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.

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.

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.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.