Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season Three

With season three of The Goodies, they had become household names. With a small sketch included in BBC1's 1972 Christmas Day broadcast of A Christmas Night With the Stars, they had been seen by almost 19 million people, their highest-ever viewing figures. The second season had also been granted a repeat screening during the summer on BBC1, which had seen viewing figures break the ten million barrier. Altogether things were promising for a brand new series of The Goodies on BBC2.


by
THE ANORAK
March 2015


Season three was broadcast from February-March 1973, with the programme brought forward to a pre-watershed (8:15pm) slot on BBC2 for the first time. Join me as I rank the season from worst to best...

7 Hunting Pink

Season three introduced a new theme tune to The Goodies... essentially a reworking of the original, yet slower and more laboured. As a tune to listen to in the car, it would be ideal... as a theme tune for a frenetic TV show, it's an odd choice. Yet for this run, it's perhaps apt, as season three is easily the least memorable series of episodes they did, a generally flat run which suggested they were running short of inspiration... before suddenly hitting their peak in seasons four and five.
     Hunting Pink has Tim playing a dual role as his own Uncle, who the Goodies are callously trying to overexert in order so that he'll die and Tim can claim his inheritance. It comes complete with a mumbling posh voice which will either grate or amuse, depending on taste, and backs up an unusually preachy episode which extols the cruelty of hunting at length. In terms of trivia, then only three episodes of the season utilise the spoof commercials idea... Hunting Pink is the first Goodies episode to discard them. It's also the episode to introduce the enduring song "Run"... an incidental track that's so effective it was reused in Way Outward Bound, as well as later season episodes Goodies In The Nick and South Africa.

6 For Those In Peril On The Sea

A somewhat flat and lifeless episode, with only a few surreal gags that raise the pace. Unusually it's a sequel episode, though at this stage in the series The Goodies was still acknowledging continuity. It presents guest star Henry McGee, returning as the Music Master from season two's The Music Lovers. Oddly, the realisation of the Goodies that he's the same person is dealt out in a rushed, understated way, as if they're worried that people won't remember him from 17 months earlier and so try to satisfy both conventions - those who want the explanation for his return, and those who couldn't care either way.
     The title of this one is, like many early Goodies episodes, open to question: although titled as here on the camera script and time clock, some paperwork shortens it to just "For Those In Peril", while an alternate title (used on the Internet Movie Database) is "The Lost Island of Munga".

5 That Old Black Magic

With such a title, it was perhaps inevitable that this would be the first Goodies episode to utilise blackface, with Graeme putting on an Al Jolson mask and singing a few lines with the relevant performing style. This sequence is pictured in the above image, with apologies to those who may be offended... this is, of course, archive television, and such things will occasionally be pictured as well as discussed, in order to represent the subject matter. Such a comic trope wasn't used again until season four (Camelot), but from season five on seemed to become a Goodies staple, an impression not helped by Graeme as "Muhammad Ali" in the clips montage for all of the last three seasons at the BBC. As for the episode itself, then it's a fairly witty take on suburban Satanism, a practise followed by the tabloid photographers of "The News of the Sun". With Tim driven insane by hunting lust in Hunting Pink and Graeme possessed by spirits in this entry, the use of one of the leads turning "bad" is increased.
The episode is available digitally from The BBC Store

4 Winter Olympics

Far from The Goodies at their funniest, with even the studio audience only giving polite chuckles throughout most of its duration, Winter Olympics is nevertheless one of the most charming episodes of season three. There's bits of what now seems unnecessary sexism (Bill's topless calendar, introduced at the start of the season, is prominently in shot but feels almost irrelevant compared to a bikini'd female eskimo who contributes nothing to the plot) but they're offset by the absurdity of trying to recreate the North Pole in a BBC studio, and flooding the ice caps to make Olympic events easier. Although there's no express attempt at satire here, and effects on the ozone layer weren't publicly highlighted until the mid-80s, this final development does make the episode seem fairly topical today.
The episode is available digitally from The BBC Store

3 Way Outward Bound

An episode that opens with a "you wouldn't get that on TV today" sequence as the Goodies, after being told they'll be given £25 for every child they recruit for a new school (£288 in today's money), take a cage on the back of their trandem to organise the kidnapping of minors. It's an odd turn away from their more innocent, well-meaning stance of earlier seasons.
     The main plot sees the Goodies themselves having to dress up as schoolchildren to get into the school, which turns out to be a military school there to brainwash babies into becoming soldiers. Although satirical, it's somewhat lacklustre, and as with lots of Goodies episodes of this period, we don't get a proper resolution... although it ends with a punchline, we never find out what happens to guest stars Joan Sims and Bill Fraser. It's arguable that such things aren't terribly important in a knockabout comedy show, but when the series is still heavily narrative-based as these early seasons are, it can maybe leave the viewer feeling a little cheated.

2 Superstar

A one-off, regular length special episode that aired in July 1973 between seasons three and four, it features Bill as a pop superstar making it in the music industry. Record producer Miki Antony later approached the Goodies with a suggestion that they release music to coincide with the TV show. Their first single, All Things Bright And Beautiful/Winter Sportsman, was released in October 1973 and wasn't a hit. It wasn't until a year later that The Inbetweenies broke the top ten, ushering in a run of five hit singles and a top 25 album. Although when Superstar was made such ideas of pop stardom were far away, it's hard not to regard it as something of an indulence.
     Although there's some nice black humour such as a song about a child unwittingly eating his own pets, there's a stretch of over five minutes were Tim and Graeme don't even appear, and the episode focuses on one of the three leads like no other. Although Bill claims they only did the music as a laugh and all three were having fun, their body language in performances would suggest that Bill really did want to be the pop star he inexplicably became, and that Graeme was incredibly uncomfortable in the role.
     Despite such concerns, the episode does have its plusses, and rattles along at a high pace. There's also some jokes here that are far more relevant/uncomfortable now than they were at the time, including a sign outside the Top of the Pops studio asking for "girls only. Must be over 16 and under 17 with big knockers." John Peel impersonating Jimmy Saville only adds to what is a retrospectively troubling sequence.

1 The New Office

The opening episode of the season, and the only one, save for the special, to go out post-watershed, airing at 10:05pm. Unveiling a new title sequence, the clips take in not just moments from the first two seasons, but also elements of the specially filmed sketches they did for Engelbert with the Young Generation. Also a change to the series is that the film director of the first two seasons, Jim Franklin, took over as the Producer.
     The episode sees them still in social commentary mood, with Tim reading details of a kennel sale that will suit dogs "or forty Asians", and discussions on the price of housing and petrol in 1970s Britain. The main plot is the Goodies getting the titular new office, though it's not just a replacement, but an actual mobile station house that they cycle around on their trandem. The exterior is seen prominently in seasons three and four, but very rarely after that (it can be briefly seen in season five's The Movies), so viewers who tuned in from 1975 onwards could well be forgiven for thinking that the Goodies lived in a regular office, particularly when, in The End, they get sealed in. That they're being sealed in to a mobile station office makes those events even more surreal, but the audience are allowed to forget this is the case. Later seasons are ambiguous on the subject, and it's not until they move to LWT that the Goodies definitely return to a tower block location.
     In terms of further trivia, then World released one of their tie-in annuals for 1974, an effort that was better than their usual efforts, and contained memorable material. One notable element was a behind-the-scenes feature on the construction sequences in this particular episode, showing how the effects were achieved.