Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season Six

The sixth season of The Goodies aired from September-November 1976, and saw a decline in ratings. Although still very high, with an average of 7.9 million tuning in for the BBC2 premieres (and 10.3 million for the later BBC1 repeats) it was clear that the huge peak of 1975 wasn't one that could be sustained.


Two of the season six episodes have been released onto disc - you can order the DVDs of The Goodies by visiting the online Anorak Zone Store. In the meantime, please join me as I rank the sixth season from worst to best...

7 Daylight Robbery on the Orient Express

It's perhaps inevitable that after such a successful and vibrant year in 1975, things would seem underwhelming in the follow-up season. At least half the episodes in this ranking are a little flat and lifeless; the most striking thing about season six being that it installs the highly memorable "donkey" clip in the opening credits. Daylight Robbery on the Orient Express begins with a very good joke that the Goodies are setting up their fake tour service, with Graeme presiding over a stationary train coach while Bill runs outside with trees and landmarks to convince the customers inside that it's moving. However, while a fine joke, it's one that's repeated endlessly until it's run into the ground. Of particular note is a scene in a carriage between Graeme and Tim, dressed as a geisha girl, which is the longest sustained length in the show without the studio audience laughing, both leads going through their lines both to barely audible, polite laughs and dead silence.
     On the plus side, there is genuine invention in the episode; the concept of a Cannes festival called "Le Boring" is oddly amusing, and it's a series so racy that they even imply a bestiality gag. Yet while The Goodies always had its child fans, some season six episodes sound like children are actually in the audience; the overriding feeling is that you've tuned into a particularly old-fashioned episode of Crackerjack.

6 2001 & A Bit

The idea of the Goodies playing their own sons around 25 years in the future (or now around 15 years in our past) is a good one, yet there's a somewhat underwhelming feeling surrounding 2001 & A Bit. It perhaps doesn't help that the script seems a bit like a revue at times, and the energy is a little flat compared to some other episodes. Giving the entire second half over to a game of cricket is a hard ask for laughs when they go to such pains to express how boring the sport is first.
     However, one thing the later BBC seasons really miss are the background songs by Bill that gave the series its own unique sense of identity. Disregarding the concert episode, then season six only has two episodes with song material in them; seasons seven and eight just one each. It seems as if the change of musical director from Michael Gibbs to Dave MacRae saw them concentrate less on the musical side, and the slapstick/action sequences here are just accompanied by fairly generic instrumental scores. It's a marked difference in the feel of the programme, and what songs are in the season ("One Note Rock" and "Flower Love" from Hype Pressure, and "MCC March" from this episode) aren't there as background music, but songs within the narrative.

5 Black and White Beauty

An incredibly odd mix of humour styles, ranging from the inventive to the childish, the programme even pre-dating Rentaghost by two years by being first to bring in a pantomime horse. Some of the best episodes of The Goodies had an absurdity that was held up by carefully studied internal logic. At the risk of taking the programme too seriously, the pantomime horse is one that we're supposed to regard as a real horse... yet later Tim and Graeme step inside it and use it as a disguise. Is it a real horse within the fictional narrative, or just a prop? The programme can't seem to make up its mind, and nearly all of the scenes involving it are that rarist of things... too silly, even for The Goodies.
     In interviews regarding drugs, Bill has stated that he only smoked one joint in the 70s, Graeme just tried it and Tim never did. This perhaps explains why Graeme doing the stereotypical "stoner" voice seems so reactionary, and there's a shocking moment where Tim, devoid of any real context, uses the N word. Bill beating his "horse" with ever increasing violence (climaxing in machine gun fire) may get a laugh, but it's notable that of all their shows at the BBC, this is the one that got the lowest reaction from tested audiences, with an index reaction of just 58 out of a possible 100.

4 The Goodies – Almost Live

An episode containing 14 of The Goodies' songs, there's consequently no narrative to Almost Live, and so it's difficult to rank it amongst the other episodes on offer here. Although the majority of the tracks used as backing songs in the episodes are actually better than their novelty singles, some of them hold up reasonably well, though do so better without the visuals that accompany them... it's easier to listen to The Funky Gibbon on the radio than see Graeme looking uncomfortable in dungarees.
     The main feeling though is that this episode came too late. Their successful musical career had now passed, with four singles, two albums and an EP being released between 1976-1978, none of which charted. The catchy albeit inane "Bounce" wasn't released until May 1976, some five months after it featured in The Goodies Rule – O.K.?. By the time it's recreated in this special, it's been almost a year since it was first broadcast. If this had been made as part of season five it would have seemed like the Goodies riding high on the peak of their success; as it stands, it's like watching them trying to hang on to a musical fame that was already over. You can't help but wonder why they didn't try to cash in by making this episode when it was strictly relevant, though it may have caused problems with the BBC's then-strict rules about advertising. However, such criticisms can seem churlish when based against an episode that, watched in isolation, is actually fine entertainment.

3 Hype Pressure

An unusual episode, in that it indulgently features the Goodies talking about their music career as if it existed within the canon of the TV show. Although there's a Goodies concert episode in season six, it's them stepping outside the fictional narrative, but here we're led to believe that the characters they play in the series (who coincidentally share their real names) also had the same hits. Without stretching this logic too far, it does mean that we're forced to accept that we're no longer watching Graeme Garden playing "Graeme", but that in real life they really did have battles with giant kittens.
      As for the content, then The Goodies in its later seasons does become more coarse and crass, and less reliant on genuine wit. While even the first season had ample nudity, it wasn't until season three's Winter Olympics that we got the first "groin stamping" humour, with Bill thinking Tim was about to do such an act while practising driving. This is escalated here, with Bill kneeing Tim in the crotch, and one or the other kneeing each other in the genitals is used as a fairly frequent humour shorthand thereafter in these later episodes. Also look out for Tim as a stereotyped homosexual director, or blacked up as a mock Little Richard.
This said, there are plenty of amusing moments, such as a cruel quiz show (rather childishly titled "New Faeces") where panellists make a man cry by telling him his wife has died, or Graeme going on a sofa-slashing rampage, brainwashed by rock and roll. Yet it's an episode with a relentlessly vocal studio audience, so much so that at one stage Bill steps outside of the narrative and acknowledges their involvement, with an ad-libbed "yes, quite!" between lines.

2 Lips, Or Almighty Cod

Context in The Goodies is important, and while it's perhaps unfair to say, as some critics do, that the series is locked into the 1970s, this one is built around a very specific period. Those unaware of the second "cod war" between England and Iceland may very well be lost with this direct satire, though there's enough child-orientated visual and punning humour to keep everyone happy. Graeme growing a giant cod and the team repeatedly questioning its sexuality ("his mincing great poofy cod!") may also cause embarrassment or amusement today, possibly both at the same time.
     One motif that features in a surprisingly high amount of Goodies episodes is cruelty to animals – it's even the basis of more than one episode this season. Sometimes hilarious, other times overplayed, only rarely does it feature genuine animals in distress, and is reliant on amusingly fake puppets and Graeme manipulating inanimate objects. However, there are two instances where it does appear to cause genuine concern to animals, in a way that wouldn't be allowed today – one is the dog that's clearly alarmed to be placed in a basket in Kitten Kong, the other is here, with Tim punching his fist into a tank full of goldfish. As with all of these reviews of Goodies episodes, noting such elements is there not as express criticism, but to note to modern viewers that these programmes were made in a very different time.

1 It Might As Well Be String

A superbly inventive and witty satire of the advertising industry that takes in still-topical swipes at the state of the Middle East, and deconstructions of the programme itself. The ending sees the Goodies watching their own series on television in a state of confusion, with Tim noting of the producer's credit "he's probably just trying to win a prize". A reference to the two Silver Roses that The Goodies won at Festival Rose d'Or for Kitten Kong Redux and The Movies, then the latter clearly informs some elements of this and Hype Pressure, with attempts to rework the clever frames and perspectives sequences. In a wonderful moment of self-depreciating humour, Graeme remarks "he won't" and switches the television off. Also look out for Tim accidentally switching on his own unsuccessful, now largely forgotten, comedy series Hello Cheeky, observing "Well nobody's perfect... just put it out at the wrong time of night, that's all."
      From 1970-1974 The Goodies released 28 episodes with spoof commercials in them. It Might As Well Be String consolidates every idea they had relating to advertising, and contains a string of mock adverts that are arguably funnier than any they did earlier. This being a later season, then they're more savage than before, with Graeme delivering a great performance as psychotic "Captain Fish Face", though the opening ad, which has Bill enacting domestic violence against a woman (complete with a realistic-looking slap) may offend modern sensibilities. The only question is, with the ads such blatant parodies of existing products, then how did they get away with it without being sued?