40 years of The Goodies
Forty years ago this week (8 Nov 1970), three men on a bicycle (‘trandem’) careered into our comic TV world, promising to do ‘anything, anytime, anywhere’. One was posh right down to his Union Jack underpants, one was a middle-class technocrat concocting new inventions in his back room, and the third was a flat-capped son of honest toil with a penchant for aggression (before becoming a passionate twitcher and observer of all things natural in our back garden…).
They were of course The Goodies! Can it really be 40 years ago they appeared for the first time? They came with a host of enduring, goofy, visually punning sketches – remember the trio chased by a giant rampaging Dougal (The Magic Roundabout was never ever the same again!), or by bomb-dropping geese, ‘ecky thump’ blood puddings, or when they turned delinquent on Skid Row, abandoned on the moon, and (ahead of its Who do you think you are? time) transformed themselves into their own ancestors: Keltic Kilty (Graeme) , Kinda Kinky (Bill) and Kountie Kutie (Tim)! And perhaps most memorable of all, in the episode ‘Kitten Kong’, where an enormous fluffy white kitten terrorised our cowering heroes.
Kids loved it, adults loved. One poor viewer apparently thought they were so funny that he laughed himself to death! It also had the rare notoriety of being derided as ‘too childish’ by BBC executives, while being criticised by Mary Whitehouse for being ‘too sexually orientated’. The mind boggles!
And occasionally, they even strutted their stuff on Top of the Pops. ‘The Funky Gibbon’, written by Bill Oddie, propelled them into the charts and made them the 5th biggest grossing pop act of 1975.
So where did The Goodies come from? The trio had met at Cambridge University, contemporaries of Beyond the Fringe/Monty Python, and created their unique brand of humour, inspired by – in their own words – a mix of Buster Keaton, Mad Magazine, Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry. Whatever the case, America’s superman heroes were never ever to be the same again. They were now transformed into bumbling, class-befuddled, benign and oh-so English do-gooders. Amazingly, they lasted for ten years, and their influence still lingers today in The Mighty Boosh and We Are Klang, to name but two.
Can’t you still hear that theme tune: Goody goody yum yum..?
Robert Seatter is Head of BBC History
Listen to comedian Ross Noble's revist to The Goodies: Anything, Anywhere, Anytime and Pick of the Week on Radio 4 for a Goodies fix. You can also watch the Return of the Goodies on Saturday night on BBC Two.