Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Goodies and the Beanstalk

Forward in time for today's post, to Cricklewood, 1973, and the Goodies are broke. This leads to them falling into a pantomime world of beanstalks, giants, and geese which lay golden eggs.
I think this has to be one of my favourite Goodies episodes, simply because it is so visually effective, and literally everything is turned into a visual pun, even before it gets to the more pantomimic aspects in the latter half. For example the policeman feeding coins into a parking meter, which then works as a fruit machine and he gets a payout. The old ladies at the bus stop who get their own instruments out and start playing in repsonse to Bill busking. The policeman's sneeze literally blows off Tim's gypsy disguise, to the delight of a man in a suit at the bus stop. A lady presents Graeme with a false leg when he stands on one leg with a sign saying 'give generously', and when he throws the gifted leg away she produces a false arm and punches him with it. The policeman moves Bill on for dancing at the bus stop and then dances himself. The visual gags just go on and one!
In fact this Goodies episode is so visually effective that I have found myself making a large number of screen shots as potential illustrations to this post and am having great difficulty choosing between them, so think I will use them all, and this will just have to be an unusally heavily-illustrated post. The beanstalk theme is given a twist by the fact that what Bill gets for the bike at the market is a *tin* of beans rather than the single bean of the tale, which the other Goodies tip over him in annoyance. They plant one single baked bean which is the source of the beanstalk. On a side note, I've never been involved in one of those charity messy thingies, but wonder what the beans would feel like!
My favourite scene of all is the market, which is another fantasy world. I particularly love that the Archers theme is used as the music for it, parodying home counties type living. Of course the markey is no more real than anything else. I really love that in the ring bicycles are being sold as if they are cattle!
I was very relieved at the end, when they rub the empty bean tin to find that John Cleese was the geni of the beans tin, because I was thinking that this was the Goodies episode which reminds me most of Monty Python. It has the same feeling of young and intelligent humour, which is totally non-offensive and yet rather risque. I have a feeling that Benny Hill may be among the other comedy influences here, at least as far as the number of chases go.
If I have a criticism of this it is that it fails to keep up the pace it sets in the first ten minutes or so. Ideas further on are stretched out for longer - I wonder whether they required more props, especially the giant scene, and so were more expensive - which gives an unevenness of pace to this show. It sticks fairly faithfully to the pantomime formula, except that they end up poor again at the end.
I see this episode was originally broadcast on 24th December 1973, and I hope my post on this Goodies episode will count as a contribution to the Christmas viewing people will be writing about as the weeks go on, because when everyone else is writing about Christmas I know for a fact I won't feel like it!

2 comments:

Mike Doran said...

Chicago Calling (History time):

One of the first American TV stations to show Monty Python was WTTW-channel 11 here in Chicago.
This was in the early '70s, about the time that Python was winding down in GB.
Public Broadcasting in the USA has a long history of Anglophilia, but WTTW was far ahead of the pack.
The station's manager and chief announcer was a guy named Marty Robinson, who looked and sounded a bit like Martin Landau, but had an off-the-wall sense of humor which made him a perfect introducer for not only Python, but for many other British comedy shows that became available in its wake - one such being The Goodies.

Backtracking a bit: my father, whose WWII service was in the Air Force in England (12 O'Clock High was his war), traveled around the world a few times over in his postwar working life; he never missed a chance to go back to England whenever he could, and when British comedians and their movies turned up on local TV, he always called out my brother, my sisters, and me to point out the players. That's what happened on that first Sunday night when Channel 11 showed Monty Python's Flying Circus. (Brother Sean and I didn't tell Dad that we already had a couple of Python LPs; what would have been the point?).

Anyway, Python led the way for more British comedy on WTTW, principally Dave Allen (Irish Catholic Dad especially liked him) and The Two Ronnies (my brother and I both wore glasses); The Goodies came much later, and sort of got lost in the shuffle, which makes this whole comment kind of a fake, doesn't it?

Sidebar: did I ever mention that WTTW was among the first US TV stations to carry Doctor Who?
This was about the same time frame as here; WTTW ran daily episodes from the Jon Pertwee period, which didn't quite catch on then.
It was a couple of years later that Time-Life repackaged the Tom Baker Doctors into "features", which many PBS stations picked up; WTTW made Sunday into an all-British night, with a mix of the comedy shows (including, briefly, The Goodies) leading into Doctor Who; this became a staple of channel 11's fund-raising for about a decade, with Marty Robinson (op cit.) presiding over the phone-in lines (often manned by Who fans in various regalia), and a good time being had by all.

Apologies for "back-dooring" all this into this entry, but frankly I've been looking for an excuse to do so ever since I started coming here ...

John said...

And I provided you with the excuse! There is nothing fake about this comment at all - just you'll be sorry you wasted it here if I ever get round to blogging about Python!