Saturday, 8 November 2008

Saturday Silliness Cinema: The Goodies

Today we're going to take a trip into the darkest recesses to see what truly warped my childhood. You see, when I was a little kid the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used to carry a lot of British programs to fill time. One of those shows was The Goodies, possibly one of the strangest TV productions ever.

Officially, it was a family oriented sitcom, but it was in fact a seriously twisted and criminally underrated live-action cartoon that took physical comedy to extremes and back again. The premise was simple three men, money & fame obsessed Tim (Tim Brooke-Taylor), mad-scientist Graeme (Graeme Garden) and hyperactive hippie Bill (Bill Oddie) shared a small apartment and ran a small business called The Goodies. The business was to help anyone, anytime, anywhere. Each episode would feature a new job or get-rich-quick scheme that would lead them on strange and hilarious adventures.

In real life, all three men were graduates of Cambridge University, and had done a spell with the Cambridge Circus live show, as well as various TV projects with the likes of fellow Cambridge alums John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Tim, Graeme, and Bill had just completed two series of a sketch comedy show called Broaden Your Mind when the BBC asked them to come up with a family type show that every age can laugh at. After running through some ideas, they finally came up with The Goodies, and a legend was born.

Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie did the bulk of the writing while Tim Brooke-Taylor added material when needed, it's believed that Brooke-Taylor got top billing in the credits because he was also the show's main stuntman. The show was quickly recognised for its elaborate physical humour, sly and subversive satire of politics and culture, and loopy, cartoonish plots.

One story about the show's production was about a British media decency crusader named Mary Whitehouse, who wrote a letter to the BBC praising the show as wholesome entertainment. The makers decided to do everything they could to offend her, culminating in a show called "Gender Education" aka "Sex & Violence" in which the Goodies are hired by a decency crusader named Desiree Carthorse to make a sex education film without any references to sex in it. They deliberately upped the ante on sex and violence on the show, but still couldn't get her goat. They finally succeeded in offending her in 1980 with a Saturday Night Fever parody which featured Tim in a pair of underwear with a cartoon carrot printed on the front.

It also became known as the only officially recognised comedy to actually kill a man. 50 year old Alex Mitchell laughed so hard at the episode "Kung Fu Kapers" that he literally had a heart attack and died. The entire episode isn't available, but I do have this clip from the episode about the mysterious Lancastrian martial art of Ecky Thump.

The show ran throughout the 1970s until the BBC began to balk at the expense of the show's trademark elaborate sight gags, and the moved the commercial London Weekend Television for their final season in the early 80s. Sadly, LWT also balked at the show's high cost, cancelled it, and blocked them from performing together as The Goodies for years afterwards.

The show also languished for years in television purgatory, rarely repeated anywhere outside of Australia, and underrated as "just a kids program."

So to give you more of what you crave like the salivating dogs that you are, is the entire classic Goodies episode "Kitten Kong," in three parts. Enjoy.

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