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We Do Anything, Anytime

May 31st, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

Some time between Christmas and the start of the lockdown I treated myself to the box set of the complete BBC episodes of the Goodies. I expected I would binge-watch it all in no time at all, but actually only finished last week. Partly this was down to me just not watching much TV this year, but partly down to not enjoying it quite as much as I expected to.The Goodies finished on the BBC in early 1980, and re-appeared briefly on ITV for one short series. Unlike nearly everything else on the BBC it hardly ever got repeated. At some point in the 1990s it did get repeated on the UK Gold satellite channel. I remember at the time that there were also repeats of the Young Ones and at that time it felt like the Goodies had aged better. Perhaps the Young Ones was a bit too recent then – do things have to be at least 20 years old before they become classic? Perhaps it was also because the Young Ones had been chopped up a bit and didn’t work too well with an ad break in and the music acts chopped out. The Goodies would have worked better with an ad break because they already had a spoof ad break in them a lot of the time.

Watdhing the entire output I realised that there had been some judicious cherry-picking when deciding what to repeat in the 1990s. The best episodes are still great – Kitten Kong, Ecky Thump, the lighthouse, the encased in concrete episode and so on – but some of them really have not aged well after all.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy watching it all, but it was a difficult watch at times because this is something made in the 1970s for a 1970s audience and it turns out that a 1970s audience was quite a bit racist and homophobic. Personally I don’t believe that Tim, Graeme and Bill were, or are, racists but there was hardly an episode where one of them didn’t black up for some reason or other, and even one episode where the N word was used in such a matter-of-fact way that I almost fell off the sofa. Add to that lots of digs about poofs, and there was hardly an episode you would be able to make tody without lots of changes.

Of course it is unfair to judge a show that started 50 years ago by today’s standards, and the Goodies were not unusual – old episodes of Spike Milligan’s Q programme or even Monty Python have similar issues and I am not judging; just pointing out that it interferes with enjoyment of some excellent writing and slapstick acting.

With the perspective of watching the whole lot over a few months, it is more noticeable how it changed over the years. It started off as the three of them being a sort of company who would do anything anytime, but that soon got dropped and it turned into a situation comedy with a different situation every week. Those early episodes where they were more of an agency must have been very memorable because before embarking on the box set my memory was that it was the format for the show and not just a conceit that got quietly dropped in about year two.

There were also some strange non-episodes, like one where they just played a lot of songs in pastiches of various styles.

As for the actual box set itself, the quality of the picture is outstanding considering the age and the quality of BBC archiving in the 1970s. One or two episodes are in black and white, but they still looked good. One or two are in 4:3 ratio, as they were originally made, but most fill a modern 16:9 television screen. I do not know how they did that without making the picture terrible. I sometimes watch a couple of channels that show old 1970s and 1980s music and they nearly always sho a full-screen picture by chopping off people’s heads. There must have been some cropping and stretching of pictures but at no point was it noticeable.

I had already had the DVDs of selected episodes and was frustrated to only have a couple of dozen episodes out of over 70 that were made. On reflection it is actually a good thing to just have the best couple of dozen, but there were a few absolute crackers that were left off the earlier selections – like the Dodo episode.

I may re-visit this at some point in the future but if I do I will be more selective. I will skip the South Africa episode and the Black and White Minstrel episode in favour of the bunfight at the OK tea rooms and similar.

Having said all that, I am glad I got this and glad I watched it. OK, so they black up more than Justin Trudeau at college and feature Rolf Harris a lot more than is comfortable with the gift of hindsight, but away from all that there is a lot of good stuff and it is very well presented, albeit with little in the way of extras.

A few random observations:

All three of the Goodies were very physical in the show. When it started they must have been late 20s, though obviously they seemed older to me at the time, but they were mostly doing their own stunts. If you tried to make it again now you would have even more trouble getting hte stnt work approved than the blacking up!

Graeme was a very good physical comic and impressionist. I especially love his party piece of the havng the small furry animal climbing up his shoulder, which got used a lot.

It was a very topical show, which might partly explain the lack of repeats. There was a lot of poking fun at current celebrities, politicians, events and films – the kung fu craze, Grease and Saturday Night Fever, Close Encounters, It’s A knockout and so on.

The best bit are still better than most of what anybody else has done since!

Many of the episodes have so many ideas crammed into them that I still can’t believe they were only 30 minutes long. For example the politics episode. It started with Graeme as a Saachi & Saachi-type ad man trying to replace Thatcher. There was Tim standing for election as Eve Peron, with some Evita pastiche thrown in, and then a satire of election night every bot as good as Monthy Python’s ‘Silly Party’ bit, and still there was time for a piss-take of It’s A Knockout which even now had me in tears of laughter at the sheer silliness of it.

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