Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season Four

The Goodies returned to the screen just five months after their last outing, with six episodes and a Christmas special making up season four. Viewing figures for seasons three and four were only averaging around 2.5 million on BBC2, but by this stage the series was guaranteed a repeat summer run on BBC1, where it would attract over three times the audience.
     


by
THE ANORAK
June 2015


Although the earlier seasons have a charm and a reflective pace that could be missed, season four was the series hitting its stride, and becoming the style of the programme that's most familiar to viewers today... two of the episodes have been released onto DVD and can be ordered from the online Anorak Zone Store. Join me as I rank the fourth season from worst to best...

7 Goodies In The Nick

The weakest episode of season four is also coincidentally the only one to adhere to the original premise of the Goodies as people for hire. From this point the series began to get ever more surreal and freefalling, the more linear narratives discarded. Goodies In The Nick does follow a more traditional path, but sees the episode concluded without a real resolution, descending into farce. There's some drug references here, such as Bill appearing to smoke a joint while acting as a judge, and the relish with which he takes a policeman's offer for their help on a job: "two ton of certain substances and a weekly supply of dirty books." While Goodies In The Nick is a little weak in comparison with the rest of the season episodes, there wasn't a bad one in the bunch, a very strong outing for the team.

6 The Race

Like Goodies In The Nick, The Race doesn't really feature a real resolution to its plotline, harming the episode somewhat. However, what it does feature is a kind of live action version of Wacky Races, and at times is extremely technically well done.
     In terms of humour, then this is probably the most middle-of-the-road (no pun intended) The Goodies got at this stage in their career, and routines about driving lessons and the French are very "safe", familiar targets that only get polite chuckles from the audience. Although Graeme being slightly prejudiced and Tim being fully bigoted are there for satirical intent, there's still a joke that may raise an eyebrow in 2015 – a Japanese driver with a car battery titled "Ever Leady".
     This was also the last episode to regularly feature spoof ads, a concept that they'd clearly begun to tire of, with only four of the season's episodes featuring them. Of the forty episodes that followed, only three (It Might As Well Be String, Politics and Football Crazy) brought the idea back, It Might As Well Be String actually using the world of commercials as a major plot point. Although amusing, the number of "Tim's character turns out to be gay" punchlines does suggest it was difficult to keep coming up with fresh ideas for this element of the programme, but it was a notable and commendable addition.

5 The Stone Age

Long-term readers may recall (or may not) that I used to use the site's front page for capsule reviews of contemporary television, and, when The Stone Age got a rare BBC repeat in 2010, I slated it as one of the worst. Rewatching it for this article I have no idea why I originally felt that way. Although The Stone Age has silly gags that go beyond amusing and into just straight corny ("We need to pull our resources" "You're not pulling mine!"), it's an inventive use of the format, with just the three leads living in the belly of a T-Rex that's hiding under the middle of Cricklewood. The dialogue exchanges are some of the most combative to this point, and the regulars don't have as much love between each other as in the earlier series, but sequences like "imaginary football" are inspired. Illustrating the lack of consequence from one episode to the next – in a series where some stories would end with their deaths – the end credits roll after the dinosaur breaks free and destroys their mobile office.

4 Hospital For Hire

A broad and amusing satire on the NHS, this one sees the Goodies set themselves up as an alternative service and, thanks to Graeme's elixirs, put the NHS out of business. There's lots of corny gags that work on style alone (Tim offering to show Bill and Graeme the ropes sees him literally show them some ropes) and the playing is infectious. Look out for Harry H. Corbett in a guest role (then just one season and two Christmas specials away from the end of Steptoe and Son), getting a nice in-joke as he plays with a Sooty glove puppet… Sooty's creator Harry Corbett being the man who forced him to add the "H" to his name to get into Equity.

3 Invasion of the Moon Creatures

One of The Goodies' rare excursions into a pure SF story, this one sees Tim and Bill go to the moon, only to be captured and brainwashed by intelligent rabbits. One thing the leads, Bill particularly, have been critical of was their own decision to dub other characters, especially extras, in filmed excerpts with no sound. This is never more distracting than here, with a renegade "Big Bunny" talking exactly like Graeme, yet it's a reasonably small point in an episode that produces plenty of smiles throughout.
     However, as I stated when I began this series of articles on The Goodies, the modern viewer has to remember that this was made during a very different age with very different sensibilities in comedy and society. Possibly the most shocking thing in the entire series is Bill and Tim as violent rabbit thugs (wittily spoofing A Clockwork Orange) who at one point drag a woman into a rabbit hutch to spend 25 seconds of screentime forcibly raping her. When they finally leave her alone, she sees them off by gratefully waving, having enjoyed the experience. It was truly a different time.

2 Camelot

Camelot contains the brilliant conceit of the world of ancient Camelot… in a modern terraced street in Solihull. Such ludicrous leaps of imagination are aided greatly in the best Goodies episodes by them having a strong sense of internal logic that sees every plot point develop naturally from the most unnatural of situations. Alfie Bass is a terrific guest star, possessing real chemistry with the trio, and the range of loveably corny jokes even extends as far as having them break the fourth wall, Tim acknowledging the studio audience while performing as a stand-up court jester.
     The month after this episode aired, the Goodies released their first album, The Goodies Sing Songs From the Goodies (rereleased in May 1975 as The World of the Goodies) containing 11 tracks, 8 of which had featured in the episodes themselves. One of those tracks was Taking You Back, the striking song that is featured twice in this excellent episode.

1 The Goodies and the Beanstalk

"Kid's programme!"
Although the seven episodes present were regarded internally at the BBC as the same production as season three, just with a short break between recording blocks, there's a far greater pace to season four, a sense that the team were really finding their style. The season breached 1974/1975, airing five months after the summer run of Superstar, and, with The Goodies and The Beanstalk, got its first Christmas special.
     Although Michael Palin's diaries contained disparaging remarks about this instalment, based on Bill Oddie's description of it to him in private conversation, John Cleese appears, giving the oft-used detraction of The Goodies as seen in the title quote. Both teams were friends and had worked together in the past, though by this stage Cleese had left Monty Python and the series ended the same month this special aired.
     Like Camelot, The Goodies and the Beanstalk is a true Goodies classic, featuring not only another great turn from Alfie Bass as one of their finest guest stars, but a tour-de-force of inventive visual humour.