservative ("But I had the double-barrelled name so I was always going to play the Tory" [1] (http://www.smh.com.au/news/Arts/Laughs-to-the-power-of-three/2004/12/13/1102787009735.html)) and Oddie is a pacifist, ornithologist and active environmentalist.

The show benefited greatly from the input of director Bob Spiers, who later directed Absolutely Fabulous, Press Gang, some episodes of Fawlty Towers and the film Spiceworld.

Cultural influence

It may be argued that The Goodies antics brought the surrealist adventure traditions of The Goon Show to the television screen without diverting into areas of coarseness or topical satire to the same extent as other (more famous) British television series like Till Death Us Do Part, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Not Only But Also, Not the Nine O'Clock News or, much later, The Young Ones. As such, The Goodies may have influenced a broader less intellectual audience, even though it was clearly no less challenging to previous broadcasting conventions.

On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing whilst watching a sketch in the episode "Kung Fu Kapers" in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a psychopathic black pudding in a demonstration of the Scottish martial art of "Hoots-Toot-ochaye." After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired from heart failure. His widow later sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments so pleasant.

Other collaborations

The three writers and performers also collaborated on the 1983 animated children's programme Bananaman.

Oddie has occasionally appeared on the BBC Radio 4 panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, on which Garden and Brooke-Taylor are regular panelists.

In 1982 Garden and Oddie wrote, but did not perform in, a 6-part science fiction sitcom called Astronauts for Central and ITV. The show was set in an international space station in the near future. The series received almost universally bad reviews and was cancelled and never repeated.

As of 2004, Garden and Brooke-Taylor are co-presenters of Channel 4's daytime game show Beat the Nation, in which they indulge in usual game show "banter", but take the quiz itself seriously. Oddie hosts a very successful series of nature programmes for the BBC.

2005 Australian reunion shows

The trio reunited in Australia for "The Goodies (Still A)Live On Stage" as part of Sydney's Big Laugh Comedy Festival in March 2005. The show toured the country, visiting Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra and selling out most of the 13 performances. No further shows have been announced [2] (http://www.smh.com.au/news/Arts/Laughs-to-the-power-of-three/2004/12/13/1102787009735.html) , [3] (http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=24520)

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