Radio Times #2452

Picture by Regina Edwards

Radio Times #2452

5 November 1970

By the time I discovered The Goodies the 1970s had come to an end and those Super Chaps Three were no longer making their madcap magnum opus. Thankfully the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was keen on repeats. Tim, Graeme and Bill may have put their trandem back in the bike rack but the ABC kept them on-screen throughout my formative years and beyond. I recently came across a grade two ‘about me’ list in one of my old primary school notebooks. It records, amongst other things, that The Goodies was my favourite TV programme.

Nothing has changed.

The Goodies was topical yet timeless. From apartheid to pirate radio; cod wars to kung fu; from Monty Python to Mary Whitehouse. Even those throwaway contemporary references that at first were lost on me became, in time, the basis of my 70s understanding. ‘How do you know that?’ people will ask if I dredge up Yul Brynner’s baldness or make reference to A Clockwork Orange without having read the book or seen the film. The answer is simple: ‘I learnt it from The Goodies.’

And didn’t they make it fun!

The Goodies works on many levels. At first there is slapstick, a kind of cartoon other world in which violence lacks consequence and one can revel in that simple—and frequent—act of ‘getting up, falling down’. Graeme’s pratfalls are the stuff of legends but all three Goodies fell down a lot.

Beyond this slapstick lies absurdism. Dinosaur-like construction machines. Bill in a dog suit. Clown viruses and Camelot in Bognor. The Goodies’ claim to do ‘Anything, Anytime’ was not merely a blank-slate plot device; it was a certificate of high distinction in the comedy of the unexpected.

Then comes wordplay and the Goodies’ more intellectual allusions. From rapid-fire punning to ridiculing their own names; from mangling Wordsworth to Graeme’s having been ‘put off’ aversion therapy. Amidst the undercranked action sequences and the naughtiness and the silliness, each episode of The Goodies is chock full of genuine wit.

And beyond the wit comes satire—biting social commentary dressed up as tomfoolery. The Goodies quite often had something to say and, though never preaching, they rarely failed to convey that message.

Sometimes the devil was in the background detail. Although the BBC has never seemed keen to repeat it, The Goodies has remarkable rewatch value—not just because its humour holds up, but due also to the tiny nuances and comedic easter eggs scattered throughout every episode. No matter how often you’ve watched The Goodies or how well you think you know it, there’s always something new to spot!

Finally, there are the guest stars. When the on-screen Goodies weren’t turning on each other, usually there was a brilliant, overly tall and often over-the-top guest villain. And the whole shebang played out to the best, the funkiest (and the most lamentably wiped) pop fusion soundtrack in the history of television!

What’s not to like?

Back in my university days I used to watch an episode of The Goodies over lunch each day, taped from the ABC broadcasts and often cut by five minutes to allow for the insertion of Danger Mouse and the like or the removal of, as Graeme might put it, the programme’s ‘rude bits’. All these years on, The Goodies remains both a source of happy nostalgia and a welcome pick-me-up. Snippets come back to me at odd times—apposite reminders to take the world in my stride and to keep on laughing. I’m somewhat prone to uttering two- or three-word snatches entirely out of context… and there’s a special joy in doing so and having someone nearby complete the quote.

The Goodies, in short, is both brilliant and beloved—at least by me. Whether it will present that way to everyone, I cannot say. The 11-year run had its low points. Even I don’t like the pantomime episodes, and there are certain aspects of 1970s Britain (most notably its casual sexism and racism) that don’t come across well, even where the lads make conscious effort to call out the prejudice. Any such sour notes, I hope, will be mitigated by the show’s obvious good intentions, and by the Goodies’ having consistently made their own characters—in essence, themselves—the butt of any cruelty.

For many people The Goodies has made the world a happier and better place. The programme is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary and it is my intention here to watch each and every episode on the half-century of its first broadcast and to set down my appreciation. This decade-long revisiting is an indulgence, to be sure. It won’t be profound or erudite, merely a rambling reminiscence of how much The Goodies means to me and what I’ve enjoyed about it over the years.

And while I do appreciate The Goodies in its various other forms—the books, comics and LPs—the focus of this retrospective will very much be the TV show.[1] It’s what sparked my imagination as a child. It’s the touch of paradise that has held me enthralled ever since.

Jacob Edwards, 5 November 2020

[1] Of course, if I’m still around in 2069 to look back on ‘The Big Ben Theory’ then I’ll count myself especially chuffed to make an exception.

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