The Goodies
1 9 7 0 - 1 9 8 2 (UK)
73 x 30 minute episodes
1 x 50 minute episode
1 x 45 minute episode
1 x 25 minute episode

By the second series of Broaden Your Mind, the Goodies trio of Brooke-Taylor, Garden and Oddie were assembled and determined to continue working together, focusing on the filmed visual comedy they so enjoyed writing and performing. They approached the BBC's Head of TV Comedy, Michael Mills, with an idea based on 'an agency of three blokes, who do anything, any time' and Mills, despite receiving many similar outlines, had enough faith in the three comics to let them proceed. The resulting show, which had the working title Narrow Your Mind to follow its predecessor, was first titled Super Chaps Three, and ultimately The Goodies - whence it became a landmark in British comedy.

The Goodies were essentially a "fix-it" team, committed to help those in need (and hopefully get rich and famous or take over the world in the process). Tim, Bill and Graeme nursed sick pets, launched rockets to the moon, house-sat lighthouses and competed in the Olympics. Each week the three climbed aboard and promptly fell off their customised bicycle for three (the 'Trandem') before remounting to pedal off to their task.

The show featured some ingeniously entertaining ideas, including Kitten Kong where a giant kitten terrorised London, and an episode which showed only too clearly the dire consequences should there be a breeding epidemic of Rolf Harrises! Like live-action versions of a Warner Brothers cartoons, episodes incorporated speeded-up footage, sight gags, surrealism, and good old-fashioned violent slapstick. 

Each show would feature a song played during the chase sequences. Bill Oddie and Michael Gibbs wrote all the music, including the classic Funky Gibbon. Most episodes also included one or a few mock TV advertisements, which delightfully sent up the genre.

The BBC seemed to treat The Goodies as virtually a children's program, a state of affairs that led to them become increasingly disillusioned with the Corporation. Critics never accorded The Goodies the same degree of cultural standing as Monty Pythons Flying Circus, probably considering their corny jokes and blatant slapstick less worthy than the Pythons' verbal artistry. If this snub bothered The Goodies they did not show it, and in one famous sequence they even featured John Cleese in a cameo role, as a genie taunting them with the jibe "Kids' program!".

Mary Whitehouse certainly didn't see them as children. She once described them as being "too sexually orientated", taking particular issue with Tim Brooke-Taylor who had always seemed about as unlikely a sex symbol as Harry Worth. Mrs Whitehouse stated: "Tim Brooke-Taylor was seen undressing, then dressing to mock John Travolta in an exceedingly tight pair of underpants with a distinctive carrot motif on the front".

Celebrity appearances were a feature of The Goodies, editions of which often spoofed other programs and so were tailor-made for cameos, with all manner of unlikely TV personalities turning up, including Michael Aspel, Sue Lawley, John LeMesurier, Jane Asher, Mollie Sugden, David Dimbleby, Terry Wogan, Tony Blackburn, John Peel, soccer commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, quizmaster Magnus Magnusson, astronomer Patrick Moore and, perhaps most memorably of all, the rugby league commentator Eddie Waring.

The Goodies was ultimately axed by the BBC to make way for Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Bill Oddie was summoned into an office at the BBC and told that the BBC were planning a TV version of Hitch Hikers and unfortunately they didn't have enough money to service the special effects on The Goodies AND Hitch Hikers Guide. Naturally, they looked for a new home and found it at LWT, albeit just for one more series. 

During their BBC years The Goodies twice won the Silver Rose of Montreux (Kitten Kong, the 1972 winner, was a partial remake of an episode which had first aired on 12 November 1971). The Goodies also appeared in-character on Top Of The Pops, Crackerjack, Seaside Special and in the 1976 fund-raiser A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick). They further performed a short, self-contained comedy segment in each episode of the 13-week BBC1 show Engelbert With The Young Generation, starring the singer Engelbert Humperdinck (9 January-2 April 1972). 

Monty Python's Flying Circus
1 9 6 9 - 1 9 7 5 (UK)
45 x 30 minute episodes 

Who doesn't crack a smile just thinking of John Cleese and his arrhythmic leg-jiggles in the Ministry of Silly Walks from Monty Python's Flying Circus?  The brilliant ensemble cast of Cleese, Palin, Idle, Jones, Gilliam and Chapman has left it's footprint on every TV skit-fest since. 

From their days at Cambridge, the Pythons (John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Eric Idle) graduated, though not altogether, through such sixties shows as At Last The 1948 Show , The Frost Report, Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Complete and Utter History of Britain.

Securing a BBC commitment for the new comedy troop, the series went into production. What the series didn't have was an air date, a time-slot or even a name! With episodes already being filmed, the group found themselves under increasing pressure from the BBC to name their show. Owl-Stretching Time, Whither Canada?, The Whizzo Easishow, The Toad Elevating Moment and The Venus Di Milo Panic Show were all seriously considered before the team duly informed the BBC that the show would simply be called It's.

The conservative network was not impressed and the series was given a Siberian time slot at 10:30 on Sunday nights, and told to come up with a more memorable name. Eventually they came up with Monty Pythons Flying Circus and took to the air in earnest. By the end of their second run there were mounting fears from within the BBC hierarchy. They used phrases like 'disgusting', 'appalling taste' and 'wallowed in sadism'. But the Pythons pressed on.

In 1972 they won the BAFTA award for Best Light Entertainment Program, a sure sign of finally being accepted, and went on to make a fourth series (just called Monty Python) without John Cleese.

What was so funny? Well, where does one start? 

Hairdressers scaling Mount Everest (and opening a salon in the process, using the last of their oxygen to power the dryers)  

Anne Elk (Miss) and her theory about Brontosauruses 

Bounder of Adventure 

Dead Parrot 

The Proust recital contest where they couldn't decide who should win so they gave the trophy to the "woman with the biggest tits" 

Arthur 'Two-Sheds' Jackson 

Nudge, Nudge 

The funniest joke in the world 

A man with three buttocks 

How to recognise different types of tree from quite a long way off 

A man with a tape recorder up his nose 

Arthur Pewtie, who suspects his wife is being unfaithful and goes for marriage counselling, only to watch the counsellor make love to his wife 

The Lumberjack Song 


"Me Doctor?" 

The Spanish Inquisition (totally unexpected!) 

Gumby Flower Arranging; 

Spam, spam, spam and spam 

The Fish Slapping Dance 

The man who believes he's qualified to be a lion tamer because he already has the hat 

'Hitting On The Head' Lessons 

Kilimanjaro expedition with double vision 

A cheese-shop owner whose shop is "completely uncontaminated by cheese" 

Woody And Tinny Words . . . 

Films like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Life Of Brian helped establish them worldwide. In 1976 they sued the BBC for selling the television series to America without their permission, and the BBC allowed them to buy back the copyright. Michael Palin says: "Their attitude was, 'oh well, Python had its day, so you can have the foreign rights and good luck to you', which meant of course they missed, by about two years, the huge explosion in cable and video and ancillary markets, which we can now sell". 

Graham Chapman summed up the feeling that the Pythons were always felt to be outcasts at the BBC: "I don't think the BBC really wanted us around the building very much. In fact we seemed to get worse and worse offices as went along. For the last series we were in a shed near the gate".   

The Python theme music is actually John Philip Sousa's Liberty Bell March. 

 And Now for Something Completely Different (1971)
 Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)
 Monty Python's Pleasure at Her Majesty's (1977)  Life of Brian (1979)
 Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982)
 The Meaning of Life (1983)  

Fawlty Towers
1 9 7 5  - 1 9 7 9
12 x 30 minute episodes

America may lay claim to inventing the sitcom, but it was the British who elevated it to a perfected art form. Look no further for evidence of this than the 12 near faultless episodes of Fawlty Towers. What a formula. Misconstrued conversations, befuddled guests and an eternally hostile Basil Fawlty, played by the magnificently manic John Cleese. Throw in a Spanish speaking waiter and a  bit of slapstick and you're on a winner!

Created by Cleese and his then wife, Connie Booth, the idea occurred to him while on location in Torquay for Monty Python's Flying  Circus, when an over zealous hotel owner threw Eric Idle's briefcase into the street because he believed it contained a bomb, and complained that American Terry Gilliam's table manners were "too American". 

With riotous interplay between Cleese and a cast headed by Basil’s wife Sybil (with a laugh like "someone machine-gunning a seal"), chambermaid Polly, inept stereotypical Spanish waiter Manuel , and a number of resident guests,  the series was a huge success.

A keen worker, Manuel is eager to please but possesses a very poor command of the English language. In the position of the dog to be kicked following run-ins with his wife, Basil vents most of his frustrations on Manuel, screaming at the  hapless soul, browbeating him and often physically assaulting him - "That Sybil, me Basil, this a slap round the ear!". Andrew Sachs portrayed Manuel as a frightened rabbit, often flinching in Basil's presence, expecting and usually receiving punishment for errors he was usually unaware he had committed. Manuel wasn't quite as stupid as Basil thought him, but the character was thought likely to offend Spaniards, so when the series aired in Spain he was made out to be Italian! 

Basil Fawlty was a near psychopathically hyper-active, middle-aged, stick insect caricature of a human being with pretensions beyond both his social and moral status. He was also breathtakingly funny, whether  fawning insincerely over his upper class guests or heaping abuse on the- 'riff-raff we get around here'.  In The Germans, try as he might to 'not mention the war', eccentric Basil confirms with his German guests that  their meal  order is "two eggs mayonnaise, a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Goering and four Colditz salads…"

A US adaptation of Fawlty Towers, titled Snavely (aka Chateau Snavely), transferred the Torquay hotel setting to an off-highway hotel in middle America. Otherwise, the characters and situation mirrored the UK original, with Harvey Korman as the Basil-like Henry Snavely, Betty White as his domineering wife Gladys, Frank LaLoggia as the bellhop Petro who barely speaks English, and Deborah Zon as a college student Connie, working as a waitress.   ABC screened the pilot episode on 24 June 1978 but it failed to be picked up for a series. 

In 1983, ABC reworked the concept as Amanda's which aired from 10 February to 26 May 1983.  Inexplicably Basil was now a woman called Amanda, played by Bea Arthur (Maude) - the formidable owner of Amanda's By The Sea, a hotel overlooking the Pacific. She had some of Basil's anger and frustration but the series had none of Fawlty Towers' class. They tried adapting the series again in 1999 with a show called Payne (surely a spelling mistake!) starring John Larroquette. 


  A Touch of Class
  The Builders
  The Wedding Party
  The Hotel Inspectors
  Gourmet Night 
  The Germans   Communication Problems
  The Psychiatrist
  Waldorf Salad
  The Kipper and the Corpse
  The Anniversary
  Basil the Rat 

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
1 9 7 6 - 1 9 7 9 
21 x 30 minute episodes

This innovative BBC sitcom, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, had as its central character a man falling headlong into the calamity of mid-life-crisis. The series was also an inspired swipe at middle class England and big business. 

Reginald Perrin had worked in the same boring job with Sunshine Desserts for 20 years. Every day he left his boring Norbitan home, took the same boring train journey, arrived at his boring office (always eleven minutes late), and was greeted by his boring secretary Joan who he dreamed of having an affair with.

His career was going nowhere and he was constantly browbeaten by his overbearing boss CJ, who was forever offering advice beginning with "I didn't get where I am today . . . " until it all became too much for Reggie and he drove himself to the seaside, threw off his clothes and faked his own suicide in order to start a new life.   

Following a spell of wandering around Britain and picking up odd jobs, such as a labourer on a pig farm, Reggie returned to suburbia in the guise of Martin Welbourne, remarried wife Elizabeth, and set up a chain of shops called Grot, which specialized in useless objects. Reggie also employed the ex-staff of the now defunct Sunshine Desserts, including his secretary, CJ, Tony Webster ("Great") and David Harris-Jones ("Super").  But things went too well for Reggie and Grot became a runaway success, steering Reggie straight back into the lifestyle that he had previously resented so much. 

At the end of season two, Reggie and the entire cast staged another fake suicide, only to resurface for a third season in which Reggie founded a commune for stressed executives. Now joined by his militaristic  brother-in-law, Jimmy, who would always be on the scrounge for food with the excuse "Sorry, bit of a cock-up on the catering front.' Perrins, as the new company called itself, employed all of Reggie's old cronies once more including an indecipherable Scottish cook by the name of McBlane. 

An American version (simply called Reggie) starring former Soap star Richard Mulligan, was broadcast in 1983 by ABC. Inexplicably, the BBC made the series The Legacy of Reginald Perrin in 1996, continuing the story after Reggie had been killed by an advertising hoarding (Leonard Rossiter himself had passed away in 1984), leaving his former colleagues to perform absurd tasks in order to inherit several million pounds from his will. Stripped of its central all-important character the show was doomed to certain failure. 

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin was comedy of the very highest order from a BBC at the pinnacle of its classic comedy output.
British Comedies of the 1970s