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24 September 2014

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The Good Life

Tom, Barbara, Jerry and Margo

Created by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, The Good Life's four series from 1975-8 are remembered, according to the Britain's Greatest Sitcom poll, as our 9th favourite laugh.

Constantly available on UKTV, it's a must visit for anyone interested in British sitcom.

On his 40th birthday to be precise, Tom Good decides that he's had enough of the rat race and that he and wife Barbara will become self-sufficient.

Tom and Barbara

The pair convert their garden into a farm, get in the pigs and chickens, grow their own crops and on one memorable occasion, try to dye their own wool with nettles.

Tom and Barbara would just be lone loons were it not for their neighbours, the henpecked Jerry Leadbetter and wife Margot, a social climber who cannot bear chickens wandering the back garden.

Margo and Jerry

The Good Life attacked the middle class and the 'alternative' lifestyle at once, showing Margot's snobbishness as blindness, and Tom's fanatical self-sufficiency as going too far.

Examples of Tom's pursuit of natural alternatives leading down the wrong path include his attempts to make a methane-powered car that continually breaks down, as well as the problems Barbara and Tom have trying to kill their chicken, forcing them through pride to make a 'sumptuous feast' of a single egg.

The Good Life was remarkable for the consistent characterisation. Though initially dominated by Tom, Barbara was soon balancing his mad schemes with pragmatism and comforting his occasional lapses into depression. Jerry's mocking derision of Tom's step sideways become grudging respect, and even snobbish Margot was human and real.

Barbara, Tom, Margo and Jerry

The series showcased the talents of Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington and made all three of the latter into solo stars afterwards, with Kendal becoming a sex-symbol (still is, let’s face it), while Keith in To The Manor Born and Eddington in Yes Minister created roles that were to become even better known than their Good Life creations.

Briers went on to create possibly the saddest small-screen comic character of all time, Martin Brice in Ever Decreasing Circles.

Tom and Barbara

The thirty episodes of The Good Life became household favourites, and are still enduring icons of their time.

In a good-natured, light-hearted way, they showed how hard it was, and is, to be different to those around you, and the kind of courage it takes to be so. 


Felicity Kendal
Barbara Good
Penelope Keith
Margo Leadbetter
Paul Eddington
Jerry Leadbetter
Richard Briers
Tom Good
Reginald Marsh


John Esmonde
Bob Larbey
John Howard Davies

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