Worst to Best
The Goodies
Season Seven

The seventh season of The Goodies aired from November-December 1977, and is the most proportionately available of all The Goodies BBC output, with four of the six episodes out on DVD. The Goodies DVD releases can be ordered via the online Anorak Zone Store.


by
THE ANORAK
NOVEMBER 2015


Ratings had declined on the initial BBC2 airings, falling almost 1.5 million on average from season six. However, the now-customary repeat run on BBC1 saw over 2 million more people tune in than had for the previous year. While not the massive hit it had been in 1975, the programme was still pulling in an average of over twelve and a half million on the main channel, a very healthy audience. Join me as I rank the seventh season from worst to best...

6 Dodonuts

With 43 episodes of The Goodies still unreleased onto DVD to date, the only way many fans can get to see them is via video streaming sites. This does often mean that the episodes will be from edited sources, and with nearly two minutes cut out by Australian censors, the commonly-seen version of Dodonuts is a different prospect to the real thing. Featuring a randy dodo that tries to mount both Bill and Tim, as well as breaking wind and excreting over the pavement, this episode in full may seem to be racier than it is... instead, what remains is unremittingly childish. Beginning with Tim and Graeme out of character as upper class hunters (a reprise of the voice and themes from season three's Hunting Pink), it features Percy Edwards delivering a piercing shriek as the voice of the dodo, and a level of joke-telling so sophisticated that Tim tells a duck-holding Bill that he's going "quackers". Possibly the worst of all the BBC episodes.

5 Royal Command

A rather broad and over the top episode where all three Goodies have to stand in for the Royal Family, complete with silly costumes to draw cheap laughs from the audience. Although it's difficult to appreciate today, in a post-It's A Royal Knockout world where the Royals are openly criticised in the media, what now seems a fairly tame and affectionate episode was actually very controversial. Frowned upon by the BBC, particularly with the Jubilee and the birth of Princess Anne's first child in the news, the broadcast was delayed, and the episode pushed back in the schedules.
     One change in the production during season seven was that, while Jim Franklin was still the producer, Bob Spiers was now directing... a joke at the end of this one sees Spiers with "O.B.E." after his name, and a line placed through it. The Goodies talking about how they'd like O.B.E.s was a frequent joke in the series, and, indeed, is repeated here. Although this episode obviously wasn't created with the intent that it would be viewed and dissected over 35 years later, it does make the gag seem somewhat antiquated in a post-2011 world, where they all now have O.B.E.s.
     Whether Spiers taking over as director changed the series for the worse can be debated... certainly the leads become even less restrained, Oddie frequently looking out to the studio audience during scenes, but then the trajectory of the series from its inception was to get generally broader anyway. It's notable that, aside from the first-ranked entry in this season, there wouldn't be a classic Goodies episode after he took over, though this could be a coincidence and the path the series was going to take regardless... certainly no series has an infinite lifespan, and The Goodies, as classic as it had been, was definitely reaching the end. During the following season, Spiers joined Franklin as co-producer of the programme.

4 Alternative Roots

A messy episode, whereby targets are confused and intentions blunted. As a parody of the US series Roots, used as a satirical barb to attack the BBC, its intent is noble, but in questionable taste. The idea of spoofing a series on slavery to deride light entertainment is something that would have been regarded as in extreme bad taste on the other side of the Atlantic, but then so would the BBC still making something like The Black and White Minstrel Show up to 1978.
     Yet at this stage lambasting said programme seems both pointless and an empty target: the series was on the way out, being cancelled just eight months after the broadcast of the episode; and despite worthy motives, it's lost in the mix and the need for childish slapstick, the Goodies fundamentally getting laughs from blackface and associated actions themselves. Whatever the intent of this unfocussed storyline, the biggest laugh of the episode comes from Tim, proudly declaring "I is a happy minstrel!", his actions producing roars of laughter from the studio audience.
     By ending the episode with a sequence of events that are inexplicably infantile (on a personal note, I saw this one when it first aired as a small child and was in hysterics... as an adult I have no idea what I saw so funny in Bill Oddie rolling LPs along a floor) it forces the blackface routines to merge into the freefalling slapstick, and so become part of the regular fabric of the episode, right up to the somewhat indulgent payoff of "Great! Give those boys a series!" The overall feeling is that, while it's commendable that the Goodies were prepared to slate the output of their own commissioning TV station, it seems less brave when they weren't doing it about a programme in its prime; also hugely hypocritical when all of their future output featured at least one of the leads blacking up without any real ironic intent. The real problem is that by this stage the Goodies were unable to successfully mock mainstream light entertainment, having begun to merge into the establishment themselves. At one point the variety show Seaside Special is mocked; yet sixteen months earlier The Goodies had appeared on it. Once barbs against the likes of Mike Yarwood, Rolf Harris and Max Bygraves may have seemed more pointed; yet in 1977 The Goodies had become practically of the same ilk.

3 Scoutrageous

As discussed before, the best Goodies episodes operate under their own internal logic, and this can be said about Scoutrageous. But ultimately an episode like this asks if you find the idea of a 37-year-old man wanting to be a scout funny, and the idea of scouts becoming illegal, and hunted like Communists. If the answer to that is "no", then this far-fetched tale won't really have much to offer, save for a brief mistake where Bill goes to look at Tim's badges and accidentally slips on the floor. Tim's "don't slip" isn't the greatest ever ad-lib, but it's a nice moment that shows them still having genuine affection for each other as themselves. Scoutrageous is one of three Goodies episodes that has an atomic bomb as part of its resolution, none of the three using such a device as a particularly satirical one: here the bomb just deflates like a balloon, before limping towards a punchline-free ending. While it can be stated that the episode operates under its own logic, the premise behind it is one that is fundamentally shaky. With episodes like this it's questionable as to why the generally weak season seven is so well represented on DVD.

2 Punky Business

At this late stage in their career The Goodies were just as often choosing youth culture to lampoon as well as authority... they'd begun to aim down as well as up, and were effectively pushing themselves out of the zeitgeist. Although the men behind "The Funky Gibbon" could never have described themselves as "cool", and were effectively setting themselves up as out from society as early as "The Inbetweenies", never before had they written an episode where they're so rejected as musicians, or so opposed to current trends.
     Punky Business features some catchy songs, and if "Shiny Shoes" is a blatant reworking of "Where Are They Now?" from The Goodies Rule – O.K.?, then Bill can be forgiven this once for recycling his own material. Yet having them pelted off stage, while funny, does cast them as unwanted losers, rather than childhood heroes. Also of note is that in many of these later episodes the Goodies would behave out of character, and be almost poisonous rivals, rather than three friends "Tim", "Bill" and "Graeme". For much of Punky Business they don't even particularly like one another, and oppress Tim... all of which is fine, but illustrates the rough continuing narrative of the earlier seasons, particularly the first four, is something which is now disregarded, and each episode may see a constantly shifting status quo.
     The ending to this likeable episode is quite a racy one, even for the period, with the Goodies all marrying body parts of Jane Asher.... Tim gets her hand, Graeme gets her head and torso, but the one who looks the most pleased is Bill, running off with her body from the waist down.

1 Earthanasia

The greatest of the single-set episodes they did, Earthanasia takes a dark turn, with world leaders deciding to end the world as a way to solve all its problems. Set in real time, the characters and acting are now so broad that Tim is an emasculated manchild of limited intelligence, and Oddie is frequently acknowledging the audience, even being dragged back into the narrative by Tim at one stage.
     Although there's plenty of boom mikes in shot and much playing to the gallery, there's a bleak undertone where they realise that they don't have much to live for when knowing that the end of the world is due. The final punchline of Graeme saying it was all just a joke, then revealing that the "joke" was that he just put the clock forward by half a minute, is a strong one. Even better is the downbeat ending, with the world exploding. In many ways this would have made an even better episode if it were made during one of the less showier, early seasons, but even despite this it's a minor classic, and the last great Goodies episode. There were maybe three or four okayish instalments after this one, but after seven years on air and 61 episodes, the loose format had perhaps been stretched as far as it would go, and without a major change to the comic set up, Earthanasia would have been a high note to bow out on.