I first watched The Goodies without realising. In my early forays to YouTube, I was searching for Doctor Who content when I came across something featuring Patrick Troughton up against three other blokes. Split into two videos, there were no titles and when it finished I still I had no idea what it was but I enjoyed its style.
A short while later, I recognised the three chaps elsewhere. I was certain for years that I had watched several episodes of The Goodies over Christmas 2005. Now I can check these things, I’ve learned it’s likely that I actually saw clips from Return of the Goodies and these may have been supplemented afterwards by a Comedy Connections episode on The Goodies – that documentary series was helping me discover various programmes around that time.
Over the years I saw more clips but despite years of keeping an eye out, The Goodies hasn’t really turned up as repeats and soon faded into vagueness in my memory. However, when someone sent me their spare The Goodies…At Last DVDs, I knew I would eventually get around to them.
Tower of London/The Crown Jewels
As the first episode, this proved an excellent introduction to The Goodies as it opens with the three leads – Tim, Graeme and Bill – arriving at their new headquarters. It’s a clean-looking, modern main room for 1970, although we are placed firmly in period when we see the patterned decor of the other rooms. I got a shock when the doors were opened to a CSO view of a couple of other rooms, then it gave me a nice laugh when, as they were repeatedly opened, the view changed to show more rooms, so that this otherwise tiny floor has kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and more. Even better was the CSO used with the blinds to change the view out the window. It seems such an innovative way of experimenting with technology when I’m used to CSO simply being a necessity for science-fiction in this decade.
Having got this spanking-new headquarters, it appears the gang hadn’t been entirely certain what they were going to do with it, but Bill’s adverts in various publications inform people they are willing to “anything anytime”. Their first request comes from the Tower of London.
The Beefeaters at the Tower cannot get enough beef as it is all disappearing and they have begun to waste away. Two small Beefeaters appear at one point, disgusted to be told the only thing on offer is corned beef. Later, we are presented with two piles of clothes as they have disappeared completely. Despite everything around it, I was just tickled from the off by the idea that Beefeaters cannot survive without beef and enjoyed the reinforcement.
I also liked the visual gags at the Tower as a torture chamber has been converted into a kitchen, with a guillotine being used as a bread slicer. As the corned beef is about to be cut, I was expecting something similar to drop down from the ceiling, so it caught me out alongside the trio when a pendulum swung across instead.
The Goodies have to deduce a word puzzle from their computer at one point – that in itself feels a new-fangled thing as it actually has a screen, rather just providing a print out on ticker-tape. Four images displayed to our detectives. I’d kept up with them that the first two equalled ‘crown’, the third was a profile view of an old lady, while the fourth was a bell with a cross through a ‘b’, so we had ‘crown something ells’. I ended up ahead of them in guessing ‘crown jewels’ but gasped and cringed as I realised.
Even though this is a BBC programme, The Goodies has ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ sections. Initially forgetting this, I didn’t think to question it and it only makes sense when you realise they have created their own adverts. I liked this idea as it’s a way for them to get sketches in within a sitcom.
The amount of location filming in the series is wonderful and a refreshing change when many other shows from this era are still predominantly studio-bound. The Goodies appears almost the reverse – a location-based series that enters the studio when it has to. It provides plenty of opportunity for visual gags, such as the use of their ‘trandem’ bicycle. There is one extended sequence of the gang chasing Prince Charles across London and this is the only part that didn’t entirely work for me as it feels lengthy without quite enough comedy to fill it.
The programme avoids having to try to record sound on location by overlaying it with music. This isn’t just any old library music or a rehash of the title theme either – they are unique pieces recorded for the series by Bill Oddie with William Gibb. The more I heard, the more I liked this.