Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season Two

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7 Come Dancing

During the 1970s the BBC would erase many recordings to save on tape and space storage, with lots of archive television still missing from the archives. The Goodies fares better than most, with just a couple of episodes existing only in black and white, and only one (the original Kitten Kong) lost altogether. Come Dancing was a third episode that existed only on black and white film, before a low quality PAL video was discovered in the 1990s, and colour boosted for a DVD release. Although, as the image above illustrates, this is far from broadcast quality, it's a nice curio to own on disc, and a fairly amusing episode. One highlight of many Goodies episodes are the times when Bill Oddie almost loses it and cracks up on camera. Notable moments include his dressing up as "Helga" in the LWT episode Robot, or slipping over on a rug in season three's Hunting Pink. Look out for the moment here where Joan Sims, as a Mafioso trying to break into ballroom dancing, pours milk down the front of his trousers... Bill can hardly contain his mirth.

6 Commonwealth Games

A fairly bland episode by the standards of The Goodies, but a hugely significant one. As just the second episode of the season, it marks a series of changes that would be taken up and expanded upon later in the programme, from fully kick-starting Tim's "Tory" persona, down to Tim and Bill having an argument, the first time on screen the regulars have had a serious disagreement. Perhaps most significant of all is that this is the first time, chronologically, that the leads are transformed into human cartoons. Before this, other than "quick change" and Bill's lemon sherbert visions, the Goodies had done things that only normal humans can do... but now Graeme can roll up Bill's legs like they're carpets and unfurl them. This is also the first to sidestep a continuing loose narrative, whereby the Goodies would exist in the real world and accept consequences... here they fail in their mission to help in the Commonwealth Games, and so ownership of the Commonwealth is given over to the Easter Islands.

5 Farm Fresh Food

One of the episodes that can most be classified as "ahead of its time", this one sees Tim visit his Uncle, only to find him running a high tech sci-fi farm where animals are experimented on for the best produce. Although one criticism with The Goodies is that it can be preachy when it has a point it wants to make, it's such an over-the-top programme that it manages to get away with it, and win you over with charm.
     A thoughtful episode that's lightly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny, it contains a higher-than-average reliance on visual humour, and, with John Le Mesurier as Tim's Uncle, a guest star who does fine work, but perhaps seems unsure how to pitch his performance. Le Mesurier is decent, but has done better work elsewhere... one thing about guest stars on The Goodies is that to truly excel, they not only have to be good comic actors, but they have to be tapped into the off-centre world they inhabit, and have chemistry with the three leads. Although creditable, he doesn't quite "click" with the group as well as some later guest stars, and what should have been a freakish, macabre ending – the Goodies lay eggs – is rendered somewhat lightweight by them playing too broadly to the audience at the resolution.
     Despite such criticisms, and a feeling that the series is still finding its feet at this stage, Farm Fresh Food is undeniably inspired, and contains some unique visual images, with a commendably thoughtful script.

4 Culture For The Masses

With virtually no repeats on the BBC since the show finished, British culture has been allowed to forget The Goodies, a hugely popular programme that, at its peak, broke 15 million viewers. While their contemporaries Monty Python have become lauded, The Goodies have become overlooked, and underrated. What's notable in Culture For The Masses is that the audience reaction is more muted, and seems confused by an episode that has a higher than usual intellectual content, with many of the gags based around 17th century art.
     A show that features slapstick sequences and the credo "anything, anytime" was always going to get overlooked for any real artistic merit, and instalments like Culture For The Masses seem to suggest that The Goodies had unwittingly installed its own "glass ceiling", deviations from which the audience weren't quite prepared to accept. That said, this is, after all, an episode where Graeme urging Bill to "patch up your Botticelli" is mistaken as a reference to his anus. While The Goodies are underrated today, it can't be denied that they sometimes brought it on themselves.

3 Kitten Kong (Redux)

The Goodies fared better than most series with the BBC's junking policy in the 1970s, the original Kitten Kong being the only missing episode. Much of the filmed footage found in this remade version was taken from the original, with changes estimated to be relatively minor, such as the addition of the singing dogs. One element that was presumably improved upon was how slickly edited this edition is compared to other season two entries, with scenes mixing seamlessly into one another, even making use of a double for Graeme so that a "quick change" scene can be done in one take.
     Revised as an entry for the Rose d'Or Festival, it received the Silver Rose, and is almost inarguably the most famous episode of the series, helped by references in many later instalments, to say nothing of the shot of the kitten on the Post Office Tower featuring in the title sequences of all the following BBC seasons. It's also the most-repeated episode, its most recent screening in June 2014. Although in some ways shamelessly crowdpleasing, it's hard not to feel admiration for three men in their mid-30s getting to homage their favourite Warner Bros. cartoons as a live action TV show.
     Released onto DVD in 2003, it is, to date, the only season two episode with a commentary track. Although Tim, Bill and Graeme's amiable chat through Kitten Kong isn't required listening, one interesting fact that comes out of it is Bill's admission that he wrote the "cat walking" sequence as a sketch for Ronnie Barker, who rejected it as "too physical", causing him to rework the unused script as the basis of this episode.

2 Pollution

Although the peak of The Goodies came with seasons four and five, one thing the later, pacier episodes perhaps left behind were more thoughtful, leisurely gems like this one. Rarely discussed in favour of other, more famous episodes, Pollution gives us a tale of the government building a department that deliberately pollutes the atmosphere so that they can put it all back to how it was, thereby creating jobs and boosting the economy. As a concept it's a wild, satirical idea, yet also one which sounds oddly plausible.
     This is also the first episode to feature Graeme in "mad scientist" mode, making a serum that can cause clouds to rain grass-growing produce, and they take the trandem up in the air for the very first time in order to do it. Yet what really sticks out in the mind is a downbeat, almost heartbreaking montage where the Goodies travel through the countryside seeing the devastation that's unfolded, including radioactivity and acid rain. As the first Goodies episode not to use the incidental music track "Needed", it instead gives two versions of an affecting track known as "Change". In terms of Goodies episodes that will make you laugh out loud, then Pollution wouldn't come into the discussion, though it is amusing and scathing throughout. But in terms of episodes that have something to say, it's hard not to be struck by some of the lyrics to Bill's song: "But I don't believe, we'll be able to breathe. They've taken the sun, and oh what have they done to the country? [...] And is it true? The oceans use to be blue? Once there was water, and fish to be caught at the sea."

1 Gender Education

One of the sharpest and most satirical Goodies episodes ever made, concocted after the first season of the series was publicly praised by Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. Frustrated by Whitehouse's praise, Gender Education was created entirely to annoy her, though it wasn't until 1980 that she finally complained to the BBC, after the episode Saturday Night Grease featured an illustration of a carrot on Tim's underwear.
     Featuring an obvious parody of Whitehouse known as Mrs. Desiree Carthorse, the character is brilliantly brought to life by Beryl Reid, giving arguably the best guest performance in the entire series. As a hyper-repressed campaigner, she gives the Goodies one of the few "for hire" plots of the season, requesting them to make the education film "How To Make Babies By Doing Dirty Things."
     There's a wide contrast in quality between many of the season two episodes, and it's almost hard to believe that the same writing team who crafted something as shallow as The Baddies were behind something as savagely satirical and observed as this. Despite the presence of such a strong guest "villain", the episode also has time for only the second instance of one of the three leads turning against the others: Bill wittily gets driven insane by too much sex and violence on TV, and goes on a rampage to the memorable track "Bezerk".


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