7. Radio Goodies

Radio Goodies

20 December 1970

The first six episodes of season one established The Goodies’ potential. The seventh is a masterpiece. ‘Radio Goodies’ takes all the show’s proven elements—music, wit, garnish, performances, physical comedy, layering, background detail, absurdity, self-sabotage and character conflict—and adds the one final ingredient that would elevate it to greatness: the idea of taking two issues (often unrelated) and melding them together.

The issues in this case aren’t particularly hard-hitting but their pairing is inspired: the proliferation of pirate radio stations in the late 1960s, and the inefficiencies of the General Post Office.

Tim and Graeme’s excoriation of the postal service proves fully justified:

Slow deliveries have scuppered the lads’ chance to run their own radio station. Their response? Start up a pirate radio station beyond the 5-mile limit; and what’s more, stick it to the GPO by establishing a pirate post office!

Unsurprisingly their plans come a cropper…

The episode begins with Bill working on a jingle. (Though ostensibly helping, Tim’s contribution is illusory. It’s the sort of input that later sees him hand Graeme a blank post-it note of ‘plans’ for the post office, and would cause good-natured real-world friction over writing credits for The Goodies: ‘Written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie with Tim Brooke-Taylor.’)

The Radio Goodies jingle is tapped several times for laughs: from Graeme’s failure to engage with it (‘Where’s your bom?’) to its sacrosanct observance in the middle of Tim and Graeme’s argument (‘Can/Can’t, can/can’t, can/can’t, can/can’t– You’re tuned to Radio Goodies! For a song and a smile and swing-along style, listen to Radio Goodies… bom. Can/Can’t, can/can’t.’) Comedic usage aside, the jingle is in fact very catchy. As all good jingles should, it lodges in the viewer’s head and can resurface many years later, often blossoming into a spontaneous duet or inspiring a third party to add, without prompting, the trailing ‘bom’.

Bill Oddie’s season one musical contribution in fact finds its highpoint in ‘Radio Goodies’. Following on from the ever-splendid ‘Needed’, we have ‘Song of the GPO’—or as I’ve always thought of it, ‘I Sent You a Letter’—to which delightfully exuberant strains Bill and Tim go collecting and delivering mail. This is one of the all-time great Goodies songs and provides the perfect accompaniment to the lads’ mobile post boxes.

It’s perhaps worth taking a moment here to reflect on the workings of the Goodies Post Office. Their intent is to provide greater efficiency and convenience. (Hence, post boxes that come to the customer!) But the lads overdo it. Within moments of starting out, post boxes are accosting people, stalking them, achieving their end through coercion and trickery. And the need to operate beyond the 5-mile limit leads to a delivery/collection system of outright lunacy. Even within the absurd parameters established, there are extra layers: balloons, bottles, and bows and arrows, yes, but then also carrier pigeons for heavy parcels; and the shooting down of mail involves falling off the boat not just once but as a taken-for-granted part of the process!

And then comes the escalation.

Graeme’s descent into madness is subtly played (at first!), and cleverly presaged by the pirate post office set design—a futuristic starship bridge with ‘G’ logos and built-in fish tanks. Before long Graeme has ordered homing kangaroos and is laying out plans for a pirate bus service:

From there it’s a small step to pirate banks and pirate hospitals, and then the ultimate act of piracy: to tow all of Britain outside its own 5-mile limit!

One notable feature of ‘Radio Goodies’ is the absence of a guest star. (We won’t count Lionel Wheeler, although his pantomime villain postman does add a nefarious tint to the GPO’s ineffectualness!) Instead, we have Graeme himself in the role of self-proclaimed Leader, all militant uniform and eyepatch. (‘Well, I’ll show you. I’m going to change the world. I’m going to alter the face of the globe. I’m going to put Britain on the equator!’) This is the first instance of one of the Goodies going fully rogue. To do so while taking the place of a guest performer is truly inspired.

And of course ‘Radio Goodies’ is just chock full of laughs: the pratfall where first Tim, then Bill, then Graeme plonk forlornly onto their chairs… only Graeme doesn’t have a chair; the puncturing of Bill’s rambunctious DJ-ing (‘Will you be quiet please? I’m working.’); name gags (‘Dear Goobies’); sight gags (‘Not a pirate radio station’);[1] expectation gags (‘I’ll give you four and in, okay? Four.’); exaggeration gags (Graeme’s shooting down an avalanche of letters to bury Tim); and throughout, unforgettably, the exquisitely mined ‘A Walk in the Black Forest’ !

My only gripe (as ever) is that the halftime interlude could go, but that notwithstanding ‘Radio Goodies’ is sheer brilliance from start to finish.[2] If ever there was any doubt the lads would be recommissioned for another series, this episode dispelled it. Within a year, Tim, Graeme and Bill would be back for a bumper second harvest. Mark your calendars now!

Jacob Edwards, 20 December 2020

Tweets:


[1] For attention to detail, note that Graeme has drawn the good ship Saucy Gibbon [already the gibbon fixation!], for all its clandestine nature, with a friendly, waving figure on board!

[2] Even the 10-second interlude with the old lady sitting asleep in her armchair serves a purpose, playing out to the now-familiar Black Forest instrumental and showing just how likely Tim was to pull groupie girls!