25. Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics

18 February 1973

For all that ‘The New Office’ suggested a fresh start and the intention to innovate, Series 3 in actuality sees the lads striking out with no particular destination in mind. There are false starts, experiments, several returns to the nest. In fact, this block of episodes feels, as a whole, like a two-steps-forward, one-step-back nosing about in search of Series 4 (delivered later the same year)! It is at once a reappraisal of elements that have worked in the past, and an on-the-job assessment of prospective new approaches.

‘Winter Olympics’ is very much of the former category, in essence melding together Series 2’s ‘Commonwealth Games’ and ‘Pollution’. The Minister of Sport (Peter Jones) on this occasion doesn’t add much:

Peter Jones as the Minister of Sport, then as himself introducing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy television series.

Nor does the airborne bicycle scene, which lacks the usual hijinks (due in part, no doubt, to several accidents in the filming; in light of Tim’s injuries, the trandem never again took to the air). In terms of social issues, ‘Winter Olympics’ is a filler episode. The crux of its humour is, again, the idea of a British superiority based solely upon the patriotic assertion thereof.

Graeme: How are we going to win the Olympics with this load of old tat?

Tim: We’re British.

Pictures of the British Ice Dance Champions (with broken arms) and the Three Man Bob Sleigh Champions (union jack coffins!).

Tim, of course, wholeheartedly embraces this notion, which if anything comes across as more humorous now than it would have before the transition of the Olympics from an amateurs-only event to the pinnacle of professional sport. With no formal instruction and no experience beyond their characteristically shambolic training camp in Bognor, Tim firmly expects that he, Bill and Graeme, constituting the entirety of the British Olympics Team, will dominate the event.

1. Tim lying on the ground while Graeme and Bill hammer at his skis.
2. The skis at right angles.
3. Bill twists Tim’s boot.

The icy conditions of the North Pole, therefore, come as something of a cold shower!

Outside the North Pole Hilton igloo. Bill and Graeme running on the spot, holding each other up, while Tim slips over putting on a pair of skis.

The lads, in the truest of British spirit, decide to cheat. They melt the polar ice, put their dry-weather training to good use, and do indeed sweep to victory… mostly underwater! (Ironically, of course, the flooded conditions don’t actually suit anybody, and so the lads really do triumph purely on Britishness.)

So, what to make of this episode?

Firstly, it’s funny. If the Super Chaps had one ability above all else, it was to riff off absurdity. In ‘Winter Olympics’ this manifests in a training camp so secret that even the Goodies themselves aren’t allowed to know its location. The minister therefore blindfolds them… and leaves them to find their own way there, guided only by a ‘relief’ map (a cactus!). The lads go weaving off on their trandem, arriving by feel and executing a perfect blind slalom. Bill attempts a running shoulder charge to open the hut door, only to miss entirely! And then:

Graeme and Tim use Bill as a battering ram to break open the team hut. Lister and Cat use Kryten to break through bulkhead doors.

Lister: Look, they’re only interior doors. They’re only a light alloy. Maybe we could get through them if we used a battering ram. All we need’s something, say, I don’t know, six-foot long, fairly sturdy with a flat top.

Kryten: Fifty-three doors? You can’t be serious!

This is black-and-white silent comedy given funky instrumental accompaniment and taken to extremes!

The training camp, meanwhile, is a riotous example of the lads’ ability to make do comedically with very little at hand, most sublimely in the case of the toboggan (‘how to make a sledge out of a grotty old orange box’) and the skis (Graeme: “No, the shelves; they are the skis!”) The all-over body massage is an inspired piece of gimmicked-up contraption, and the photos of past athletes—culminating in coffins to represent the gold medal-winning tobogganists—is vintage Goodies! The outdoor training scenes are, as ever, superbly executed (to the tune of ‘Winter Sportsman’, a whimsical, almost saccharine number that, while sung here by Bill, would later in the year find official release with vocals by Tim as the B-side to ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’).

The actual competition scenes, in comparison, seem a little flat; but they are nicely done, with most of the jokes being told by implication:

1. The Union Jack flies just above water; to either side, the second- and third-placed flags are submerged out of sight.

2. Graeme and Tim stand on a submerged podium, only their heads showing. Bubbles in the water represent Bill!

Graeme:	In our practice at home, we did all right. But out here we’re hopeless.

Bill:	Right.

Graeme:	So the answer is simple.

Bill:	Go home.

Graeme:	Go home. No! No-no-no. We’ve got to melt all the ice!

Humour-wise, ‘Winter Olympics’ offers plenty. Even the halfway break pulls off a rare double success, with commercials for Heenz Meenz Beenz (“Get it right!) and Golden Dairy Margarine (“It spreads straight from the fridge.”), the latter providing a memorable visual when the opening credits were revamped for Series 5.

Tim's schoolboy is knocked over by a punching bag in front of the 'Heenz Meenz Beenz' backdrop; Tim, as a housewife, opens the fridge door and is swamped by an outpouring of liquid margarine.

Beyond the obvious laughs, though, there is a slight jadedness to proceedings; a sense that society and expectations are moving on, and that the Super Chaps really do need to make that shift they’re looking for. This is perhaps most evident in the Goodies’ continued low-key association with the sexploitation industry. At first this is merely observational. Every newspaper article they read—no matter the content—references Norwegian model turned actress Julie Ege, who appeared as Voluptua in sex comedy Up Pompeii (1971) and had co-starred alongside Brian O’Shaughnessy in Stone Age grunt film Creatures the World Forgot (1971).[1] Then, when they arrive at the North Pole, the chaps find their own exotic Scandinavian in Danish actress Helli Louise, resident Eskimo (‘Nell’) at the North Pole Hilton. Nell’s role (non-speaking) is to warm the lads up by removing items of her already scanty clothing.

Bill reading The Sun (topless Page 3 girl in evidence); Helli Louise as Eskimo Nell, undressing, then as the Girl with the Puppies.

Helli Louise’s filmography was and would remain a showcase of minor acts of titillation, and she appeared twice more in The Goodies—as the Girl with the Puppies in Series 4’s ‘The Goodies and the Beanstalk’ (wearing the same bikini, no less!) and in ‘The Race’ three episodes later as flight hostess Dana in their last ever mock commercial.[2]

Page 3 girls were a distinctly 70s phenomena in origin. Furthermore, cinematic titillation of the mild but tasteless ‘Carry On’ variety was nothing new. The Goodies, one might say, were being ‘of their time’, but what they really needed—and would soon achieve—was to be ahead of their time. Series 5’s ‘Chubby Chumps’ concludes with an overt bit of Benny Hill, and by this time there’s been a subtle shift (if such a term can be applied to so un-subtle a sequence) from being blithely immersed in the milieu of sexploitation to standing somewhat askance from it and making comment (if not yet unambiguously passing judgement).

The lads, in ‘Winter Olympics’, were still girding up their loins in preparation for making that move.

Jacob Edwards, 18 February 2023


Tim wearing a stack of gold medals. Graeme and Bill in blue training suits, riding the trandem.
The Goodies fly the British flag... while riding inflatable pool dolphins.

[1] Given their later obsession with Raquel Welch circa One Million Years B.C. (1966), we can see what sort of flicks the lads were into when not watching old black-and-white silent comedies!

[2] Wikipedia lists her erroneously as playing the ‘French Maid’ engine component of Graeme’s homemade car.

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