36. The Race

The Race

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:

Flights of flawed logic and carefree discontinuity so often underpinned the Goodies’ schemes. In this instance, accidental victory in the Tour de France inspires them to extend their stay south of the Channel... though manifestly having already returned to the office! #Goodies50

Picture: The Goodies cycling along in holidays clothes, then caught up in the Tour de France, then celebrating their victory. The Goodies back at the office.

Dialogue from the episode:
Tim: While we’re in France, we might as well have a nice holiday.
Graeme: Oh, no we don’t. We can’t miss an opportunity like this.
Tim/Bill: Like what?
Graeme: Well, look. We’ve just won the Tour de France, right? Easy. So while we’re over here, why don’t we enter a few more races and win a lot more prizemoney?

…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:

Tim’s patriotism passes so far into deluded jingoism that it becomes brilliantly, almost brutally self-lampooning. For all the inflammatory slurs directed at other nationalities, it is the British being mocked! (Graeme’s expression at ‘garlic bicycles’ is priceless.) #Goodies50

Picture: Tim giving a patriotic speech while Bill and Graeme look on, nonplussed by his self-delusions.

Dialogue from the episode:
Tim: Good idea! Teach these foreigners a lesson.
Bill: Ahh, can’t we just go to the pictures?
Tim: No. It is our duty. Now that the Common Market countries have been allowed to join the Empire, I’ve noticed they’ve been getting a bit too big for their boots. They must be taught a lesson. [starts up his Land of Hope and Glory record] The British bulldog has not lost his teeth. Good old John Bull will never bow down to these greasy wops, frogs, krauts and Luxembourgians. Let them remember Agincourt, Cressy, Blenheim and Waterloo (passengers for Derby, change at Leicester). We shall beat these cocky foreigners, them and their garlic bicycles. We are best, for we are British!
Bill: Oy! [music stops] What makes you so sure we’ll win?
Tim: We— shall cheat.

‘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!

Patriotism unbound! Does the Union Jack bucket underneath the table presage the demise of Tim’s navy blue suit (Series 1-4) and the coming advent of his Union Jack waistcoat (Series 5 onward)? #Goodies50 #UnionJackWaistcoat

Picture: Tim standing by a Union Jack flag. The Goodies sitting in their office (Tim on his replica throne), a Union Jack–patterned bucket beneath the desk.

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):

Graeme’s driving lesson was exquisitely absurd... and even more so when transplanted to Tim’s driving test out on the road! #Goodies50

Picture: Bill lying on the floor, acting as the motor and pedals for Tim’s learn-to-drive imaginary car. Tim and Graeme seated before him. Tim having passed his driving test... using Bill and the same seats out on the road!

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):

Graeme: “Turning right... turning left... and turning nasty!” #Goodies50

Picture: Graeme demonstrates the car’s indicators: hands that swing out to the right, left (startling Bill) and straight ahead (with two fingers raised). Graeme, accidentally pumping up his own pants instead of a car tyre.

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![1] 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:

Tim’s schoolboy finally gets the Heenz Meenz Beenz commercial right... but it doesn’t save him! #Goodies50 #HeenzMeenzBeenz

Picture: Tim’s schoolboy standing in front of the ‘Heenz Meenz Beenz’ commercial backdrop, which falls on him.

Dialogue from the episode:
Tim (as schoolboy): What I like best to eat: not fish, not meat, not spuds nor greens. What I like best is Heenz Baked Beans.
Graeme (as director): He’s got it right! The lad’s done it! He got it right!!

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![2] 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:

With consummate Goodies panache, the Super Chaps Three sail off the cliff of their fourth series and on towards Series 5, a bumper offering that will see them at the very peak of their comedic powers... #Goodies50

Picture: Tim ready to pull the emergency switch. Graeme and Bill run frantically to help him. The office/car sails over the cliff... and takes flight.

Dialogue from the episode:
Bill: Augh! We’re heading for the cliff!!
Tim: That’s it. We’re doomed, we’re doomed!
Graeme: No, no! Try the emergency switch.
Tim: What does it do?
Graeme: Suffice it to say that pulling that switch will indubitably extricate us from our current predicament, and you, Timothy, may have the honour of pulling it on the word go from me. Are you ready?
Tim: ‘course I’m ready!!
Graeme: Right. [looks at his watch] Five, four, three, two—
Bill: Get a move on!
Graeme: Please. Five—
Bill/Tim: Awwww!
Graeme: ...four, three, two, one... pull!
Tim: It’s stuck.
Graeme: It can’t be stuck!!

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


50 years ago today, the Goodies crossed to France (quite by accident) and entered the Le Mans 24-hour race. Tonight, I shall cheer them on with colonially removed British parochialism. #Goodies50

Picture: Tim (in racing gear) and Graeme (dressed as a mechanic) inspect the race car. Bill (in blue jumpsuit) stands in the engine compartment, one leg raised at an impossible angle.
Bill pooh-poohs Tim’s ambition to become a fearless track ace, asserting that none of the Goodies can drive... though this is belied (by Tim!) in Series 1’s ‘Snooze’ and in a mock commercial from the ‘Kitten Kong: Montreux ’72 Edition’ postscript to Series 2. #Goodies50

Picture: Tim hopping into a van labelled ‘GOODIES’; Tim driving a car and crashing it into a 20 MILES banner.

Dialogue from the episode:
Bill: There is still one fatal flaw in your plan, Blondie: none of us have got a driving licence.
Tim: There’s nothing in the Le Mans rules about having a driving licence...
Bill: We can’t drive!
When Baron de Boeuf (played by stuntman/actor Bill Weston) crashed out of the Le Mans race, who’d have thought he’d turn up again in the Blake’s 7 episode ‘Space Fall’ (1978), being knocked out by Avon? #Goodies50 #Blakes7

Picture: Bill Weston as Baron de Boeuf, then as Garton.
As ever, the Goodies executed their visual gags with aplomb. Here, the French commentator (in ubiquitous striped shirt and hat) is blown up by a grenade... but keeps calling the race! #Goodies50

Picture: As described.
Happy 50th anniversary to ‘The Race’, whose motorway madness provides some truly memorable visuals! #Goodies50 #SuperChapsThree #MotorwayMadness

That’s 36 episodes down in my Goodies retrospective:


Next up: a mixed-bag musical interlude...

Picture: The baron’s grinning black car overtakes the Goodies’ car/office.

Previous: The Goodies in the Nick

Next: The Goodies Sing Songs from The Goodies

[1] cf. ‘The Stone Age’ where ‘Dem Bones’ receives a more prolonged treatment.

[2] 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…)

Graeme exits the inner office in 'The Race'. A 'Strathyre Station' sign can be seen hanging outside, to the left of the door. Bill tries to usher an elephant inside in 'The New Office'. A different sign can be seen.