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The Goodies

The Goodies is a surreal British television comedy series of the 1970s combining elements of sketch and situation comedy, starring Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, and Bill Oddie. The characters played up to certain stereotypes, but they were not necessarily based on the actor playing the character. This is not immediately obvious as there was no distinct character naming.

The series' basic structure revolved the trio offering themselves for hire (with the tagline "We Do Anything, Anytime" (later changed to "Anywhere") ) to perform all sorts of ridiculous but benevolent tasks. This pretext allowed the show to explore all sorts of off-the-wall scenarios for comedic potential. Sometimes these were thinly-disguised comments on current events (for example, a show where the government of the day implemented "apart-height", where short people were separated from the rest of society), where others were more abstractly philosophical (where the trio spend Christmas Eve together waiting for the world to be blown up by government edict). This was one of a number of episodes that take place entirely in one room. This was usually because the entire location budget for the season had been spent, forcing the trio to come up with a script that relied entirely on character interaction. These "claustrophobia" episodes often work surprisingly well.

In many ways they translated the style of The Goon Show, a radio programme, successfully into the television age.

It may be argued that The Goodies antics brought the surrealist adventure traditions of The Goon Show to the television screen without diverting into areas of coarseness or topical satire to the same extent as other (more famous) British television series like Till Death Us Do Part, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Not Only But Also[?], Not the Nine O'Clock News or, much later, The Young Ones, Bottom and Gimme, Gimme, Gimme[?]. As such, The Goodies may have influenced a broader less intellectual audience, even though it was clearly less challenging to previous broadcasting conventions.

Legend has it that one viewer actually died laughing while watching the show.

The show featured extensive use of slapstick (often performed using speeded-up photography and clever, though low-budget, visual effects), parodies of contemporary pop music (in the loosest sense of the term) composed by Oddie (some of which went on to commercial success in the British charts, among them the dreaded hit single "Funky Gibbon", a staple of scout-hut discos of the period) as well as character-based comedy around the personas of Garden (a "mad scientist"), Brooke-Taylor (a conservative, sexually-repressed, Tory-voting, fan of the Royal Family), and Oddie (a scruffy, occasionally violent left-leaning anarchist). Some early episodes were interrupted by spoofs of contemporary commercials.

During April 2003 in a rare interview for "Front Row" on BBC Radio 4, the three Goodies attempted to describe the character of their programmes, on the occasion of their belated release on videotape. It was suggested that satirical scenes often used the characters played by Tim, Graeme and Bill to represent the Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties of British politics respectively. An indebtedness to the usage of music in silent movies was also acknowledged as an influence.

In reality, Garden is a qualified doctor, Brooke-Taylor is not really conservative, and Oddie is a pacifist bird-lover and active environmentalist.

The three "Goodies" met during the eight year production of the mid 1960s BBC radio show I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again which also featured John Cleese (who went on to become a founding member of Monty Python).

The show benefited greatly from the input of director Bob Spiers[?], who later directed Absolutely Fabulous, Press Gang, some episodes of Fawlty Towers and the film Spiceworld[?].

The show ran from 1973 through to 1980 on the BBC, totalling approximately 45 thirty-minute episodes and 2 forty-five minute Christmas specials. The Goodies never had a formal contract with the BBC, and when the BBC Light Entertainment budget for 1980 was consumed by the production of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy TV series, The Goodies signed a contract with London Weekend Television for ITV. However, after one half-hour Christmas special and a 6-part series in early 1981 the series was cancelled. The three writers and performers also collaborated in the TV show Broaden Your Mind (of which only about ten minutes survives), and on the 1983 animated children's programme Bananaman, first shown by Nickelodeon. They have all appeared on the BBC Radio 4 panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

In 1982 Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie wrote but did not perform in a 6-part science fiction sitcom called Astronauts[?] for Central and ITV. The show was set in an international space station in the near future. The series received almost universally bad reviews and was cancelled and never repeated.

Unlike most long-running BBC comedy series The Goodies has not enjoyed extensive reruns, although the BBC grudgingly released two videos of the series in the 1980s. The cast finally took matters into their own hands and arranged for the release of a digitally-remastered "best of" selection entitled "The Goodies...At Last" on VHS and Region 0 DVD in April, 2003.



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