'The Goodies' - the TV Series
Created | Updated Mar 14, 2008
It was a fairly quiet time in Cricklewood, North London, at the dawn of the 1970s. After the excesses of Flower Power from the previous decade, the 1970s started with a whimper, not a bang. If you were wandering through Cricklewood's suburbs, you wouldn't have seen a lot happening. You could hear children bouncing up and down the streets on their spacehoppers, mums and dads speculating about decimalisation, and pensioners bemoaning the fact that daytime TV wouldn't be invented for another decade. The 1970s hadn't really arrived until three young(ish) men moved into the area, and Cricklewood (and BBC TV) was never the same again.
These three, going by the names of Bill, Tim and Graeme had inherited a sum of money and decided to plough it into their new business venture - a company set up to help anyone, no matter what the job was, and calling themselves 'The Goodies'. Their motto: 'We do anything, anytime'. Over the next decade, the nation would be subjected to a monstrous kitten, a plague of Rolf Harrises1, rival Scout factions, the Ecky Thump craze (the martial art for people from Northern England), clown viruses and a giant Dougal, to name but a few.
'Superchaps Three' - the Characters
Bill (Bill Oddie)
Bill Oddie is the opinionated, scruffy, working class member of the Goodies. He is fond of birdwatching, brown ale and making music. He becomes progressively more and more hirsute during the series. His Socialist roots are worn firmly on his sleeve and he often clashes with other Goodies, yet is often the instigator of get-rich-quick schemes whenever the opportunity arises. Has been known to hallucinate on Sherbet Dip.
Graeme (Graeme Garden)
Graeme is the level-headed, analytical member of the threesome. He also happens to be the loony scientist, and his experiments often go awry, causing catastrophe. The nation usually suffers from his dabblings, and the Goodies are usually the ones left to clear up the mess. He has a fondness for one-piece matching tweed outfits and NHS spectacles. He also favours elbow pads on his jackets (and knee pads on his trousers).
Tim (Tim Brooke-Taylor)
Tim is the sensitive one of the group. This can also be interpreted as him being a mummy's boy, coward and sissy. He is a staunch supporter of the monarchy and has a penchant for wearing Union Flag waistcoats, underpants and socks underneath his smart navy suits. He is prone to panic attacks under pressure, and often cries 'I'm a teapot, I'm a teapot...' if particularly stressed. He's also a secret member of the Boy Scouts.
The boys live in a one-room office in Cricklewood which, by the miracle of blue-screen technology (or, as they called it at the time, Colour Separation Overlay), has cupboards with amazing storage capacities including supermarket aisles, lavish bedrooms, kitchens and costumes for every occasion. Bill's area is untidy, and is covered in posters of Karl Marx and Chairman Mao, and British birds. Graeme's area is dominated by his computer and other scientific paraphernalia, and Tim has a shrine to the royal family, complete with throne, and picture of Her Majesty (or Margaret Thatcher, in later episodes). Their transport (and trademark) is a Trandem, a bicycle made for three, which is usually parked outside the office, behind a Mercedes Benz.
Goodies Rule, OK?
Garden, Oddie and Brooke-Taylor, all Cambridge alumni, were veterans of the Footlights revues. They found themselves, post-graduation, collaborating on the radio show I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again along with the future Monty Python star John Cleese during the 1960s. Following this, the threesome were to embark on televisual careers appearing in The Frost Programme, At Last The 1948 Show and Marty, before convening on two series of BBC TWO's Broaden Your Mind. This was a slightly satirical sketch-based show, featuring spoof history programmes, current affairs and advertising - it was also the blueprint for The Goodies.
The Goodies (initially called 'SuperChaps Three') was first broadcast on BBC TWO in November 1970, past the watershed time of 9pm (at that point the programme was yet to be regarded as a 'family' show). It was an irresistible combination of the lunacy of The Three Stooges, the crazy plots of The Goon Show and the speeded-up footage pioneered by The Beatles' films, A Hard Day's Night and Help!. The episodes were scripted by Oddie and Garden, with occasional input from Brooke-Taylor (and his biro - as quoted on the opening credits). Series One had seven episodes, in which the Goodies' efforts included becoming pirate radio DJs, nannies, and marketing executives. In the opening tale, 'Beefeaters', the trio are requested to guard the crown jewels before subsequently losing them, then giving chase to a masked Prince Charles - a formula that set the tone for the rest of the next eight series. The combination of sight gags, mild satire, speeded up slapstick chases and visual effects was a successful formula, and a second series of 13 episodes were commissioned - which confirmed the BBC's faith in the show.
The first series was repeated on BBC ONE in an early evening slot, and its popularity rose with a younger, family-orientated audience. The second series featured one of the most memorable episodes, 'Kitten Kong'. In it, Graeme invents a miracle growth feed for the pets under the Goodies' care. One of the patients, a kitten named Twinkle, reacts to the food and grows to gargantuan proportions and proceeds to demolish the capital. The fearless three then have to entice the kitten back, dressed as mice, and administer a growth-inhibiting injection.
The image of the kitten swinging on the Post Office Tower is one of the most enduring of the series, and the episode was nominated for the Montreaux Festival. A guest baddie, the Music Master (played by Henry McGee - he of Honey Monster/Sugar Puffs fame) was introduced, and was to make a further appearance in the series.
At this point, guest stars were being lined up to appear in the show, including Peter Jones, Jon Pertwee, Beryl Reid, Michael Aspel, Patrick Moore, Richard Briers, Roy Kinnear, Harry H Corbett, Alfie Bass and a even a cameo from former colleague John Cleese, who briefly appears shouting 'Kids' Show!' The comparison with Monty Python was inevitable, as both shows were written by Oxbridge graduates, and poked fun at the establishment. But where Python was surreal and sketch-based, a Goodies episode had a beginning, middle and end, wrapped around a loose plot. Another comparison was the fact that both shows liked to ape popular commercials of the time, with the cast often depicted in drag, and in particular, Tim playing a very effeminate male.
By the third series, the formula had altered somewhat. From the initial premise of the threesome hiring themselves out to help people, it had changed so that the then-current crazes such as kung fu, disco dancing, punk rock and dieting (most of which Tim succumbs to), resulted in Bill and Graeme's subsequent one-upmanship and inevitable conflict. Key elements such as poverty and crazy get-rich-quick schemes triggered Bill's megalomania, or Graeme's mad inventions took over the planet, and the whole thing usually ended with a high speed chase.
Also, by then, special episodes were filmed. These were mostly longer than the normal episodes and included series four's 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk' (the panto episode), 'Goodies Rule - OK?' (where a puppet government takes over and a chase with giant-sized Magic Roundabout characters ensues) and 'Snow White 2' (another pantomime Christmas special). The 'Kitten Kong' episode won the Montreux Silver Rose - as did 'The Movies' (where the Goodies try to make rival motion pictures) from series five.
The fifth series also saw two more classic episodes, 'Kung Fu Kapers!' where the Goodies fight each other using the ancient martial art from 'up north', Ecky Thump, and 'Scatty Safari' which features celebrity zoo, and the subsequent escape of Rolf Harris and the Goodies attempts at leading the plague of Rolfs back to ITV, Pied-Piper style! Another was 'OK Tearooms', a spoof of the western genre, and a finale culminating in a duel to the death with tomato sauce-squirters over ownership rights to the clotted cream mines of Devon.
Series six and seven saw a compilation of the Goodies' hit singles, 'Goodies Almost Live', by that point, they had a few hit songs in the charts, including 'The Funky Gibbon' with memorable Top Of The Pops performances. 'Scoutrageous', during series seven, saw rival factions of the Boy Scout movement fight each other at the instigation of Tim and his shameful, secretive pastime of proficiency-badge collecting. Another episode, 'Earthanasia' saw the Goodies spend the final 25 minutes of their life trying to fulfil their aspirations before the governments of the world decided to blow the planet up. This studio-bound adventure was very similar to both 'Lighthouse-keeping Loonies' and 'The End', where there was no guest cast or exterior filming, and the threesome spent the episode in confinement, usually at each other's throats. This was also an ideal opportunity for the three leads to showcase their comedic talents without the need for flashy stunts or props, and allowed the production team to make an episode which was relatively cheap.
Series eight was to be the final batch of BBC-produced Goodies episodes and featured a spoof of Saturday Night Fever and other dance-related films, culminating in the finale where the local constabulary of Cricklewood and the Goodies indulge in a homage to the old Hollywood musicals such as West Side Story and Singin' in the Rain. These dance sequences made up for the obvious lack of plot. The final story, 'War Babies!' saw the infant Goodies parachuted into Germany during the war and meeting Adolf Hitler, in an attempt to retrieve cigars for Churchill.
The Goodies inevitably courted controversy, as the scripts were often littered with risqué material and mild swear words such as 'bloody' and 'p***ed', and females were seen as sex objects rather then having more substantial roles. One episode addressed censorship, called 'Gender Education', where Mrs Carthorse (a Mary Whitehouse figure played by Beryl Reid) asks the boys to create a sex education film - with disastrous effects. This was clearly a shot across the bows of the newly-formed television watchdog, the NVLA, the National Viewers and Listeners Association. Another episode, 'South Africa', addressed the segregation laws of that country and could be seen to be racist, when it really points out the absurdity of apartheid. It is very unlikely that this and other episodes, including 'Black and White Beauty' will be broadcast or released on DVD because of their insensitivity towards race.
The Goodies parted company with the BBC, partly due to the fact LWT had offered them more money, and partly because the BBC were ploughing their special effects budget into a new television adaptation of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio series.
Almost two years after they parted company with Auntie, the Goodies returned with six new episodes for London Weekend Television, broadcast on the ITV network. This also included their final special, 'Snow White 2', where the Goodies find that they are too tall to be dwarves, which was broadcast during Christmas 1981. The following week saw the start of the series proper, and the addition of another member - a robot (voiced by David Rappaport, star of Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits). Somehow, the switch from BBC to ITV didn't seem quite right. The BBC was really the home of the Goodies, and the '70s was the right time for their wacky slapstick. Somehow, in the era of the Thatcher regime, the Young Ones and alternative comedy, the Goodies seemed a bit dated. The final episode, called 'Animals', waved goodbye to the Goodies... for good.
Well, it was a riot while it lasted, and they had a very good innings, particularly for a 'Kids' Show'. Many 30-somethings still feel a pang of nostalgia whenever the Goodies are mentioned. Some instinctively break into song - who can forget 'Goody, goody, yum, yum...'?
Change of Life
That wasn't the last we saw of the collaborative efforts of Brooke-Taylor, Oddie and Garden. After the Goodies, they provided the voices for the children's cartoon series Bananaman - for the BBC once more. Tim provided young Eric Wimp's voice, Graeme was the voice of Eric's alter ego, Bananaman, and Bill was predictably enough cast as the voice of Crow - the feathered pal of the titular superhero. In the intervening years, the trio have remained in the public eye; Graeme presented Body Matters, is a stalwart of popular Radio 4 panel game I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue along with Tim, and has co-written several 'Mornington Crescent' books and has made notable appearances in productions such as The Student Prince. Also a regular on I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue Tim has appeared in sitcoms Me And My Girl and You Must Be The Husband as well as presenting programmes on his passion, golf. A lifelong birdwatcher and conservationist, Bill has carved a new career as wildlife presenter, with programmes such as Birding With Bill Oddie, Wild In Your Garden, Bill Oddie Goes Wild and Live From Dinosaur Island on his CV. He has also written several books about ornithology.
2001 and a Bit
Since the final series of the Goodies, the show has hardly ever been repeated, and this is frustrating for cast-members and fans alike. Considering the current nostalgia boom on television (I Love the '70s, etc), it seems odd that many of the digital channels that specialise in screening vintage programmes choose not to repeat the series. Some may argue that the show seems a bit dated, or the jokes rather too risqué, but isn't that the point of nostalgia?
In the end, it all comes down to money. The series used so much music that was licensed for broadcast but not for repeats or home video releases; any subsequent screenings will cost a lot of money simply for the music clearances, which seems an awful shame.
The Goodies has recently (at the time of writing) had a new lease of life. Firstly, the makers of a brand of wine gums have screened a commercial which spoofed The Goodies's opening title sequence, with three lookalikes trying to avoid being squashed by a giant wine gum! In 2003, eight digitally-restored episodes were released on DVD, entitled The Goodies - At Last! proving that there is mileage in the old trandem yet.
Broadcast between 8 November, 1970 - 20 December, 1970.
- 'Give Police A Chance'
- 'Playgirl Club'
- 'Army Games'
- 'Pirate Radio'
Broadcast between 1 October, 1971 - 14 January, 1972.
- 'The Loch Ness Monster'
- 'The Commonwealth Games'
- 'The Lost Tribe'
- 'The Music Lovers'
- 'Art For Art's Sake'
- 'Kitten Kong'
- 'Come Dancing'
- 'Factory Farm'
- 'Women's Lib'
- 'Gender Education'
- 'Charity Bounce'
- 'Nice Person Of The Year'
Broadcast between 4 February, 1973 - 11 March, 1973.
- 'The New Office'
- 'Hunting Pink'
- 'The Winter Olympics'
- 'That Old Black Magic'
- 'For Those In Peril On The Sea'
- 'Way Outward Bound'
'Superstar' - special episode broadcast 7 July, 1973
Broadcast between 1 December, 1973 - 12 January, 1974.
- 'Invasion Of The Moon Creatures'
- 'Hospital For Hire'
- 'The Stone Age'
- 'Goodies In The Nick'
- 'The Race'
'The Goodies and the Beanstalk' - special episode broadcast 24 December, 1973.
Broadcast between 10 February, 1975 - 5 May, 1975.
- 'The Movies'
- 'The Clown Virus'
- 'Chubby Chumps'
- 'Wacky Wales'
- 'Scatty Safari'
- 'Kung Fu Kapers!'
- 'Lighthouse Keeping Loonies'
- 'Rome Antics'
- 'Cunning Stunts'
- 'South Africa'
- 'OK Tearooms'
- 'The End'
'Goodies Rule - OK?' - Special Episode broadcast 21 December, 1975.
Broadcast between 21 September, 1976 - 26 October, 1976.
- 'Lips Or Almighty Cod'
- 'Hype Pressure'
- 'Daylight Robbery On The Orient Express'
- 'Black And White Beauty'
- 'It Might As Well Be String'
- '2001 And A Bit'
'The Goodies - Almost Live' - Special Episode broadcast 2 November, 1976
Broadcast between 1 November, 1977 - 22 December, 1977.
- 'Alternative Roots'
- 'Punky Business'
- 'Royal Command'
Broadcast between 14 January, 1980 - 18 February, 1980.
- 'Saturday Night Grease'
- 'A Kick In The Arts'
- 'U-Friend Or Foe'
- 'War Babies!'
'Snow White 2' - Goodies Christmas Special - broadcast 27 December, 1981.
Broadcast between 9 January, 1982 - 13 February, 1982, on ITV
- 'Football Crazy'
- 'Change Of Life'