Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season Five

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7 The End

Although more people saw them in the BBC's 1972 Christmas Night With the Stars, The End had the biggest audience for an actual Goodies episode... 15.2 million people tuned in to an Autumn repeat on BBC1 to watch this studio-bound story. Featuring just the leads being sealed into their office by concrete, the commentary track tells us that Bill finds it takes too long to get going, while Tim cites it as a favourite.
     With the episode seeing them at the peak of their powers, the absurdity of the situation is used to its full effect, including discussions on religion and politics. Less commendable, perhaps, is Oddie as "Rastus Watermelon", and the ending with Tim, Bill and Graeme playing an alien expedition force arriving to dig the Goodies out. With the Goodies dying onscreen, the episode could have opted for a fully dark, offbeat ending that intentionally distanced the viewers... instead it sees Graeme in Spock ears, sending up Star Trek for some cheap, crowdpleasing laughs, the final lines of dialogue barely audible over the roars of studio audience approval.

6 The Goodies Rule – O.K.?

A 50 minute Christmas special that aired on 21st December 1975, The Goodies Rule – O.K.? fared less well in the ratings than expected, with just 6.1 million people tuning in. Although the other channels probably had heavy competition, it signalled an end to the extreme success of the series, with ratings generally falling for the remainder of their run at the BBC, albeit still far higher than the first four seasons.
     In terms of trivia, then this is the first episode of The Goodies without Tim Brooke-Taylor's name on the official writing credits, though he would make continue to make suggestions until the end of the series. The episode itself, mixing the Goodies becoming a successful pop act and a government run by puppets, is undoubtedly indulgent, but after their huge success during the year, they'd earned the chance to be indulgent for an evening. Despite being relatively lowly rated, it contains some of the programme's most-recalled and iconic images, and is frequently amusing, even if it's an instalment that perhaps doesn't stand up as well to repeat viewings as others.

5 Scatty Safari

The only episode on this second page yet to be released onto DVD, and now unlikely to be in the near future after Rolf Harris was jailed in July 2014 for sex offences. Harris, a regular target of the series, is the whole focal point of this episode, an alternate title even calling the episode "The Existence of Rolf Harris". Taking the utterly ludicrous premise of the Goodies owning a safari park full of celebrities, you'll either laugh along with the increasing silliness of the plot or wonder what all the fuss was about. Although real life issues surrounding its main subject may have tainted the episode somewhat (there's also a shot of "Jimmy Saville"), it's hard not to be amused at the utter absurdity of egg-laying Rolf Harrises in captivity.

4 The Movies

The second episode to win a Silver Rose at the Festival Rose d'Or, the reputation of The Movies largely rests on the final eight minutes, which present a continuous stream of imaginative visual gimmicks and inspired camera tricks. With all three Goodies determined to do their own film to aid the ailing British film industry, their collective egos clash, and all three movies merge into one, with commendable skill.
     However, to praise the episode just on the final sequence alone is to do it a disservice, as the earlier film parodies are also well performed, and it's a programme that credits its audience with the intelligence to know the names of foreign directors. The episode is one of four from the season to have a commentary track... while Lighthouse Keeping Loonies and The End have amiable yet inessential chats, The Movies sees Bill in an engagingly bitchy mood throughout.

3 South Africa

The Goodies has never truly received its full respect as a satirical programme, perhaps because satire made up a relatively small part of its output. The group were just as happy to rework pantomimes or have giant kittens terrorise London as they were to tackle political issues, and so it often gets overlooked.
     Then there's the fact that, despite being well-meaning, the series is so tied into its 70s mindset that even when they use the programme as a political mouthpiece (as here), it often gets confusing as to what they're actually trying to say. While South Africa is a clear attack on apartheid, and wholly worthy as a result, it's still an episode that has the regulars say words that even the Daily Mail refused to print. Frustratingly, clips from the episode were used in the second of a two-part series on Channel 4, It Was Alright In The 1970s, to illustrate racism on television. While there are at least half a dozen instances of The Goodies indulging in material that is of a racially questionable nature, including at least three of the episodes here, South Africa is clearly ironic and scathing of racism, using those tropes to satirically attack a regime. Oddly, while using the right clips to make the wrong point, the programme neglected to feature the ending, which is problematical: all three leads using shoe polish to integrate in an England taken over by black South Africans; the voices of said South Africans dubbed by the Goodies themselves.
     Sadly, on 22nd November 2014, viewers were presented with comedians giving shocked reactions to the racial language, while the normally verbose Bill Oddie struggled to find words to defend it, and it was left to narrator Matt Lucas to justify the episode for him. This was an especially odd occurrence as Oddie reacted as if he was seeing the footage after many years distance, whereas it was released onto DVD in 2010 with their most essential commentary, Bill discussing at length the noble motives behind it. Bill's assessment there that "maybe we were overreaching ourselves by making a serious point in a silly programme" is unfair on themselves. In all, this is one of the most important Goodies episodes, in that it shows that it was more than just throwaway TV... even if today it's more than a little difficult to watch.

2 Bunfight At The O.K. Tearooms

As discussed with season four, many of the best Goodies episodes operate with a precise series of internal logic that makes all the gags work. An opening situation, however ludicrous, is established, and then all the situations occur naturally as a result of it, the jokes emerging organically. Here they have the genuinely clever-silly absurdity of a cream mine, and take it to its (il)logical extremes, culminating in the titular bunfight. Relentlessly inventive, while elements like the "card" game are standouts, the entire episode is full of highlights, with even their puns and wordplay, often a low point of their humour, well-crafted and inspired.
     Throughout these reviews I've referred to Bill's background songs as "incidental music", which is perhaps not strictly accurate, as such a term would more apply to instrumentals only, not tracks with lyrics and so on. Yet while clearly audible, tracks like "Working The Line" are there as background music to accentuate the action... for the first time here we get a track that's intended to be not only heard, but regarded as part of the narrative, the audience laughing along to Bill's words as he narrates the final action with the "Ballad Of The O.K. Tea Rooms".

1 Kung Fu Kapers

Probably the second most famous episode of The Goodies after Kitten Kong, no overview of Kung Fu Kapers can be complete without mentioning that a viewer had a fatal heart attack while watching it, due to laughing so hard. It's not difficult to see why, as once the episode introduces the central concept of "Ecky Thump" – hitting people over the head with black puddings as a martial art – it doesn't let up. Ultimately, whether or not you find this episode funny comes down to whether you find the idea of people putting on a mock Lancashire accent and hitting each other with puddings amusing. It's an episode with some literary allusions and a remarkably developed world, and it's an episode that has a unique identity that could only belong to The Goodies.
      In modern terms you could argue that the various area stereotypes are prejudiced, but of particular note is Garden in blackface, doing a Muhammad Ali routine that evolves into an Al Jolson impression. It's troubling, because it undermines all the work they were doing elsewhere in slating this kind of thing, and, as it appears in the title sequence for the remainder of the BBC seasons, it does have the effect of making The Goodies a programme with around 50% of its output containing racially questionably material. There's also the word "poof" used as an insult, and a woman being penetrated, off camera, by one of the radio-controlled black puddings. As always, such things are noted as historical reference, rather than a criticism per se, as Kung Fu Kapers stands up as a very funny episode forty years on, with the Goodies even allowing Nationwide presenter Michael Barratt to upstage them.
     Three months after the episode aired, an attempt was made to trade in on its popularity with the single "Black Pudding Bertha (The Queen of Northern Soul)", which even began with the exclamation "Ecky Thump!" The song hasn't aged particularly well, and clips of the the Goodies performing it may be significantly less amusing than the episode itself, but it was their third highest-charting single, reaching No. 19. The single was affectionately mocked in the programme, Graeme disparaging the lyrics in season six's Hype Pressure.


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