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A Collection Of Goodies Media Interviews
Goodies - Daily Telegraph - 2006 - Print Email PDF 
Posted by bretta 27/12/2009

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(from C&G #122  January 2006)

 

DAILY TELEGRAPH ARTICLE

(Lisa Manekofsky)

 

This article appeared in the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph on Monday, December 26, 2005:

 

So where have they been all these years?

 

Mystery surrounds the Goodies' 25-year absence from our TV screens.  As they return for a Christmas special, the intrepid comic trio talk to Mark Lee

 

As Peter Jackson's "King Kong" rampages through the world's multiplexes en route to the top of the Empire State Building, some filmgoers (those over 30) may be reminded of one of the most iconic moments in British television comedy - the scene in which a gargantuan fluffy white kitten scales what was then called the Post Office Tower and brings it crashing down.

 

The image will be unfamiliar to many under-30s because the show from which it comes, "The Goodies", ended its run on the BBC a quarter of a century ago and, for reasons that have never been revealed, none of the 70-plus episodes has ever been repeated.  "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em", "The Good Life", "Dad's Army" and plenty of other '70s hits have been brought back periodically, but not "The Goodies", which was just as funny and far more visually inventive.

 

The show's creators and stars, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, have jokingly speculated that, whenever a new BBC channel controller is appointed, he or she has to sign an agreement never to schedule "The Goodies".  Now, however, the Beeb is finally making amends with a Christmas special, which reunites the intrepid trio to reminisce about the Goodie old days in front of a studio audience.

 

The story of how the show grew out of the '60s satire boom is covered; plus there's a scattering of clips, and breathless encomiums from celebrity fans, including Martin Freeman from "The Office" and impressionists Ronni Ancona and Jon Culshaw.

 

Publicity for the special suggested that it would address the question of why the Goodies were never allowed back on to our screens, but, says Garden, "It doesn't really come up with an answer.  We still don't know the truth."

 

It is possible that "The Goodies" never quite achieved the kudos and critical acclaim it might otherwise have had because it coincided with the groundbreaking comic insanity of "Monty Python's Flying Circus"; the comparisons were endless and rarely favourable.  Did this ever bother the trio, I ask, especially bearing in mind that "The Goodies" trounced "Python" in the ratings?

 

"As all the Pythons were friends, we were happy to be different, having come from the same school of comedy," says Brooke-Taylor.  "Their 'Life of Brian' is one of the best things ever, and I would love to have been a part of that."

 

"We were only annoyed if we were pigeonholed as a kids' programme: the shows originally went out after 10pm."

 

"Python had a very strong cult following," adds Garden.  "Its fans defined themselves by the show, and liked to 'own' it.  'The Goodies' had more of a family appeal, and therefore there was no frisson of naughtiness in being a Goodies fan.  It was surprisingly mainstream for a silly comedy show."

 

"We all came from the same stable, and worked together on various TV and radio shows, all doing much the same kind of comedy.  'The Goodies' went off with the mad, half-hour, complete storyline.  The Pythons recruited Terry Gilliam, who more than anyone gave 'Python' its trademark look and flavour."

 

Despite the adulation heaped on 'Python', it's arguable that it didn't have as great an influence on subsequent TV comedy as 'The Goodies'.  "We used to say that 'Last of the Summer Wine' was the old Goodies, and 'The Young Ones' were the young Goodies," says Garden.  "I don't know how much influence we actually had on them, but I think we did influence other shows, such as "The League of Gentlemen", and more recently "The Mighty Boosh".

 

"Maybe you can see a Goodies influence in other shows that have followed the idea of sitcoms with bizarre and elaborate plot-lines.  Oddly enough, I'm not sure how many shows were really influenced by 'Python' - there isn't much around that could really be called 'Pythonesque'."

 

The rather baggy premise for "The Goodies" was that Tim, Graeme and Bill were, respectively, "a patriot, a boffin and an anarchist", who had set up an agency with the motto, "We do anything, anywhere, any time".  (Such are the persuasive powers of television that a lot of viewers thought the three of them lived together in real life.)

 

But the key to the show's success was the extensive use of special effects, which involved such unlikely plot devices as an out-of-control giant beanstalk, a lighthouse going into orbit, and innumerable encounters with misbehaving animals.

 

The most memorable prop was the "trandem", a bicycle made for three on which Tim, Graeme and Bill sped to the scene of the emergency each week.  "It was a death machine - well, very nearly - and it was hell to ride," recalls Brooke-Taylor.  "Filming could be very painful.  It's bad enough falling over, which we often did, but falling over eight times for the same shot was particularly so."

 

Garden, too, cringes at the memory of the trandem.  "It was a monster.  It was hard to ride, uncomfortable and, frankly, dangerous.  When we were recording the special this year, they had the bike in the studio, but warned us not to try to ride it - they couldn't get insurance for us."

 

Although "The Goodies" was fun to make, it was, says Garden, hard work.  "A lot of time went into writing and planning the shooting so that our budget was well spent.  The special effects were sometimes uncomfortable, but never too demanding.  The ordinary effects, like getting wet and falling over, were more unpleasant."

 

"I'm not sure we'd be allowed to do the shows today, with all the health and safety regulations.  When I recently signed up to do a voice on the animated series "Bromwell High", I was sent a risk assessment form."

 

Despite all the silliness, the Goodies were also subversive, and occasionally controversial.  They upset anti-naughtiness campaigner Mary Whitehouse, and comments about apartheid-era South Africa meant they weren't shown there.

 

"Because we needed a plot for each show, and the obvious place to look for a plot was in the headlines, we became quite satirical," says Garden.  "You can probably trace the social history of the '70s by watching "The Goodies" - like reading old copies of "Punch".

 

"Needless to say, our attitude was anti-establishment and generally irresponsible.  We got into trouble for sending up South Africa, and the show was held back by the BBC, who claimed we were being unfair to the South African police."

 

Some of the more risqué jokes were excised by the Australian network ABC. However, unlike this country, Australia has remained loyal to the Goodies, and they are still hugely popular there.  In March this year, all three of them toured Down Under, and were seen on stage by 25,000 fans. Brooke-Taylor and Garden have just completed a further series of live appearances. 

 

"The shows were sending up the Establishment, which all good Aussies love to do - as we do," says Brooke-Taylor.  "Our stage audiences were mostly in their thirties, very bright, and they made this old man feel very good indeed.  And they were grateful that we'd come.  I've always liked Australians, but now I truly love them."

 

When they aren't involved in antipodean jaunts, Brooke-Taylor and Garden are best-known for their work on Radio 4's sublimely funny - and astonishingly rude - "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue", which was devised by Garden 30 years ago.

 

Oddie, meanwhile, has been presenting a serious challenge to veteran David Attenborough as the face of BBC wildlife programming.  In 2003, he "had to accept an OBE," as he puts it, for his work in conservation.

 

The Christmas special has given the opportunity to look back at themselves as young men.  How did that feel?

 

"Not as strange as you might think," says Garden.  "I think the image I have of me inside my head is probably closer to what I looked like 30 years ago than the way I look now.  The real shock is seeing myself on screen in more recent shows.  Who is that old man in 'Holby City'?"

 

[The following appears in a sidebox accompanying the article]

 

The Goodie Guys

 

* Tim Brooke-Taylor was born in Buxton in 1940, Bill Oddie in Rochdale in 1941, and Graeme Garden in Aberdeen in 1943.

 

* Brooke-Taylor (Economics and Law) and Oddie (English) met at Cambridge in 1960.  Garden (Medicine) arrived a year later.  They all joined the Footlights.

 

* The first episode of "The Goodies" was broadcast on BBC2 at 10pm on Sunday, Nov 8, 1970.  At its peak, the show attracted more than 15 million viewers.

 

* In 1975, a viewer died laughing during an episode entitled "Kung Fu Kapers!"  His widow said she was grateful to the trio for making his last moments so happy.

 

* The Goodies spent much of 1975 in the singles charts with a string of hits, including "Funky Gibbon", which reached number four.

 

* Steven Spielberg once expressed an interest in working with the Goodies, but it never happened.  "The comedy might have collapsed under the weight of the budget," says Garden, though they could have made a good fit: "'Indiana Jones' - that was kind of a Goodies plot."

 




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