Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season One

November 2015 marks the 45th anniversary of The Goodies, the long-running comedy series starring Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor.
     


by
THE ANORAK
JANUARY 2015


As the series would be one that much of this site's demographic would have grown up watching, then what better time for a retrospective on all nine seasons? Will it be possible to watch and rank all 76 episodes inside a year? Let's see, as we start off by ranking the very first season from worst to best...

7 Give Police A Chance

The weakest episodes of The Goodies are usually the ones where they have a particular joke or situation and fail to expand upon it, instead performing variations on a theme. Give Police A Chance is one such episode, with the Goodies hired to improve the image of the police and finding that they're corrupt and violent. For the majority of the runtime this basic gag is reworked and repackaged, even though the introduction of hippy policemen is a nice effort. Ultimately this is one to skip, unless you have a particular desire to see Bill Oddie's bare bum in the "nude bathing" scene.

6 Caught In The Act

One of just two episodes (along with season two's Commonwealth Games) to only exist in black and white, Caught In The Act largely centres around Tim in drag trying to investigate a strip club for women. The use of male strippers and a female stand up comic give the episode a commentary on gender politics, but this is still an episode that features rear female nudity and sexual harrassment, so the message is somewhat lost in the mix. It's always important to remember the age of The Goodies, and how some of the material will naturally be dated, even sometimes offensive, to today's audiences. Although often slighted as a kid's show, this is a particularly rude episode, including references to S & M, though it does feel like the series trying to find its feet rather than really breaking new ground. Note also that the characters are still being worked out, with Tim having overt heterosexual urges in this early one, removed from his later persona, and none of the three regulars are expressly politicised.
     In terms of trivia, then the episode titles given here are the commonly-accepted ones, though may not be strictly accurate. It was only from season three onwards that the camera scripts started to carry specific episode titles, and they were generally known as things like "Show 2" for the first two seasons. Archive TV expert Andrex Pixley uncovered a memo from Producer John Howard Davies sent to Bill Oddie on 23 November 1970. In the memo, Davies cited the best episodes of the first season as "Beefeaters, Snooze, Playgirl Club and the last one".

5 Tower Of London

The very first episode of The Goodies, and those who remember them from their mid-70s peak may be surprised by what they put out during November-December 1970. The series here features all three leads as friends, working together and never arguing, and dealing in plot-based stories that are less surreal and freefalling than what followed. The final line here is even a plot note that they're still in business (Tim using an inheritance to set them up as a "for hire" agency) and not a punchline. Laughs are often more gentle and less brash, the pacing more relaxed and less frenetic.
      Yet one way the earlier series did shock compared to the later ones is the fairly frequent use of female nudity, as well as the late-60s counterculture vibe still hanging over the series and imbuing it with fairly explicit drug references. It's not just the first, non-Yum Yum theme tune giving us "it's whatever turns you on", but Bill's visions as seen through his possibly coincidentally-named Lemon Sherbet Dip. Tim explains that "he's on a trip, he's away [...] It's perfectly harmless, but it turns him on. He'll start having visions in a minute." Later episodes see him described as having his mind blown, and although later years would still see him occasionally sucking on his sherbet (last seen in 1975's South Africa), it would only be season one where it would give him hallucinatory effects, as seen in four episodes.

4 Snooze

Likeable and admirable, Snooze is nevertheless a lighter, gentler take on the format. An age when people would laugh at Graeme getting his own breakfast in bed by a system of pullies, or the team inventing a high-powered hot chocolate that can send you to sleep. It's not "edgy" comedy, despite the presence of the suggestion that Bill spends his time in bed masturbating. It's very much in the ethos of late 60s TV comedy, which could lean more towards a staid narrative, and veer away from coarser, more spontaneous material. This is not an express criticism of Snooze, more an acknowledgement that it, along with the majority of the first season, had a very different feel to a lot of what came afterwards.

3 Cecily

Possibly the least typical episode of the run here, a macabre tale with the Goodies childminding and looking after a haunted house. The humour isn't as overt, and the pace more relaxed, though there's an increase in surrealism. As early as season two The Goodies could be human cartoons, but this first run sees them only react to situations that could conceivably happen, odd sight gags like the "quick change room" or Bill's sherbert aside.
     For the series, Bill Oddie and Michael Gibbs would craft songs to underscore the programme's slapstick montage sequences. One of the best would be "Needed", which is somewhat undermined by it appearing in every single season one episode, and eight of season two. More unique here is the second song, "Are You Coming Out To Play?", that adds a wistful quality to a very off-beat episode. Cecily has been released on DVD in the UK, along with Tower of London and Radio Goodies. You can order the DVDs of The Goodies by visiting the online Anorak Zone Store.

2 Radio Goodies

Probably the most significant episode, in that the team realised by having a guest star as an antagonist each week it meant they were giving away the best lines, and so devised the idea of one of them turning against the others. Whereas later this would become wilder and sillier, here it's still tied into the plot, Graeme's plans of world domination explained away as a nervous breakdown. But in having internal conflict they gave the series an extra layer of comedy, even if the other episodes where they're friends are quite charming as a result. Also of note is that the regulars are becoming more comfortable at this stage, and reacting to the audience more, pitching their performances around the crowd reactions, and that the Goodies set up their own services for people here, rather than being hired.
     Often with series of this vintage, there'll be material that has been rendered retroactively uncomfortable to watch. Rolf Harris is mentioned twice in this first season, and even has a 1975 episode centred around him. The first episode, Tower Of London, has Bill hallucinate the image of Jimmy Saville, and so hindsight tells us that Tim's reason for wanting to be a disc jockey isn't as funny as it seemed at the time: "have hundreds of little groupie girls offering themselves to me."

1 The Greenies

As with Radio Goodies, this is an episode where the "for hire" plotline is put to one side... in this case, completely abandoned, as they stumble on the plot while trying to take a holiday. Said plot involves the army trying to organise nuclear testing in the sea, only to be foiled by the Goodies who replace their plans with blueprints for a children's playground. Although the first season of The Goodies can feel very much like a late 60s "bash the authority figure of the week" show, this one has far more to say than Give Police A Chance, and even contains the series' first reference to Apartheid in South Africa. A rewarding episode that, while not yet available on DVD, was selected as one of the episodes to be bought digitally from the BBC Store