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Classic TV Revisited: The Goodies



Written by Graeme Garden & Bill Oddie with Tim Brooke-Taylor, The Goodies was about three blokes who formed a troubleshooting agency and would do anything, anytime, anywhere – as long as it was within pedalling distance on their trademark three-seater bike, the Trandem. The result was a series of madcap sketches, leaning heavily on slapstick, but which became increasingly surreal as the series went on.

When was it on?
There were 77 episodes between 1970 and 1982. The first eight series were on BBC, the ninth and last was on ITV.

Who were the star turns?
The Goodies were Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie. They wrote it and starred in it and their characters were comic exaggerations of their own personalities. Tim was cowardly but an ardent royalist — beneath his veneer of respectability he wore Union Jack underpants; Graeme (a doctor in real life) was a manic scientist; and Bill was solid, dependable and keen on the environment. He also composed the songs.

The Goodies

How did it come about?
The trio had first met at that celebrated breeding ground, Cambridge Footlights, and had enjoyed great success on radio with ‘I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again’. In 1967, Oddie and Garden transferred their talents to TV with the sketch show Twice a Fortnight (where they were joined by Michael Palin and Terry Jones) and the following year Brooke-Taylor and Garden came up with Broaden Your Mind. Billed as a comic encyclopedia, Broaden Your Mind was another quick-fire sketch show featuring contributions from all of the future Monty Pythons except Terry Gilliam. Bill Oddie joined the team as a regular for the second series. This evolved into the Goodies, the original working title for which was Narrow Your Mind in deference to its predecessor.

Which were the Goodies’ best-known sketches?
Probably their most famous was Kitten Kong where a giant kitten attacked the Post Office Tower and terrorised London but afficionados will also remember the plague of Rolf Harrises and the fight between a set of bagpipes and a black pudding. Most of their humour was delightfully childish but occasionally there was a more serious message. For example, a skit on apartheid showed a South African piano with only white keys and a zebra crossing where pedestrians avoided the black strips. And you didn’t think The Goodies were satirical?

Who watched it?
The Goodies started out in an adult time-slot but, much to their consternation, found themselves brought forward to earlier in the evening. They didn’t like being considered as a children’s programme – even though their corny jokes were repeated in fifth forms across the land – and made their point by getting John Cleese to appear in a sketch as a genie taunting them with the jibe, ‘Kids’ show!’ It was the fall-out over the time-slot which ultimately led to The Goodies’ defection to ITV.

The Goodies

Were there any complaints?
Mary Whitehouse certainly didn’t see them as children. She once described them as being ‘too sexually orientated’, taking particular issue with Tim Brooke- Taylor who had always seemed about as likely a sex symbol as Harry Worth. Mrs. W stated: ‘Tim Brooke-Taylor was seen undressing, then dressing to mock John Travolta in an exceedingly tight pair of underpants with a distinctive carrot motif on the front.’

Didn’t The Goodies become pop stars?
In 1974 and 1975 they enjoyed considerable chart success with The In Betweenies, Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me, their tour de force Funky Gibbon (which reached number 4), Black Pudding Bertha, Nappy Love and Make A Daft Noise For Christmas. The upshot was that on the same edition of Top of the Pops you could end up watching The Wombles and The Goodies. It was enough to make you pine for The Rubettes.

Any distant cousins?
They were often compared unfavourably — and unfairly – to Monty Python. But The Goodies were more visual and deserved to be judged in their own right.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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