12 January 1974
‘The Race’ marks both the end of Series 4 and the conceptual halfway point of the Goodies’ BBC run. It’s a well-executed flight of fancy (quite literally in the end), kicking off with Graeme’s more wordy and cerebral half of the script and then can-canning through Bill’s visual, musically driven extravagances. Tim does Tim things and the whole kaboodle rollicks along nicely.
At the start of the episode the lads find themselves in France. They are dressed, hippie-casual, for a beach holiday (to Skegness!) and cycling carefree on the trandem when they become embroiled in the closing stages of the Tour de France… which they win (to another laid-back instrumental scene-setter). Delighted with their success, the Super Chaps decide to enter more contests:
…but thanks to Graeme’s cod French, they sign up for the Le Mans 24-hour car race! Graeme’s phone conversation is a masterpiece of self-denigratory humour. He embarks at first like any true Englishman, flaunting a singsong accent and utmost, undue confidence in his forgotten schoolboy French. An initial setback has him admitting sheepishly to being foreign; then he rallies to present the Goodies as ‘Le Bonbon’ (Bill: “That’s the Sweeties!”). He spruiks them with monumental gravitas as being from ‘Grande Bretagne’, is nonplussed that the receiver doesn’t recognise such a place, and finally has to establish their national identity through a litany of all things British: ‘le football’, ‘le roast beef’, ‘Her Majesty la Queen’, ‘It’s a Knockout’; ‘Eddie Waring’ (plus mandatory impersonation). ‘Yeah, that Grande Bretagne’.
The laughs here derive from Graeme’s assuming (on behalf of the nation) a state of self-importance and, ipso facto, superiority, inherently undercut by his own bilingual failure and the other party’s patent, unvoiced indifference. Tim, as ever, gives a more extreme example of patriotic air-sac bloating:
‘The Race’ is chock-full of egregious national stereotypes in the persons of the Japanese, Spanish and American race competitors, and of course the French with their ubiquitous striped shirts and caps. Such characterisation could so easily have given offence… if not for Tim’s equally absurd embodiment of British spirit!
Having twice referred to the French as ‘foreigners’ (while in France!), Tim submits, for the remainder of the Goodies’ run, to becoming a caricature of quintessential, gormless, bull-headed Britishness!
Such side-jabbing quiddities notwithstanding, ‘The Race’ is very much a witty, romping sort of episode. Graeme’s driving lesson is a delightful highlight, given extra comedic piquancy by way of its transplantation to Tim’s actual road test (again with the fait accompli instrumental track):
Equally sublime is Graeme’s construction of the windscreen-less racing car with motel-style chain locks and patented sudsy-wudsy windscreen washer (not to mention special indicators):
There’s a lot going on in the first half of the episode, to the extent that an impromptu musical breakout of ‘Do Re Mi’ has to be cut short! The race practice scenes prove to be a trifle laboured (lasting for upwards of five minutes), but play out to the Hawaiian-sashay, sangfroid earworm toe-tapper ‘Motorway Madness’ and, if nothing else, give us the opening credit snippets of Graeme’s exploding trousers and the Spanish competitor running off in a stack of tyres. The halftime break comes late (18½ minutes in). It is the last such interruption—from Series 5 onwards the lads did without them—and would have been perfect had the two mock commercials been switched, allowing Tim’s Heenz Meenz Beenz schoolboy the last word and a well-earned pyrrhic victory:
The remainder of the episode passes quickly, and with the traditional up-step in lunacy. The Super Chaps, having had their car nobbled by Baron de Boeuf, despair of competing in the race… until Graeme converts their office into the world’s most ludicrous-looking racecar! Soon we’re back on the race circuit, motoring along to more ‘Motorway Madness’. These sequences display a technical excellence, and when the brakes fail and the office/car heads out-of-control towards a cliff edge, we’re gifted one final virtuoso Goodies exchange to see us through to Season 5:
As a sop to national sensibility / admission of how the British Le Mans entry has gone awry, the credits are preceded with a single word in French:
Jacob Edwards, 12 January 2024
Previous: The Goodies in the Nick
 cf. ‘The Stone Age’ where ‘Dem Bones’ receives a more prolonged treatment.
 Without Tim or Bill realising. Either they’ve gone back to England again or they took the entire office with them on holiday! (The same office that was destroyed two episodes earlier in ‘The Stone Age’? From what little can be seen of the sign outside the inner office door, comparing it to that of ‘The New Office’, this might well be a rebuild. Maybe the Super Chaps own a string of identical disused railway stations up and down the country…)