... or so went the lesser-remembered early version of the theme tune. It's easily forgotten that The Goodies, running for twelve years, was spawned out of the tail end of the 60s. This goes from the sneaky drug references (just check out the initials of Bill's Lemon Sherbet Dip which gives him all the hallucinations) and the musical numbers by Oddie which seem to pass them over as wannabe Monkees. The first credit sequence sees them leaping in the air like some kind of carefree, youthful troupe, which of course The Goodies never really were. Corduroy and wild abandon never really sat well together, and Graeme Garden even confesses that he sprained himself jumping into the air. But looking back over the seven episodes of the first series from 1970, it's still difficult to answer the all-important question: are they still funny anymore? The initial signs weren't good. Seeing the trio on an old Top of the Pops repeat singing The Funky Gibbon was a painful realisation that three middle class (well, except for Bill) and practically middle-aged men dancing around and mugging hasn't followed us into the new century very comfortably. Dating, of course, is not the fault of the programme, which was made with the intention of airing to a 1970-1982 audience, not to be thrown into the harsh light of DVD in the 21st century. Yet it's strange how one decade's subversion is another's mainstream, and while at the time it was cutting edge and quite political, seen in 2007 its surrealism is very much end of the pier, while even the skits on the Royal Family are quaint in a modern context.
Naturally, being a product of the 70s, there's much to debate in terms of content. There's a "poof" or "fairy" joke in two of the first series episodes, topless women in three of them, and while blackface doesn't feature here, it was a semi-regular Goodies staple, even being used as late on as the 1981 Christmas special. Heritage is a question among the series. For a long time the stars touted themselves (legitimately) as peers of Monty Python, unfairly regarded as a "kid's show". Such things are not helped by their merchandising ventures, such as my dog-eared copy of The Goodies 1974 annual. Brought out by World, traditionally the makers of children's annuals, it's helped by the interest taken by the Goodies themselves, and there are one or two racy jokes in there, such as the tribal wife named Gentilia. But to allow what is a glorified kid's book (complete with five comic strips) to enter Christmas stocking and then complain about not being taken seriously is a little rich.
The heritage extends further back, with slapstick indebted to both the golden age of cartoons (a series a post-Goodie Tim would present, and directly referenced in Kitten Kong, and more) plus silent comedy, Tim's cries a blatant crib from Stan Laurel. Bringing this forward, one suggestion to give the series latter-day credibility is that its natural offspring was The Young Ones. Watching the staid opening episode might not immediately bring this to mind, but by the time we reach March 1975 and Graeme's eating a foghorn while they strike oil and launch a lighthouse into space, you can see where the claims are coming from. By the time The Goodies left our screens (sacked by a commercial channel who didn't really know what to do with them once they had them) it was the same year Rik, Vyvyan and Neil were due to take their place back on BBC2. That the year before saw the aforementioned final "blackface" incident perhaps indicates the real gulf between them and the "alternate" regime in terms of idealogy.
The 1970 series, then, while not being laugh-out-loud hilarious, is quite charming in its staid way. Sure, there are plenty of counterculture jokes, some bare boobs and Bill's bare backside, but a series that has an episode with Tim pretending to be a woman is a very quaint, almost music hall throwback. The decision to mimic television adverts in the middle of all the episodes is less Python style satire, more the sort of stuff that Benny Hill had been doing since the 1950s. (Having said this, the advert for "Razz" is probably the funniest part of the first series). In fact, "Caught In The Act" is arguably the most dated episode of the lot, one that predicts the rise of women's clubs complete with male strippers but has bawdy sexism, rear nude women and randy housewives as part of its lexicon. In referring back to The Young Ones, then having the third episode centred around police brutality is commendable, though curiously lacking in real edge to a modern audience. By some way the best episode of the first series, "The Greenies" (AKA "Army Games") sees not only a satire of the British military, but also an early dig at Apartheid and swipes at vivisection. The final episode of the first series, "Radio Goodies", is interesting in that Graeme becomes the "bad guy" for the episode, a narrative tool that they would go on to employ more frequently throughout future episodes.
Overall, while the 1970 episodes ARE dated, almost quaint, and linear compared to what came after, the tighter scripts and more verbal based nature means they stand up fairly well nearly four decades later. Not only that, but while the acting may have improved over time, there's a freshness and energy that the last couple of series may have lacked. Oh, one last thing... isn't it weird seeing Bill without a beard?
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