MR WHEELER: Were you expecting a load of timber, Mr Chaplin?
TREVOR CHAPLIN: You know me Mr Wheeler, I never expect anything. So when something turns up, that’s a bonus.
The Beiderbecke Connection: Hello Sir, Hello Miss by Alan Plater
Summer semester. Disappointed academics. Many of whom prepared seminars that attracted audiences of none-ish. And one delighted academic whose screening was attended by one student… and a happy, enriched time was had by both.
And this is where doing proper worthwhile stuff like lecturing differs from my messing around with articles and viewing notes. I’m not doing this in front of an audience. The audience is waiting in the future – maybe a month, maybe six months, maybe a year… maybe a decade if we hit rights problems like that DVD set in 2006. So, I write, I deliver, at some point it’s published, and maybe there’s an audience… but, even if there is, by then I’m not really paying attention because I’m onto the next-but-insert-number-here article or viewing notes.
As such, Trevor Chaplin’s philosophy suits me very well.
But it is rather nice when, a couple of years later, you discover that something you’d done earlier had actually found an appreciative audience.
One of my favourite projects ever ever ever was research into The Goodies (1970-1982) – a television comedy whose importance during my formative years I’ve bored you with before. Part silly slapstick, part sharp satire, the series related the adventures of a trio comprising Cambridge Footlights alumni: Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie.
A lack of access to the show by the 1990s meant that the series’ potent 1970s success was somewhat forgotten in the UK. A shame… so by 2005, I determined that I wanted to assemble a book about this rather special programme.
This opportunity was afforded me by Kaleidoscope which felt that The Goodies: Super Chaps Three (2010) would nestle in nicely alongside other highly specialist publications. The project was an utter joy – not least because my editor was Simon Coward. Simon is one of those people who’s fun to work with and chat to and whose idea of editing is always to say “Oh, have you thought of adding this” or “What if we try to do that?”… and in every single case it’s something that makes the end product better because he understands the subject matter.
I’d very much assumed that Goodies-wise, Super Chaps Three was Game Over for me. But – no! In 2018, Network Distributing resolved the rights to issue a stonking 12-disc DVD of all the BBC episodes… and asked me to advise on various aspects. They wanted to go the distance. A special reunion was to be recorded in London, a limited-edition certificate from the trio was prepared for early buyers, a triple-CD soundtrack album was pressed, and I was asked to update and abridge Super Chaps Three into 868 pages of viewing notes.So, this amazing Goodies set came out on 24 September 2018… by which time I was busy with Doctor Who (1963-1989,1996,2005-) and The Goon Show (1952-1960), Joe 90 (1968-1969) and Man in a Suitcase (1967-1968).
Then in 2021, an old uni mate flagged up an article entitled Are We Living In A Golden Age Of Television? And – three years later – I’m discovering somebody who enjoyed that Goodies package; a writer who totally gets the way in which the shows were made available.
‘archive TV is available like never before […] There has been a revolution in archive television presentation […] one might argue [DVD and Blu-ray] have become the vinyl of the visual world: a way of both achieving high quality and indicating a connoisseur […] These releases go beyond pure nostalgia value […] seeing it as a social record and interesting format in its own right’
How brilliant! A writer who not only enjoys a show made before they were born, but also appreciates and understands its packaging with all the bonus items. Her name’s Issy Flower, and I’m delighted to invite her to this blog tonight.
Hi Andrew, thanks for having me!
My pleasure – the least I could do in return for such a great read. So, question number one, why The Goodies?
Well, it all goes back into the mists of time for me… In 2005, the BBC broadcast a documentary called Return of the Goodies, the first large scale celebration of the comedy group. I was around six at the time, so I can’t be sure I saw it on first viewing, but certainly saw it sometime between that and the age of ten – the perfect time for a dose of Goodies exposure. The clips of Kitten Kong and the Lancastrian martial art of Ecky Thump fitted in perfectly with a childhood landscape dominated by shows influenced by the trio such as the fourth-wall breaking and very silly The Basil Brush Show (2002-2007). As my interest in archive TV continued, I tried to find a way of watching this show that had grabbed my imagination for life in the documentary. I bought Network’s selected BBC releases and the LWT set, but longed for a full series release. And here it was!
Oh, love the way that you add those dates in brackets – makes it look all grown-up and academic doesn’t it? So, what prompted your celebration of accessibility for a general audience and physical media for the specialist connoisseur?
I felt that this was the perfect time to discuss the upsurge in availability, largely prompted by BritBox. Going on the site and seeing DVDs that my family had had and watched for years, freely available for less than £5 a month, was genuinely thrilling. And it made people talk about it! The Guardian was running articles on Hammer House of Horror (1980), and then directing you to somewhere that you could watch it, online! That was very exciting. I felt that this was linked to the sterling work that Network have been doing for years, producing in-depth material on shows in much the same way as the Doctor Who DVDs, but with a smaller reach – and especially not in my age range. I wanted to highlight these elements to people younger than the target demographic, but with an emphasis on how availability and in-depth research can be balanced and shared, allowing the fullest audience to view them. And I absolutely adore The Goodies and The Strange World of Gurney Slade (1960), so it was nice to be able to analyse them for an actual publication rather than in my own head!
It’s a delight to read this sort of affirmation that there is an audience out there. Are you planning any similar writing?
I’m currently working on a chapter on the relationship between pop music and ITC adventure shows for an upcoming book, and various article ideas keep running round my head… I’m tempted to delve into the utterly bizarre The Prisoner (1967-1968) novel by Hank Stine from the early 70s, but just need to find a place for it!
This may be an odd question, but – any thoughts on barquentines?
I thought they were very good in Hornblower (1998-2003) …
Absolutely! Well, thank you for sparing the time to join me.
But, wait – don’t get up now grandma! We have more than one happy customer. Last summer, a fellow Goodies fan told me about a vlog on YouTube that they felt I should check out. Now, living where I do somewhere in the mid-1990s where I don’t own a television that goes online, I don’t watch many vlogs. I have to watch them at the PC and it’s uncomfortable and if anything runs to over about 10 minutes It Ain’t Gonna Happen.
But… here’s Tengy Talks TV & Movies. And here’s Tengy.
Look how delighted Tengy, in Australia, is to have a copy of The Goodies: The Complete BBC Collection! Just watch her introduction and see how thrilled she is to own this… and how she wants to revisit the series, offering her incisive thoughts episode-by-episode in tasty, bite-size morsels of enjoyment and perspective… all running to around the 5-minute mark to fit nicely into the busy life-style of a modern person like me .
Tengy keeps the subject matter centre-stage and shares her enthusiasm. I find myself agreeing with both her smart observations and even some arguments that I’d usually disagree with. It’s light, it’s thoughtful, it’s brisk, it’s accessible… and immediately I see a customer who’s having fun.
And I’m just as delighted as I was to have Issy join us that Tengy is here on the blog tonight.
So, of all the things to discuss online, why cherry-pick those Super Chaps Three in particular?
Well, I had been waiting for so many years for the complete series to become available and thought it might be interesting to make a record of what it was like revisiting a show I had just loved so much as a youngster but not seen for a long time. How would each episode strike me now as an adult? I had hoped that there were other Goodies fans out there who might enjoy revisiting the show along with me.
Getting the boxset coincided with my initial thoughts about making a YouTube channel where I would present reviews of shows and movies I liked. I thought it might make an interesting ongoing series that I hoped would get people tuning in each week as we progressed through each season of the show.
For Australians of my generation The Goodies was such a huge, and fondly-remembered part of our childhoods, as the series was continually repeated here for many years. The film/tv reviewers I like most are the ones who have a genuine enthusiasm for what they’re talking about. I love and admire The Goodies so much I thought it would be easy to get enthused about the great work they did.
And why a vlog?
I’ve met a couple of people who were actually making a living out of YouTube videos and a family member suggested I should give it a try. As a creative person I’ve tried many different things, including making visual art, playwrighting and novel writing, but it can be very hard to find an audience. Ultimately what I’m trying to do is to communicate ideas with people. Making videos is just a different way of doing that which I was curious to try. It gives you a bit of immediate gratification – in terms of people watching something you’ve made and maybe leaving a comment – that’s much harder to get with novel writing.
You’re not afraid to note which aspects now make you uncomfortable while also celebrating all the things that give you joy. Are you discovering new things from this re-watch experience?
Certainly! Watching the series as an adult is a really different viewing experience and I love how now I am able to pick up on jokes I that went over my head as a kid. Also I am gaining a new appreciation of how many serious or topical issues the chaps brought into their comedy – raising questions around hunting for sport, sexism, racism, food additives, environmentalism, etc, etc. I’m really impressed by how progressive a lot of their ideas seem – even more so given what a lot of comedy was like back in the 1970s. I love that they wanted to raise awareness around certain issues, as well as making people laugh.
The great thing about this boxset is that it also includes censored elements and shows that were never screened in Australia, so to be viewing Goodies material that is new to me is an additional thrill.
And, finally, any observations about barquentines?
Far too many ropes for my liking.
Good point! Thank you so much for your time.
It was a pleasure and an honour, Andrew.
So, there we go then, two late results in bonus time. Almost three years after publication, two sets being owned and cherished in good homes. And two creative people, inspired by the same source material to go out and say things about a show that they admire… but also not being quite sure if they’ll find an audience or not.
Well, yes, they have. They found me – at least. And if at all possible, I’d now like you to find them as well.
Thank you Issy. Thank you Tengy. I do hope that you both continue to have so much fun and delight with these shows, and that you get to share that via your respective media.
Thanks for doing something new.
Andrew Pixley is a retired data developer. For the last 30 years he’s written about almost anything to do with television if people will pay him – and occasionally when they won’t. And he’d rather like to think that Issy and Tengy also have at least 30 years ahead of them to write and vlog about all the things that they’d like to write and vlog about too… and have all the fun that he’s had. And more!