» Introduction & Index
» 1 Lemon Sherbet
» 2 Newsreaders
» 3 Targets: Max & Des
» 4. Goodies Turning ...
» 5. Beanz Ads
» 6. Targets: Nichola...
» 7. Goodies In Love
» 8. The Trandem
» 9. Targets: Tony Bl...
» 10. Inventions
» 11. Tim In Drag
» 12. Targets - David...
» 13. Bill's Outfits
» 14. Live Music
» 15. Targets: Mary &...
» 16. Goodies Relatives
» 17. Tim's Patriotic...
» 18. Targets: Rolf H...
» 19. Bill & Graeme i...
» 20. Sports & Games
» 21. Targets: Lionel...
» 22. Guest Stars: Pa...
» 23. Graeme's Computer
» 24. Monty Python Re...
» 25. Targets: Eddie ...
» 26. Memorable Animals
A COLLECTION OF GOODIES THEMES
by Brett Allender
2. NEWSREADERS AS THE HEADLINE ACT
The Goodies specialize in marrying together unlikely themes to produce brilliant comedy; for example, boy scouts and the Salvation Army, martial arts and northern customs, and Frankenstein and the Crufts dog show, just to name a few. (Not forgetting the marrying together of Tim and Prince Charles in "Scatty Safari" by any means either!) Similarly it is the unlikely combination of genuine BBC news presenters and humourous news and current affairs reports that frequently produce moments of comedy gold throughout the run of the show.
The main exponent is the late Corbet Woodall who was a newsreader with the BBC until the late 1960s before fulfilling this role in a number of British comedies including The Goodies. His long battle with rheumatoid arthritis prevented him from appearing in even more Goodies episodes than the 11 that he managed and he died in 1982; the year that The Goodies finished their run on LWT.
Michael Barratt was also a BBC broadcaster and long-running host of the current affairs show "Nationwide", and he too makes a handful of very memorable appearances as Nationwide host and BBC newsreader in The Goodies. Both Woodall and Barrett are sometimes cast as straight-faced newsreaders delivering stories where someone else is doing something silly, but more often than not they are an integral and hilarious part of the nuttiness that is taking place at the time.
Corbet Woodall first appears in the second Goodies episode "Snooze", where Graeme's new improved bedtime drink has put the whole country to "sleepy bo-boes". The Goodies switch on the TV to check the BBC News bulletin only to get a slow drawn-out theme and an image of Woodall fast asleep at his newsdesk. Then later after the Goodies have accidentally dumped a barrel of Snooze antidote into the water supply, we see Woodall starting to read the news at a normal pace until he coughs and excuses himself to reach for a glass of water. Despite Tim's faraway panicked plea of "Don't touch the water!", Woodall takes a sip and resumes reading at a quicker speed. Further sips find him rattling through various news items of people doing things amazingly quickly at an ever-increasing speed himself until he finally jumps out of his chair, beats his chest like Tarzan and tears off around the room to Tim's wail of "The whole country's gone completely loony!"
Woodall's bulletin in "Pollution" is short but amusing as he finds himself gradually engulfed by smog in the studio as he reads a report decreeing that air quality experts say there's nothing to be alarmed about. Likewise his report in "Kitten Kong" is quite brief, however he introduces reporter Michael Aspel who covers the iconic images of Twinkle toppling the Post Office Tower and lifting the dome on St. Pauls before creating an equally memorable image himself when he is flattened by a huge furry paw at the end of his report.
"The Music Lovers" produces a typically inspired wacky news report as shortly after Kenneth McKellar's "Songs Of The Highlands" is rudely interrupted by him being abducted, we hear Woodall's voice in the background of a blank screen: "Well we seem to be having a little technical trouble in the highlands, so until we can put it right here's some music from the Northern Dance Orchestra … (silence) … Come on then, where are they?! What do you mean, stolen?! All of them? (This draws puzzled looks from the Goodies, then a worried-looking Woodall appears on-screen) Ooh hell! Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt this embarrassing silence to bring you a news flash. Reports are just coming in that Rolf Harris has been stolen. And now some bad news …!"
The news report from "Goodies and The Beanstalk" is also surreal comedy genius at work. Woodall is just delivering the news that "The beanstalk is apparently growing all over the country" when he gives an anguished yell as a bathtub containing two women and the three Goodies is propelled through the news studio by the rampant beanstalk, bumping the newsdesk clear out of camera shot. A couple of puzzled home viewers look at each other in bewilderment as a BBC announcement of "We apologize for the loss of your newsreader" is made. The newsdesk separates from the beanstalk and bathtub out in the street and Woodall is trying desperately to answer his phone as his desk crashes through the wall of the aforementioned couple's house and displaces their TV set. With great professionalism, Woodall dusts himself off and reads the remainder of the news live from the couple's loungeroom as they sit there watching him.
"Clown Virus" sees Woodall reporting that the fumes from the "tomato soup" have covered the whole countryside, even affecting the royal procession (as the Queen blows a party whistle from inside her carriage) and the opening of Parliament (which is now a Big Top-style circus – no change there!). By the time that he reports on the increased buildup of American troops in the Atlantic he is sporting a red nose and a spinning bow tie, and after the Prime Minister is creamed with a custard pie, Woodall is bopped on the head with a mallet and a large bump develops.
The news report in "Lighthouse Keeping Loonies" is a lengthy one that deals with several different stories; all related to the disappearance of the Jolly Rock Lighthouse after Bill has accidentally launched it into the sky, much to Tim's blissful ignorance as he is taking a bath at the time. A UFO is spotted and according to Woodall, "Its speed was estimated by various eyewitnesses as somewhere between 20 and 6000 miles per hour. … (A pilot saw) what appeared to be a humanoid figure through one of the portholes (which) was wearing what he assumed was some kind of space hat made from frilly pink plastic and was carrying a rubber duck. Mr Lars Waltz of the Norwegian 'They've Already Landed' Society claims that this is the standard uniform of the Venusian space fleet. Both Mr Waltz and the pilot have now been locked up!" Other news items include the discovery of a new comet, much to Patrick Moore's delight in trying to spot it in the night sky ("Up a bit, down a bit, across a bit, left a bit, right a bit …") with a sheepish Woodall sprung trying to follow Moore's confusing directions when the camera pans back to him, and also the photofits of two rather shady-looking regal characters who were spotted in the vicinity of the lighthouse just before it vanished.
Sixteen days after the Goodies are trapped inside a block of concrete in "The End", Woodall announces that "Earlier today a special personal message of congratulations was recorded by Her Majesty … (pauses and turns page) … The Queen!" He reappears later in the episode to inform the now-desperate Goodies that due to increased poverty in Britain, work on the Brighton to Birkenhead Freeway (after which they were supposed to be tunnelled out) has been suspended indefinitely, "and finally a service announcement. The BBC has announced a cutback of 100 percent." as the TV screen then goes blank.
Woodall's appearance in "The Goodies Rule OK" special comes right at the very end where in the same vein as the forgotten and forgetful entertainers earlier in the show, he starts reading the news in a female voice before excusing himself, having a sip of water (Snooze antidote-free this time!) and after the appropriate phrase of "I'm sorry, I'll read that again!" announces the news that Britain has a new coalition government who turn out to be puppets controlled by the Goodies.
Woodall only makes two further appearances in the remaining three series of The Goodies at the BBC due to his ill health. One of these is in "Hype Pressure" where Tim the loony TV director calls "Cue the news" and Woodall's announcement that "The pound fell again today" is greeted by a shower of money falling on him. Tim's next order of "And up he goes!" sees the newsdesk rocket up out of sight along with the commentary that "The Chancellor Of The Exchequer again warned today against the dangers of inflation." (and presumably levitation as well!) Woodall's final cameo comes in "Politics" where he interrupts the commercials with a newsflash that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has discovered a splendid loophole in the tax laws and has retired to the Bahamas, which ultimately clears the way for the political ambitions of Che and Timita.
Michael Barratt first makes an appearance on The Goodies in "Kung Fu Kapers" where, as the host of Nationwide, he reports on "the latest cult to sweep the country; the Lancastrian martial art of Ecky Thump which has already gained thousands of followers." His story on the spread of Ecky Thump (where even the Prime Minister gets in on the act by clobbering a policeman with a black pudding) is followed by a knowing nod and he puts the question of the cult's popularity to a prominent psychiatrist who is in the studio with him. The psychiatrist barely has time to drone out "Mindless violence is nothing new …" before Barratt produces a black pudding and savagely belts him over his balding head with it. As the stunned psychiatrist slowly sinks from view, an excited Barratt announces "And now, the Archbishop Of Canterbury, ho ho!" as he skips offstage with his black pudding held high at the ready for an unholy confrontation!
Barratt is next sighted in "The Goodies Rule OK" in two separate reports as Nationwide host, firstly discussing the Goodies-inspired bouncing craze which has paralyzed the entire nation and even sees him tied to his chair in a futile bid to stop him bouncing up and down in front of the camera. His second report is perhaps his most brilliant contribution to The Goodies, as he interviews the Prime Minister of the new puppet government – Sooty – in the most splendidly deadpan manner ("I'm sorry, what was that, Prime Minister? You want to play your xylophone?") before coming under attack from Sooty and the Home Secretary Sweep.
The other two appearances by Barratt see him cast as a BBC newsreader, presumably because Corbet Woodall's health was very poor at the time. His newsflash in "Scoutrageous" is a straight-faced and rather brief report about the boy scouts being declared an illegal organization after the Lone Scout's multiple robberies; however it neatly sets up the memorable scenes of Tim being arrested and dragged away to face the intimidating guile of the Scoutfinder General.
Barratt's final Goodies role in "Punky Business" however is an absolute doozy: a punk newsreader. With piercings and chains dangling everywhere, he launches into the bulletin with "Right, here's the [@#$%]'n news!", then spits and proceeds with great gusto (and a stream of bleeped-out profanities) to tell us about "Mary [honk] Whitehouse" and the Festival Of Light's concerns of the "moral decay of this [toot toot] country" and "Mr Tim Brooke [cuckoo]" staging a protest on behalf of the League Of Shiny Shoe Wearers. After seeing footage of Tim being assaulted by punk MPs and police, Barratt picks his nose and thunders "That's the end of the [%^&$] news, so [#$%&]'s to the lotta ya!" and crosses to an equally ferociously punk and rather obnoxious Patrick Moore on "The Sky At Night".
A further newsreader's role that is worthy of a mention is the appearance of Mel Smith (of 'Not the Nine O'clock News' fame) as Reginald Bowes and Cat, who reads the 'Not the News at Ten' story on animal equality. During the report, Reginald removes his Peruvian Gerbil-like hairpiece and places it on the desk, where it has a drink of milk from a saucer and attracts several companions during the course of the bulletin! Reginald goes on to present a very nifty visual trick where icons of a barrel, flames, an excavating wheel and a mushroom cloud (representing Britain's former energy sources of oil, gas, coal and nuclear power respectively) are put together to form a sheep representing Britain's new total reliance on animal power, shows footage of a parrot operating a phone switchboard and a column of protesting, placard-holding worker ants being escorted by police (as they "delivered a petition with over two billion signatures" on it) and introduces Tim's pun-ridden speech to a rally of sheep, all while keeping a straight face and having his hairpiece run up his chest (rather like one of Graeme's "whoa, down boy!" efforts with a piece of fluff!) By the end of the bulletin, Reginald has the company of various animal newsreaders (Anna Fawn, Gordon Honeycomb and Sandy Gull) and also sports a Patagonian nose bulb up his hooter for good measure.
While The Goodies may not have been the first comedy show to use newsreaders in a humourous manner, they certainly set a whole new standard by having two genuine BBC presenters of the quality of Corbet Woodall and Michael Barratt who were prepared to get so fully immersed in such crazy storylines and Goodies-style humour. The show is definitely richer for their wonderful contributions to it throughout each series on the BBC.
Snooze antidote at work on Corbet Woodall
It's getting a little smoggy in the news studio
Special - Kitten Kong
Michael Aspel's live cross comes to a crushing halt
Special - The Goodies And The Beanstalk
A slight interruption to the news bulletin
The beanstalk and newsdesk part company
News as it happens, up close and personal!
5/2 The Clown Virus
Clowning around with some very serious news
5/7 Kung Fu Kapers
Even Michael Barratt has the Ecky Thump craze!
"And now, the Archbishop Of Canterbury, ho ho!"
5/8 Lighthouse Keeping Loonies
Corbet caught out stargazing at the new comet
Special - The Goodies Rule OK
Everybody do the Bounce, wheee!
Interviewing new PM Sooty on "Nationwide"
6/2 Hype Pressure
"The pound fell again today."
"And up he goes ...!"
7/4 Punky Business
Even the BBC News has sunk to punk
Reginald Bowes and Cat and his furry hairpiece