2. Snooze

Snooze

15 November 1970

Once more, those opening credits! But where in the first episode they segued to a perfectly pitched exposition of character and purpose, this time they usher in silence. For nearly three minutes we have no dialogue whatsoever—merely hoots of audience laughter and Graeme’s elaborately staged morning ritual. Here again the Goodies weren’t afraid to be different. The sequence has nothing really to do with plot, and only a tenuous link to character. In effect it is a call-out to fans; an invitation for established viewers (at this, the start of only the second episode!) to take a leap of faith and throw their lot in, come what may.[1]

The reward for this loyalty is both instantaneous and uproarious. Alongside such unlikely conveniences as a live-in chicken and a hot-water bottle thermos, Graeme has planned out a routine that allows for his own reluctance to embrace it. The automatic radio-smasher is a nice gag; the bit where he rolls away from the gently prodding robot arm only to have a medicine ball drop onto him, targeting this very reaction, is truly inspired!

Then, of course, we have Graeme’s one-piece zip-up suit and the fold-up bed with built-in toilet access. These are early signs of what will be an intensely visual episode. ‘Snooze’ is all about physical comedy—not just Bill’s sleepwalking scenes (to the songs ‘Show Me The Way’ and ‘Needed’) or Graeme’s barrel leap par excellence but also on a smaller, more subtle level. Guest star Roddy Maude-Roxby has one particularly nice moment as the frenetic Rupert Windcheater, where he addresses Tim and shakes his hand while looking at Graeme, then vice versa. Tim, meanwhile, executes some quality double-takes; his reaction to having successfully positioned the sleepwalking Bill and Graeme to push the broken-down car, only to realise he still has to get in and steer, is priceless.

‘Snooze’ indeed marks the one and only appearance of the Goodies’ car. (So comprehensively was this written out in favour of the trandem that, three years later in ‘The Race’, Bill asserts that none of the three Goodies can drive!) It also gives us Bill’s first in-character association with music, Tim’s first great panics, the first answering machine message and the first appearance of BBC newsreader Corbet Woodall playing himself—a scene breaking device that sits rather better than the formal halftime interlude. Most momentous of all, we have The Goodies’ first outrageous big visual: Bill in his nightdress and nightcap sleepwalking onto the roof of a double-decker London bus. It is snapshot moments like these that helped imprint The Goodies onto young (and not so young) minds.

More so than in ‘Tower of London’, it is with ‘Snooze’ that we see the developing expression of The Goodies’ cartoon logic. This manifests in scenes of obvious remove from physical laws—Bill’s being blown up by landmines, for instance, or pushing down trees—but also in more dreamy lapses. How does Tim know where Bill’s sleepwalking has taken him? Why does Graeme’s sleepwalking lead him the same way (presumably via the same improbable awning and bus combo!) and how does he catch up? The answer lies in the person-shaped hole in the fence: it all takes place through the power of comedy…

One other momentous first that ‘Snooze’ brings is the Goodies’ propensity for escalating events to their own detriment. They have been hired by Rupert Windcheater to increase the market share of Venom, a little-appreciated bedtime drink that they rebrand as Snooze. The Goodies’ advertising campaign is successful. (At one point Tim laments: ‘The whole blasted country drinks Snooze!’) Yet Graeme cannot help himself. Like Dick Dastardly in the Hanna-Barbera series Wacky Races, he isn’t content just to be out in front. He invents New Improved Snooze, which sends the nation to sleep and necessitates an antidote that speeds people up a hundredfold, which in turns leads to a governmental commandeering of all Snooze, thus ruining Rupert Windcheater and bringing him to the office to take his vengeance on our hapless heroes!

The episode closes with the Goodies drinking New Improved Snooze and running off at a chaotic thousand miles an hour. It’s the same scene that rounds off the opening credits but (for anyone paying that much attention) a different take. Same ending but different. Where ‘Tower of London’ finished in qualified triumph, the lads hereby unveil what would become a recurring denouemental motif: resettable disaster. Whatever happens—up to and including their own deaths and the end of the world—they’ll be back the following week, no questions asked.

Apropos of which, only seven more sleeps to go…

Jacob Edwards, 15 November 2020


[1] The Goodies spoke to its burgeoning demographic as if establishing a handpicked cadre: “Goodies are coming for you, and you, and you, and you…”

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