Circus Season: Clown Virus (The Goodies)

Continuing a series of posts about episodes of TV shows related to the circus.

In fact, if you were being very strict you probably wouldn't include this one because there isn't an actual circus involved, but where else are you going to find clowns? Birmingham City Council, that's where, but that's a whole other matter.

Just to allow myself the luxury of a little description because I love this one: the general at a US army base in the UK gets the Goodies to take a huge amount of 'tomato soup' off his hands, only for them to find the tin contains a virus which makes people turn into clowns. Cue all sorts of clownish things, and of course the commentary on this show naturally tends to focus on the more slapstick elements of this episode.

However what really attracts me about it is that there are a number of spoofs of various other genres as we go along.

It pits the Americans against the commies and stereotypes the former at great length. In a strangely topical turn we even see the Goodies handling secret documents (I can't for the life of me think what this refers to...). Of course the aim is to take over the UK as another state as a tax loss (I can't tell you what the contemporary reaction to this idea would be but nowadays I think we'd probably welcome anyone invading and putting us out of our misery).

It slightly parodies the spy genre in that in the Major Cheeseburger's office when the Goodies check that they're not being recorded, it becomes apparent that there is a tape recorder hidden inside everything. It's interesting that it touches on various other 'nasty' events in US military history (Agent Orange springs to mind); unusual for a comedy series. 

Particularly in the earlier part it parodies the Road Runner cartoons, particularly the use of te brand name Acme. We see a huge Acme weight balancing the tin of 'tomato soup' in what may be the best example of a cartoon scene actually happening in reality. In another Graeme hold us a spray which makes people clap (of course it has the unfortunate name of CLAP in big letters). You get the gist, in fact it's really quite cartoonish, and I'm now going to have to think about what else is being parodied and particularly cartoon-inspired elements when watching the Goodies.

Just after the halfway point, after they turn into clowns, this is of course an excuse for a lot of clowning. I particularly like the way, after they sell it off as petrol, even the exhaust fumes turn people into clowns and gradually the entire country become clowns.

If you want a criticism it would probably be that it's perhaps not the wisest thing for a comedy series to touch on matters of major political or military sensitivity such as mismanagement of toxic waste and turn them into comedy. This is of a piece with the Goodies episode handling apartheid. You might also say that it's a bit of a hot mess of parodies of different genres and slapstick , but that I think would be a matter of personal opinion. The only real error I spotted is that at one point they drop the huge tin of 'tomato soup' off a harbour into a wooden dinghy which it smashes: unfortunately it's obvious that the tin is empty because it floats!

All in all an unusual show which uses a programme about clowns to touch on all sorts of different subjects, some of them very difficult ones.