The Goodies have long occupied a slightly odd position in the history of British comedy, defined (much to their annoyance) almost exclusively in relation to their contemporaries, Monty Python. Emerging from the same post-Beyond The Fringe Oxbridge background, indeed the same programmes (particularly Iím Sorry Iíll Read That Again), the Goodies never attracted the same degree of fan loyalty or critical respectability as their supposed rivals, and were pretty much seen as the junior version of Python, starting a year later and never quite catching up. In terms of cultural artefacts, the Goodies had hit singles and appeared on Top of the Pops, while Python had hit albums and played the Hollywood Bowl Ė thatís the kind of division that made all the difference in the mid-1970s.
Actually, this is unfair. Looked at now, the TV series is not bad at all, and certainly doesnít suffer unduly from comparison with Python on TV Ė itís more cartoonish, more enthusiastic, more joyous. Itís also more organic, without the artificial, self-congratulatory montage approach adopted by the older programme. But then the best Python work was saved for the movies, where the Goodies never ventured, and ultimately thatís the real distinction that posterity will record.
Despite my own personal fondness for their work, the Goodies were, not to put too fine a point on it, unhip. (Often the way with my enthusiasms.) And you can see why from these books. Nowadays every TV comedy with any pretensions to its name has a book published almost immediately, serving as an extension and confirmation of the humour as well as being a simple bit of commercial exploitation, but until the Ď70s this wasnít how it was done. It was, as far as I know, Python who invented the genre: having deconstructed TV, they moved on to do the same for marketing. By 1973 they were publishing their second scrapbook volume of assorted jumble and jokes, while the Goodies were still producing an old-fashioned annual Ďbased on their hilariously funny television seriesí. It wasnít until 1975 that they caught up with the new format, and Ė popular though they were Ė these next two books lived very much in Pythonís shadow.
Even so, there are good jokes here, and with the added benefit of nostalgia, they become ever more likeable. In a fit of perversity, however, Iím choosing to reprint a non-humorous picture from a feature in the 1974 Annual about the boys in the studio for the first time, because I like their music. Admittedly this first album, released on Decca, wasnít their best work (check out an interview on our sister-site, Glitter Suits & Platform Boots with Bill Oddie), but hereís Miki Antony, who produced the records and who deserves some credit:
Miki Antony & Graeme Garden
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 4/5