24. Hunting Pink

Hunting Pink

11 February 1973

Hunting Pink is a curious little episode—perfectly functional in its own right yet always evoking scenes from elsewhere. The one-upmanship conversation between Bill, Graeme, and Tim’s Great Uncle Butcher, for instance, is a clear echo of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, which was co-written by Tim and originally performed by him alongside John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman on At Last the 1948 Show (1967). A similar skit found its way into Series 7, Episode 5 of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again (1969), this time starring all three soon-to-be Goodies with Cleese and David Hatch. Sad to say, the Goodies’ take in Hunting Pink is a pale echo, significantly less funny than either the original or its pastiche (both of which would themselves be superseded in 1974 by Monty Python’s rendition Live at Drury Lane). The Super Chaps in this instance don’t quite measure up, though Tim does treat us to some outrageous facial expressions qua Great Uncle Butcher!

Three shots of Tim as Great Uncle Butcher.

Tim playing his own older relative is a precursor to 2001 & A Bit (Series 6), where he makes an appearance as Bill Brooke-Taylor’s aged father; also to The End (Series 5), when he and Graeme have aged 70 doddering years to the point of playing I Spy around a single chair in an empty room. The silly hunting voices find their echo in Dodonuts (Series 7) and in 2001 & A Bit when the cricket revival is escalated to include tanks! Other precursors include Graeme and Bill dressed in rabbit costumes (cf. Tim and Bill in Series 4’s Invasion of the Moon Creatures) and also a gloriously unconvincing horse suit (Tim and Graeme in Series 6’s Black and White Beauty), Graeme’s use of aversion therapy (or lack thereof; by Series 7’s Earthanasia he’s less sure of the procedure, declaring: “I don’t know; I’ve been put off that.”), Great Uncle Butcher’s wall-mounted, talking head (Series 5’s South Africa), and of course the clip-clopping of coconut shells to signify riding a horse!

Tim makes his appearance as Great Uncle Butcher riding a pretend horse. His Butler (Erik Chitty) bangs two coconut halves together.

Hunting Pink, if anything, is an episode of transition. It continues the shift away from the Goodies being for hire, and towards the comedically rich dynamic of two of the lads being pitted against the third. Tim’s double billing as himself and Great Uncle Butcher is proof positive that the Super Chaps needed no guest stars… other than themselves! (Albeit that Erik Chitty has great presence as Basterville the Butler.)

Basterville the Butler (Erik Chitty) looks on with disapproval at Bill, Graeme and two serving maids.

It seems almost disingenuous to talk of the Goodies (let alone judge them) in terms of plot or theme. The episodes were humour-driven and often consisted less of a cohesive narrative than of skits (more or less) held loosely together by comedic escalation and madcap flights of reductio ad absurdum. Hunting Pink does cast ridicule at the landed gentry (Tim: “It’s bound to come out in the end.” Bill: “Ooh, yeah. It has come out in your end, hasn’t it?”); and offers an exquisite condemnation of fox hunting:

Bill with two large wooden mallets; Bill and Graeme having just hit Tim with these mallets; Bill clobbering Tim repeatedly.

…but for the most part the episode seems light on purpose.[1] Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with humour for its own sake! Hunting Pink offers some true gems: the breakfast scene with its elongated dining table and associated delivery problems (Tim: “Oh, I’ve wet myself. No I haven’t! It’s the coffee.”); the hunting horn as prelude to a horse-borne dance party; Tim’s admission that he can’t ride, timed perfectly to land just after Graeme’s frantic efforts to suggest nobbling his horse; Tim on foot, fuelled by bloodlust, overtaking the mounted hunters; and perhaps the most brazen and glorious piece of throwaway absurdism in the entire series:

1. Tim as Great Uncle Butcher rides a horse behind a tree... and a motorbike out the other side.
2. Tim as Great Uncle Butcher... riding a tank!

And of course, the outdoor antics are staged to two of Bill’s finest songs: the groovy, funk-suave ‘Ride My Pony’ and rhythmic, fusion-frenetic fan favourite ‘Run’. Yes, we might question the objectification of the two maids (‘crumpets’) or the one-dimensional stereotyping of Native Americans.[2] The more captiously inclined might even take issue at the lads’ deliberating setting out to do Great Uncle Butcher in and make off with his money. But that last, at least, qualifies as social commentary in the form of gallows humour. And as Tim points out (complete with the deranged laughter of one recently converted to blood sport): “It’s fun!”

Tally-Ho!


Jacob Edwards, 11 February 2023

Tweets:

Bill and Graeme dressed as country gentlemen; a white horse laughing.

Tim in hunting gear, standing beside a wardrobe (his betrothed).
Graeme and Bill in their dressing gowns. Tim done up as a Buckingham Palace guard (or as Bill would put it, ‘a 6-foot scarlet lavatory brush’).

[1] Curiously, ‘Hunting Pink’ omits the half-time break / faux commercials that would naturally have slotted in just after Butcher’s demise… but doesn’t make use of the extra time. The episode simply ends 2½-3 minutes earlier than its fellows.

[2] Or non-native Americans. One wonders why Great Uncle Butcher drives an American rather than British tank?

Previous: The New Office

Next: Winter Olympics