Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season Two

With encouraging support from the BBC, the return of The Goodies to television saw their fame increase. The first season had been given a repeat screening on the major channel BBC1, which took ratings past four million, and the group appeared in special filmed inserts on a new variety series with Englebert Humperdinck, introducing filmed sequences from the series and seven specially-recorded shorts, giving almost ten million people exposure to the group. Perhaps most importantly, they were rewarded with an extra-length run of thirteen episodes.
     


by
THE ANORAK
FEBRUARY 2015


Airing from October 1971 - January 1972, the run included some of their most famous instalments, as well as some lesser-known entries. Four of the episodes have been released onto DVD and can be ordered from the online Anorak Zone Store. In the meantime, join me as I rank the entire second season from worst to best...

13 Women's Lib

The Goodies were products of their time, and many elements of the series will perhaps not only make viewers in 2015 uncomfortable, but even the stars themselves have spoken about their embarrassment over questionable content. While Women's Lib seems to have its heart in the right place, it's hugely dated now, a one-joke piece that sends up women in the name of equality. The Goodies have spoken about how they see their roles, despite sharing their real names, as "characters", and Bill's being closest to their own beliefs. With this in mind, then it's creditable that Bill is the one pushing for female rights in this episode, even though, troublingly, it's one of three season two episodes that uses the word "rape" as part of its comedic arsenal.
     In November 2014 Channel 4 aired a series looking back at television of the period, with Oddie as one of the contributors. Although the opening episode of It Was Alright In The 1970s saw Bill wincing through selected clips of Benny Hill, The Goodies wasn't called up for investigation... the overriding feeling being that, while The Goodies can sometimes be regarded as incredibly sexist today, it was probably genuinely tame and progressive for the standards of its time.

12 The Lost Tribe

The first of four season two episodes with no material available on DVD (along with Charity Bounce, The Baddies and Pollution), thus ensuring I've had to rely on incredibly low-rent screen captures of what's available on video screening sites. Although another five of the episodes in this ranking have yet to make their DVD debuts, clips from the stories found their way into later title sequences, meaning a choice, albeit limited, was available.
     As for The Lost Tribe (sometimes known as The Lost Tribe of the Orinoco), the central idea involves Roy Kinnear as a washed-up stand up comic, living with a jungle cannibal tribe in Sevenoaks, Kent. Such flights of fancy perhaps sound better on paper than they do on screen, and this vaguely offensive tale often comes across as flat and underdeveloped. That said, the attack of the psychotic feral sheep is a highlight.

11 Charity Bounce

Often cited as the worst episode of The Goodies, over a quarter of the screentime here is given over to guest characters interacting with each other, the three regulars not even on screen. When Tim, Bill and Graeme do appear, it's frequently as animated toothpaste tubes bouncing on space hoppers. Perhaps most troubling is one of their most inexcusably racist routines, where a group of East Asians are advertised in "The Yellow Pages". What makes this especially unsettling is the realisation that The Goodies was a left-leaning show that largely used racial mockery for satirical intent. This segment makes it clear that casual racism was so ingrained in 1970s UK culture that even a show on the side of racial equality like The Goodies was guilty of indulging in such cheap laughs without it being questioned. Far more commendable for this perhaps underrated episode are the shots at South Africa, including an all-white piano, a joke and theme they'd return to with more venom in season five.

10 The Baddies

The Goodies at its most childish, a tale of a mad scientist trying to undermine them with robot doubles. Doctor Who fans (which is probably a large percentage of this site's demographic) may enjoy seeing Patrick Troughton as the bad guy, but it's a hammy turn from him, floundering somewhat in an underwritten, 1940s serial villain characterisation. Arguably the most shallow Goodies episode ever made, it's always watchable, but no more demanding than the most banal Saturday morning kid's cartoon. Although this is the entire point, this is the kind of episode that was beneath them.

9 Loch Ness Monster

The season opener, and, in this ranking, thankfully the last of the below-par season two episodes. The Goodies helping a man to commit suicide is nicely macabre, and there's the amusing presence of a Scottish bagpipe spider, but generally this is a slow trudge through Scottish stereotypes. The Goodies are perhaps best remembered for their manic pace, and while even the most high velocity episodes can seem slow-paced by today's standards, season two is notably glacial at times. This can lead to episodes that have to time to let their ideas breathe, and will charm you with storylines that don't have to lend themselves to a "gag a minute" framework. But in other instances it will leave you with episodes that drag, as here.
     In terms of trivia, then Loch Ness Monster is one of firsts for the show. In the first season finale Graeme had delivered a speech to Land Of Hope And Glory, with Tim briefly joining in. Seemingly having decided that Tim's character doing it was far funnier, they reprise it with him here, and in two more season two episodes, along with many more in future years. Also look out for the first spoof Heinz ads, with Tim as a little boy advertising beans. The first four seasons of The Goodies contained mock "commercial breaks", this being the first of nine instances of the gag.
The episode has yet to be released on DVD, but is available digitally from The BBC Store.

8 The Music Lovers

An episode that gives the impression it was written to give Bill chance to put more songs into the show, this one is inventive and lightly amusing; albeit one you may admire rather than love. Henry McGee does his best with his villainous role, the Goodies battling "supervillains" perhaps not one of the show's finest motifs. Yet look out for a scene where all three leads sing as a gospel troupe with afro wigs... they do so without blackface, something that would become one of the programme's most oft-used methods of humour in later seasons, and one of its most controversial.

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