16. Farm Fresh Food

Farm Fresh Food

10 December 1971

The Goodies return after a three-week break, refreshed and back on form. ‘Farm Fresh Food’ is a funny if somewhat obscure ‘issues’ episode. It begins with Bill serving up an inedible array of health food. Nauseated, Graeme and Tim go out to eat. Bill lingers a moment in defence of his cooking… then packs it in and joins them!

Bill contemplates his health-food dinner.

Looking forward to some haute cuisine, the Goodies are dismayed to find that Ye Olde Shepherd’s Cottage restaurant serves nothing but pre-packaged, heavily processed meals.

The Goodies dining at Ye Olde Shepherd's Cottage restaurant. Frank Thornton as the Waiter.

By now very hungry, the lads invite themselves to partake of the simple country living—and wholesome country food—of Tim’s Uncle Tom’s[1] farm. This establishment, however, turns out to be fully automated. Furthermore, Uncle Tom is engaged in some highly dubious experimental work, producing such wonders as the square egg and the boneless chicken!

Graeme holds up a square egg. Bill jiggles a boneless chicken. Tim and Uncle Tom (John Le Mesurier) watch on.

Nauseated, the Goodies step out for a breath of fresh air. (They are also given a list of chores to do, which, unsurprisingly, given the automated nature of the various farming processes, go disastrously wrong. Amongst other mishaps, they blow up the hens running off mains power, and Bill is turned into a sausage.) The upshot of their experience at Uncle Tom’s is that the lads become advocates for animal rights.

Which is all very laudable, but also rather obscured by their increasingly ravenous desire to eat those same animals!

Bill wearing an apron and holding a knife. Graeme tends to his food analysis machine, which has its own mouth with big red lips and white teeth.

Principles prevail—or at least a desire to improve farming conditions to the point where slaughtered animals become more palatable. Rather than confront Uncle Tom directly, the Goodies set out to sabotage the demand for his product. They feed concrete to the cows, rubber to the bullocks, hydrogen to the pigs, and gunpowder to the hens, all with a view to upsetting even the most phlegmatic of British consumers and so bringing about the closure of Ye Olde Shepherd’s Cottage restaurant.

The Goodies as waiters at Ye Olde Shepherd's Cottage restaurant, fingers in ears awaiting an explosion. A family dining at the restaurant recoil from meals that have blown up in their faces.

The plan succeeds! Ye Olde Shepherd’s Cottage restaurant is driven out of business. Uncle Tom is forced to change his methods. Ten days after arriving on the farm, the Goodies sit down to wring the neck of the first in a new range of naturally bred chickens!

But Uncle Tom stops them. Now that he’s met the animals, he won’t let any harm come to them. (Indeed, he goes about feeding them exactly the sort of meal the starving Goodies would kill for!) Left with no other choice, the lads take up position in the chickens’ erstwhile battery enclosures and gulp down a dose each of hormones and penicillin.

The Goodies sitting in lieu of hens in the battery.

The message is a bit mixed but perhaps that’s the point. Bill started the episode by trying to embrace health food. His interest was more faddish than sincere, however, and he ultimately ends up worse off than had he persevered. Likewise, the lads’ concern for the animals was motivated more by their own gastronomical desires than by genuine empathy. Their comeuppance is to be treated like animals.

Or something like that.

Regardless of what ‘Farm Fresh Food’ is trying to say, the half-hour plays out with considerable aplomb. Bill’s health-food dinner is a fine piece of satire, sending up the poseurs and half-truth merchants of the diet industry. (Bill: “Everything fresh, natural, untreated and pure. And you can tell that, because it’s all brown!”) John Le Mesurier is excellent as Uncle Tom, capturing the distracted, dissociated, avuncular mien of a villain by circumstance—someone who, like all of us, might consider himself good at heart, and who need only have his eyes opened to change his ways and put an end to the injustices he perpetuates.

The visual sequences, meanwhile, are a lot of fun, playing out to Bill’s doleful country-rock protest song ‘Down on the Farm’.

Graeme and Bill carrying and vigorously shaking a cow.

We have cows milked by pumping their tails up and down; walking duck pies; an array of exploding or uncuttable meals. There’s one lovely little moment where the last customer is about to storm off (wearing a cape made from his own flattened and rolled-out steak!) and Tim gives him a visual reminder to shake his fist at them! Tim in fact seems ever so tiniest the bit off in his performance this week… but then he did set the bar very high (and partook of the plankton!).

Tim considers a glass of something suspiciously green.

All told, ‘Farm Fresh Food’ is a welcome return to the free-flowing, irreverent comedy we know and love. The Super Chaps Three have put ‘Come Dancing’ behind them and are settling in for the rest of Series Two (in all its extended glory).

May I take your bike? Yes, thank you very much!

Jacob Edwards, 10 December 2021


The Goodies in their country smocks.
Ye Olde Shepherd's Cottage restaurant sign and menu.
Tim holding a glass of bitter, served by Andria Lawrence as the barmaid.
Bill bites into a raw chicken.
The Goodies and Uncle Tom (holding a chicken).

[1] One of several uncles that Tim lays claim to throughout the series. Tom is a reluctant farmer, having turned to it only after being told he’d never be a (you guessed it) zookeeper.

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