Category Archives: goodies

The Goodies 4.1 – Camelot

I think that the Goodies’ 1973 Christmas special, “The Goodies and the Beanstalk”, might have been the trio’s most watched adventure at the time, but it wasn’t the first time that they worked with comedian Alfie Bass. He’d appeared in “Camelot,” the opener to their fourth series. It was filmed and taped four months ahead of “Beanstalk,” and broadcast a few weeks earlier in December 1973.

Bass plays a developer who would really like to knock down a nice castle owned by one of Tim’s loony relatives. Tim swears he’s called King Arthur, and it’s true. That’s the name on his birth certificate: King, comma, Arthur. The whole shebang is full of really awful jokes and puns, including one about a package of fish fingers that will make my head hurt for years, and medieval-themed slapstick fights with dancing bears, wild boars, jousts, swords in stones, and a fire-breathing pantomime dragon.

Our son was so pleased, and so exhausted from laughing, that he demanded to watch almost the entire show again. Almost. He didn’t quite understand the stuff in the office, where Bill’s reading a copy of the comic paper Cor!, so we played it again from the bit where we first get to Camelot, which is right next door to Dunmovin at 33 Acadia Street.

Obligatory “they’d never get away with that these days” note: there isn’t any surprise nudity in this episode, thankfully, but there are medieval minstrels. They’re only onscreen for seconds, but there’s something else I need to explain to our son.

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The Goodies 2.5 – The Music Lovers

The good people at Network finally released details about their forthcoming Goodies set, and if you click the image above, you can get a good look at it. All eight BBC series and the specials, along with two books and a 3-CD set of tunes.

So to celebrate, I sat down with our son this morning before heading off to work to enjoy “The Music Lovers” from series two. In this one, every famous musician in the world has been kidnapped by a diabolical mastermind, so our heroes have to become famous musicians themselves in order to also get kidnapped! Eventually, they join Cilla Black, Englebert Humperdinck, and Rolf Harris in the clutches of the evil Music Master, played by Henry McGee. Incredibly goofy gags follow. We chuckled all the way through the silly thing, even if our kid, mercifully, has no idea who Humperdinck or Harris are. Ignorance is bliss!

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The Goodies 1.6 – Cecily

It’s not available for preorder yet, but Network’s planning to release a complete collection of The Goodies later this year. I haven’t committed to buying it yet. I’d like to see some reviews first and see just how complete it is. There’s some understandable feeling that since the show mocked some seventies entertainers that were later discovered to be horrible people – Savile, Harris – the current climate might see these references censored or omitted. So we’ll see what the reviewers say before I commit to it.

We watched “Cecily,” from the first series, this afternoon, and the main story was somewhat amusing, but the best gag was one of the commercial parodies. It’s for a laundry detergent called Razz, and I swear I remember similar American ads in the seventies, where some spokesman tries to persuade the shopper who just purchased the product to trade it in for something else – “We’ll give you three boxes of our soap for that one you just bought!” Andrew Pixley’s booklet notes say that it’s a parody of a British ad campaign for Tide, so I guess the ads were transatlantic. It ends with a completely wonderful punchline that had me roaring.

The other notable thing is that they filmed at a large house that was due to be torn down, and had the visual effects crew work with the actual demolition team to pull off a special effect that the BBC could never accomplish on their own. Last year, when we looked at the 1971 Doctor Who story “The Dæmons,” I wondered how viewers could possibly believe that the miniature church that blew up was the real thing. Maybe some of those viewers had seen this the year before and concluded that the visual effects team was just that good!

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The Goodies 5.12 – Bunfight at the OK Tearooms

Tonight, a very welcome respite from all the shocks and frights we’ve seen recently. We enjoyed another classic episode of The Goodies from 1975. In this one, our heroes mine for gold, but go all Treasure of the Sierra Madre over a vein of Cornish cream, strike it rich with geysers of strawberry jam, and argue over the pronunciation of “scone.” They could have become Cornish milk sheikhs (groan), but jealousy leads them to a tomato-soaked shootout with ketchup squirters in the mean streets of Pennenink.

If any child has ever laughed so long and so hard, it would be news to me. This is pretty perfect television for kids of all ages.

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The Goodies 2.8 – Come Dancing

If our son was muted and polite about that Ace of Wands adventure, he was screamingly happy with another new-to-him escapade with The Goodies tonight. This time, we watched 1971’s “Come Dancing,” and he prepped for it by rewatching two of the episodes we’d watched previously this morning before I went to work.

He chuckled and giggled all the way through it, but I thought the climactic silly film bit wasn’t half as funny as the middle-of-the-show silly film bit, and that wasn’t half as funny as watching the guys step back to let June Whitfield and Joan Sims steal the whole show. They play rival gangsters stepping on each others’ dancing shoes to control the fixed ballroom dancing circuit. Whitfield spits out an amazing paragraph of gobbledygook when her subterfuge is revealed, and Sims’ character, Delia Capone, is like a villain from a John Wagner 2000 AD comedy.

Marie wondered whether this was originally made for 3D as the color is slightly off, with pink and blue bands occasionally overlapping the actors. It turns out that “Come Dancing” was one of the episodes that the BBC wiped, as they did back then. The print we have today was made from mating a decent quality black-and-white telerecording for overseas sales to a long-forgotten and beat-up color videotape that somebody at BBC Scotland had made of a 1972 repeat of this installment, discovered 26 years later. I remain amazed both at how good of a job the artists and technicians who perform these restorations do, and how frustrating it is that there’s a need for their services at all.

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The Goodies 1.7 – Radio Goodies

We haven’t watched any Goodies together for a few months, so I’ve scheduled a couple for June. First up was this very silly 1970 installment, in which our heroes set up shop just outside the five-mile limit in order to run both an incompetent pirate radio station and a breathtakingly inefficient pirate post office. Graeme gets drunk on power and schemes of providing more pirate social services. It’s more amusing than funny, but there is one whale of a good gag once his real goal is revealed.

Our son liked it, but he’s picked up this really obnoxious fake laugh that he wheels out when he wants to join in with the studio audience’s chuckling but doesn’t actually understand the joke. I can’t wait for him to knock off this habit.

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The Goodies 5.1 – The Movies

I won’t swear that this was the best episode to show our five year-old, because he hasn’t had time to experience very many of the people mocked or celebrated in this one. These include Glenda Jackson, Andy Warhol, Mae West, Ken Russell, Francois Truffaut, Franco Zeffirelli, Buster Keaton, Richard Harris, Laurel and Hardy, Samson and Delilah, Macbeth, Stanley Kubrick, Charlie Chaplin, and so on. I certainly giggled, though I also cringed and winced, afraid that the nun in the Ken Russell parody was going to take off all her clothes. (She didn’t. That probably happened in a real Ken Russell movie, though.)

All’s well in the end, of course, because it climaxes with a rather brilliant slapstick battle between Graeme’s cowboys, Tim’s legionnaires, and Bill’s silent film comedians. It’s not just very funny, it’s probably the most technically complex Goodies sequence that I’ve yet seen. About two-thirds of the way through, the characters are projected on a screen in a theater and begin interacting with other characters in the audience, and then it pulls back to reveal that this audience is also being projected, with a second audience watching, and interacting, with it. I didn’t double-take, I triple-taked.

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The Goodies 4.4 – The Goodies and the Beanstalk

Forty-three years ago on December 24, the BBC showed “The Goodies and the Beanstalk” for the first of several times. It is probably the episode that audiences in the UK saw more than any other in the seventies. It was repeated often around Christmastime, to audiences as big as 11.5 million viewers. So to celebrate its 43rd anniversary, we watched it, leaving a very hyper and keyed-up little boy who laughed all the way through it and who’s going to have trouble enough getting to sleep tonight anyway.

In the summer of 1973, the trio got the go-ahead for a fourth series of six episodes as well as a separate 45-minute Christmas special, to be made entirely on film (with a sound recordist this time! They had money! Real money!). The special was broadcast as the middle episode of the series, and it gleefully sends up all the usual Christmas pantomime silliness.

The beanstalk in this version of the story is the centerpiece of the game show It’s a Knockout. The Goodies, destitute and having sold their three-wheeled bicycle for a can of baked beans, represent Britain in the competition and climb the beanstalk to find a retired zookeeper, played by Alfie Bass, pretending to be a giant and feeding chickens a formula that has them laying golden eggs. Zingers in the story this time are aimed at the Marx Brothers, Cole Porter, and Alfred Hitchcock, but the show comes to an end before John Cleese, appearing in cameo right at the end, can take the story into a parody of Aladdin, another annual pantomime tradition in the UK, as well.

Shooting on film the whole time gave the trio the opportunities for lots and lots of sight gags, sped-up film, and slapstick. I honestly didn’t think any of it hit the heights of their other work, but our son embraced the silliness completely and was hopping up and down in places. The climactic battle this time is with an army of geese, represented by models, miniatures, men in costumes, you name it. It must have taken forever to shoot, and amusingly – considering their decisive victory two years later in their 1975 Christmas special over Prime Minister Sooty’s puppet government – the geese are much more successful in antagonizing our heroes. But beans get dumped on people, Tim gets eggs dropped on his head, and Germans fall into a kiddie pool, so our boy was in stitches.

A note on the ever-present racy content in this kids’ program – look, John Cleese called it that, and he’s right about many things – this time out, we don’t just get surprise photos of topless girls, we get Tim raised by the beanstalk over a wall of a French nudist colony to see a few seconds of two naked ladies tossing around a beach ball. Can you imagine the BBC letting Tim, Graeme, and Bill get away with gags like this these days? The seventies, man. It was another planet.

Merry Christmas to all of you good readers! Take care and watch good TV!

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