Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published April 12th 2020
On April 12th, 2020, the world lost another member of the group of people who made 1960s to 80s British comedy the best comedy ever in the history of entertainment. Tim Brooke-Taylor passed away at the age of 79 due to complications caused by the coronavirus.
Tim Brooke-Taylor is best known as a member of The Goodies along with Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie.
While I love Monty Python's Flying Circus – it is my favourite TV show – The Goodies was the first British comedy I was introduced to. It used to be on after school on a Friday, I think, on the ABC in Australia. These were repeats – we are talking the end of the 70s, start of the 80s – but we (many of my friends liked them as well) would watch these episodes and talk about them when we could.
This might seem that their humour was geared towards children, but when they started to release some of their episodes on DVD and I bought all I could, there is a lot of adult humour there as well. Sure, a lot of the episodes have dated rather badly, but I still think they're funny and my son discovered them and he enjoys their works as well.
But Tim was more than just that. He was in the wonderful I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again radio show (I have only heard a few things from it, but they are all hilarious), the classic How To Irritate People, and he even had a small role in the original Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971). He also wrote an amazingly funny book about golf (Tim Brooke-Taylor's Golf Bag). Yes, he made on of the world's dullest sports interesting. Kudos, sir!
Still, The Goodies is what he is best known for, and so, to remember him, here are my favourite 15 Goodies episodes (sorry, I couldn't keep it down to ten) in order of broadcast, as well as I can make out.
You might notice no videos. There are no official videos available online and I don't want to link to something not allowed, so, sorry, you'll have to make do with a screen cap for each episode, and a Google search.
Radio Goodies The Goodies want to start a radio station, but due to the GPO messing up delivery, they are forced to start a pirate station, and then they go and set up a pirate post office and Graeme becomes rather despotic. The station having only one record ('A Walk In The Black Forest') and the words "Not A Pirate Radio Station" painted on the side of the boat are just two of the great little things about this episode. Yes, pirate radio means nothing to modern audiences (I had to explain it to my son), but I really like it.
The Stolen Musicians
A madman steals all the musicians in the world so he can dominate the disco scene; the Goodies eventually manage to get stolen as well after a weird concert ("Where's my chips?"), and thwart the bad guy's plan with a hoe-down and violent musicians. Cilla Black's revenge still makes me laugh (and it's really her voice as well). And the Tuba cannon. Just so many little sight gags throughout the entire episode. And there's even a bit of prescience – the 'Music Master' wants to put together strange musical combinations to release music. And what have we had since the mid-90s? Strange musical combinations releasing music. Very good.
Gender Education When a parody of Mary Whitehouse hires the Goodies to make a completely uncontroversial sex education film, they upset her, and she starts a campaign against them until violence wins the day, the BBC blows up and she discovers what people really do without TV. This is hilarious all the way through, but especially the "Gender Education Film" they create, and then what the Goodies do with the scantily clad women at the end of the episode while Desiree Carthorse yells at people for being people…
"My goodness, there's 3 of you under there!"
The New Office After being messed around by builders, the bank and everything else, the Goodies decide to build their own abandoned railway station as an office, but a railway appears around it, so they move it to somewhere deserted… where they are attacked! The use of heavy machinery in the roles of dinosaurs is inspired and despite the dodgy special effects (a Goodies trademark, if I'm being honest) this is so amazingly well done. The last ten minutes where they combat these dinobots (long before The Transformers had them) is, as I said, inspired comedy. Oh, and the petrol advert in the middle is just fantastic. (For those not aware, the Goodies did their own commercial parodies in all their shows…)
Tim attacked by a sentient jackhammer. Because... Goodies.
The Goodies And The Beanstalk
One of their best known episodes, this special feature sees the Goodies driven to destitution, finding a magic bean, growing a beanstalk, entering a parody of It's A Knockout (with the real Eddie Waring), climbing the stalk, meeting a height challenged dragon, being attacked by weirdness, coming down and finding John Cleese. No, seriously. It is just manic and is one of the best things the Goodies did. Alfie Bass as the "giant" is a great addition. This episode is loaded with incredible visual gags from beginning to end (if you ignore the racism).
This is my very favourite Goodies episode. I have seen it so many time I can quote every line of dialogue("Lavatory Meadows!" "He means W.C. Fields.")… not that there's much at the end where the practical effects and clever edits are just incredible. Nowadays this would be done with CGI and it would lose 95% of its cinematic charm. The story? The Goodies buy the British film industry, see the horrible films being made (The Life Of Pablo Cassals is incredible!), then they themselves make a terrible version of Macbeth Meets Truffaut The Wonder Dog together, then decide to make their own films in their own favourite genres, and they get in each other's way and… it gets weirder. But in a fantastic way. One of the very best things ever done by British television. Watching it while writing this I am still laughing so hard my neighbours must think I've lost my mind. Again.
Outdoing Buster Keaton by having 3 there! No CGI! Wow!
Strange episode about creating weird hybrid dogs to enter Crufts, Bill winning, and Graeme's titular monstrosity coming out. I think this is just so insane and perfectly parodies dog shows. Most of what I find funny is the strange dogs (the dog crossed with oven is just ridiculous and makes me laugh every time). This is almost completely visual in its humour (including feeding the Old English Sheepdog a tin of paint… do they still have those dogs in the Duluxe ads?) and it is probably a guilty pleasure.
Kung Fu Capers
A brilliant parody of the martial arts film genre that swept the world in the 70s and has yet to stop sweeping, if we're being honest. With the ancient Lancastrian martial art of Ecky Thump, remote controlled black puddings and an attempt at world domination, it has everything you need. One of Tim's best bits in the entire run of The Goodies is here when he suffers the delayed reaction of a series of moves. This episode has gone down in infamy after a 50 year old man died from laughter while watching the episode. However, the man's widow sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making his last moments so pleasant. Nowadays, they would have been sued out of their socks. This is a classic episode for a reason (if you ignore the racism and blackface).
This is the scene where the unfortunate death occurred...
The Goodies Rule – O.K.?
My second favourite episode. The Goodies fail as musos, their acts being adopted by other famous people, then discover fame by ripping off everyone else, then a new government bans entertainment until the Goodies get things back on track, but a puppet government takes over (consisting of real puppets) and Checkers is destroyed and it's as weird as this description makes out. There are celebrity cameos (including a great Tony Blackburn one), and an enormous Dougal and Zebedee… And the music is awesome. The version of the song 'Wild Thing' in this ("Come on and hold me tight… Not quite that tight.") is one of the best. A special episode at almost an hour long, this is just so amazing. And, again, the practical effects are so much better than CGI any day of the week. The pop culture references might be incredibly dated… but I get them all, but I'm old and sad…
It Might As Well Be String
The world's oil crisis parodied with string. That's it. After advertising executives the Goodies get things a little wrong because people aren't buying stuff, they decide to advertise the non-controversial and harmless string, forcing the world-wide commerce of it through the roof, dominated by the Arab string sheiks. It's as odd as it sounds. And the commercials they create are absolutely fantastic. If real adverts were that entertaining (and honest), then maybe people would not skip them so often. I think the way they classify the public is actually accurate. And who can forget the jingle? "String, string, string, string, everybody loves string!"
The Scouts are dying out and Tim leads a patrol of elderly Scouts. Graeme and Bill; join, but get kicked out. Then two masked Scouts appear and do things for "badges" that are not… nice. All Scouts are caught up, Scouting becomes banned, Tim is let off because of the school he went to, joins the Salvation Army, and they take down the rogue Scouts. This is one of the few where there is not a real change of tone halfway through, but the ending where Bill and Graeme, despite being caught red-handed, deny being the bad guys and Tim just accepting it is so… Tim.
Looking at the Punk scene and the whole concept that these pop culture fads only last a few weeks before something new comes along is as relevant today as it was back in the 70s when this episode was filmed. The punk stuff was sent up remarkably, even having the conservative elements of society adopting it, which even today tells people that a thing is over and dead. This is one of those episodes that is actually timeless. And the fads at the end are weird, especially Bill's song. then it becomes a Cinderella parody and finishes with a strange wedding… So wonderful.
Saturday Night Grease
And this is my third-favourite Goodies episode. Yes, I have ranked my top 3 – I'm allowed! What starts off as a parody of Saturday Night Fever becomes a strange rant against modern dancing without touching, and then becomes a huge musical number which parodies so many dances, dance films and other musical things it is stunning. The choreography is incredible and this is the episode where Bill looks like he is having the most fun. The scenes where Tim is trying to chat up women in a night-club, and Bill running a night-club so exclusive it's empty are great. Probably one that takes a bit of pop culture knowledge from the time to get all the references… but I do, and I love it.
Animal rights campaigning turns into full animal rights, turns into Bill eating animals on an animal talk show (while seeking vegetable rights) turns into a parody of the film version of Watership Down featuring parodies of famous TV personalities of the day. Whew! The ending – "Bell-a-meee!" – is so perfect and the whole animal rights thing is still as relevant today as it ever was. Again, it is the visual gags that make this, but also the costumes and the way the animals are integrated, especially at the end when Bill makes soup.
After many years and 8 series, the Goodies left the BBC and went to LWT where they were made promises that… well, they weren't upheld, not really. They made one series there and that was it for them. Many fans do not like these episodes, but I don't mind them, and one of the episodes is just great. This one looks at football hooliganism, efforts to stamp it out, and then said hooliganism migrating to the ballet, and then ballet leagues… Just as insane as anything from their prime, And the final ballet match at the theatre is so well done, especially the commentary.
So, if you can find them, 15 episodes of the Goodies to remember Tim Brooke-Taylor by. Apologies for this going up so late, but I got stuck watching around 40 episodes of the Goodies. They really are awesome.