Daily Mail article - "Has the BBC got a grudge against the Goodies?"
22/11/2010 21:57 GMT
Posted by lisa
The following article appears on the Daily Mail's website at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1331874/Has-BBC-got-grudge-Goodies.html
I recommend reading the article online as it contains several photos of The Goodies from their LWT-era.
Has the BBC got a grudge against the Goodies?
By Vincent Graff
Last updated at 8:21 AM on 22nd November 2010
The Goodies were very nearly not The Goodies at all.
When Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, three friends from Cambridge University, landed themselves a TV series - a comedy programme that was to run for 12 years and reach 15 million viewers at its peak - the name they initially chose was ‘The Super Chaps Three’.
Four decades on, they’re still not sure that they made the right choice
There have been plenty of times down the years we’ve regretted being The Goodies, haven’t there?’ says Bill.
‘Too much like goody-goodies,’ agrees Tim.
‘The Super Chaps Three was a bit embarrassing then. But it would probably be all right now,’ says Graeme.
Back then, the three men were in their late 20s, with shaggy hair, too much corduroy and sideburns that, in Garden’s case, would’ve been large enough to darn a hole in his flared trousers.
Today — to mark the 40th anniversary of the first Goodies TV show and also the re-release of their comedy record The Funky Gibbon - all three of the super chaps are sipping sparkling water in a private members’ club in London’s West End and swapping stories about the good old days of the Goodies.
They’re instantly recognisable: Oddie, 69, still has the scruffy student beard; Brooke-Taylor, also 69, has retained the manner and looks of a rural bank manager; and 67-year-old Garden continues to quietly supply the knowing asides.
They may now all be pensioners - and two are rather less trim than they were - but you don’t need a Union Jack waistcoat to announce that The Goodies are in town.
The relationship between them is curious. They worked incredibly closely for more than a decade but have done very little as a threesome since the last Goodies show was broadcast in 1982.
Brooke-Taylor and Garden know each other best (they’re both regulars on Radio 4’s panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue) but neither of them sees much of Oddie, whose career took him in a different direction, as a presenter of wildlife programmes, and who has had a tough time struggling with depression (though he’s now very settled and happy).
When they’re not working together, they don’t keep in touch.
There are no Christmas or birthday cards. Yet there is an obvious residual warmth when they get together.
Even after all this time, they continually finish sentences for each other. Oddie, who played the scruffy oik on screen, makes fun of Garden’s public school education.
Garden says: ‘Yeah, Bill is the grumpy one.’ Brooke-Taylor, acknowledging that Oddie is no longer clinically depressed, chips in: ‘The difference is that we can say that now.’
It’s like bumping into three people who used to be married to each other, decades after an amicable split-up. Because the end of The Goodies, when it came, was totally without sourness.
‘We get on surprisingly well,’ says Tim, ‘because we never actually broke up.’ There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s telling the truth: you have only to watch their body language to know it.
The Goodies was a bizarre show. ‘The brief that we offered to the BBC was three blokes who’d do anything, anytime, anywhere,’ says Garden. ‘We were trying to leave as many options open as possible.’
That, perhaps, is an understatement. The only thing set in stone was the three of them, living together, in their futuristic-looking apartment, at ‘no fixed abode, Cricklewood’.
The result was uniquely surreal. Is there anyone aged over 40 who cannot summon up the image of a giant kitten tearing down the Post Office Tower (as was) or of an oversized Dougal crushing everyone in his path?
But The Goodies was more than Tom and Jerry slapstick, it also offered a cheeky, satirical take on 1970s Britain.
The show was huge: at the peak of their fame, long before anyone had thought to declare that comedy was the new rock ’n’ roll, the police had to keep adoring mobs at bay during filming.
In the late Seventies, they even had an approach from Steven Spielberg about making a film together (though sadly the idea came to nothing).
Of course a comedy programme with such a high profile was bound to catch the attentions of Mary Whitehouse. And indeed it did.
‘She sent us a telegram after the first series saying that it was “good clean fun”,’ says Oddie. Disaster. So they wrote an episode whose sole aim was to annoy the morality campaigner.
It featured Beryl Reid as ‘Desiree Carthorse’, who wanted The Goodies to make a not-at-all-rude film about the facts of life, entitled ‘How to Make Babies by Doing Dirty Things’.
Alas, Whitehouse either did not see the Desiree Carthorse episode, or was not offended by it, says Oddie.
It was a further nine years before Whitehouse would take against the programme — ‘when I wore a picture of a carrot on my underpants,’ says Brooke-Taylor, with evident relief.
That said, some of the shows would cause a huge commotion if they were broadcast now.
One, from 1973, is a brilliant pastiche of the arbitrary cruelty of the South African regime of the time. In the show, the Pretoria government decides to impose a new policy of ‘apart height’ in which the victims are not black people but short people.
It’s very amusing and cleverly written. But it is quite shocking now to hear Bill Oddie and Tim BrookeTaylor repeatedly use, without irony, a racist term of abuse: a hyphenated variation of the n-word that today could never be broadcast (or indeed repeated here).
'I think we were being casually racist - and almost everybody was in those days,’ says Garden candidly. ‘The word would slip out.’
Bizarrely, the BBC initially refused to broadcast the show, not because of the racist language but because they felt it was unfair to the South African police force, who were portrayed as violent and, well, racist.
And another surprise: the comedy team prepared to use this language was so opposed to apartheid that they made a point of banning the sale of any their programmes to South Africa.
Given The Goodies’ extraordinary success, presumably BBC TV is making a huge fuss about the show’s 40th anniversary. A re-run of some of the best shows? A chance to see a whole series?
Er, not quite. BBC2 dusted off a five-year-old documentary. But apart from that, zilch. In fact, the Corporation has never shown repeats. All three Goodies are mighty peeved about it. So why are they being ignored?
No idea, say The Goodies. Garden remarks: ‘A few weeks ago, a viewer wrote in to Points Of View to ask if the BBC was going to show a series to mark the 40th anniversary. A BBC commissioning person replied that, no, they wouldn’t be doing that because, on the whole, they don’t want their programmes to be nostalgic.’
He adds pointedly: ‘So I thought: “Oh they’re not going to give us the Dad’s Army slot on Saturday night then?”
‘Then the BBC man said: “It is worth remembering that The Goodies’ final series was recorded by London Weekend Television in 1982”’
It is true that just before the end of their TV run, the threesome left the BBC for ITV. ‘It’s an extraordinary thing to mention,’ says Oddie. ‘Has the BBC been bearing a grudge for 30 years?’
‘We’ve never known the real reason they won’t show us, because whenever we’ve asked about repeats we’ve been given a different story,’ says Garden.
Oddie chips in: ‘I think it must be a question they ask new controllers at interview: “Would you ever repeat The Goodies?” Yes? I’m sorry you can’t have the job.’
Though they’re joking, it’s clear that they’re pretty angry with the BBC. After all, Morecambe and Wise went to ITV, but their repeats still regularly pop up on the Beeb.
‘We are cross,’ says Tim. The programmes are still regularly aired in Australia ‘and the show is still massive, over all ages. So we do know that it still appeals. That’s what’s frustrating. If they showed a few and people said “that’s rubbish”, we’d accept that. It’s the fact that it’s not given the chance.’
It’s a relaxed, middle-class rage. The three seem quite settled in their lives and happy to leave old-fashioned anger to . . . well, angry young men.
There are niggles. Not just the missing repeat fees. They get irritated when people call The Goodies a children’s show. Kids imitate Vicky Pollard in the playground, says Brooke-Taylor, ‘but you wouldn’t call Little Britain a children’s show, would you?’
They get annoyed, too, by constant comparisons with Monty Python (John Cleese, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman were all Cambridge contemporaries).
But mostly they feel content with what they’ve done and what they’ll leave behind when they’re gone. And they’ve every right to. So how have they changed?
Oddie doesn’t like the fact that his belly is bigger now. He says his delivery on TV is slower and quieter.
‘I’ve got a bit more confidence,’ says Brooke-Taylor. He found performing tough in the 1970s, now it comes more naturally. Though there are limits to his self-assuredness.
‘Even now I’m still not any good at sending food back at restaurants. And I don’t like the phone. Ringing people up and asking for things.’
Suddenly, the reunion is over. The three men, with a DVD to publicise, have seen a fair bit of each other recently. But now the publicity machine is coming to a halt. They’ve finished with me and it’s time for them to go their separate ways.
I stay behind for a final few words with Oddie, who tells me about his project: the re-release of The Funky Gibbon, in aid of the International Primate Protection League, an animal charity tasked with protecting the gibbon, whose numbers have plummeted over the past 50 years.
Meanwhile, Garden heads for his taxi. ‘Is that it for the rest of our lives?’ asks Oddie plaintively.
A grin crosses his old pal’s face. ‘Yep. The last time,’ says Garden. ‘Enjoy the rest of your life.’
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