Were the Goodies offensive? | Some of the problematic scenes from Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor

Were the Goodies offensive?

Some of the problematic scenes from Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor

The Goodies this weekend renewed their frequent plea for for the BBC to repeat their hugely popular 1970s series,

But in doing so they also revived the notion that not all of the episodes have stood the test of time, displaying sensibilities especially around race and gender that are no longer acceptable.

While Bill Oddie insisted that only 'white liberals' took umbrage at the show's content, here are some examples that would prove problematical today.

The notorious South Africa episode

For a troupe whose reputation is based on silly surrealism, this was their most political episode, savage in its mockery of South Africa's apartheid regime.

Pianos had all the white keys down one end and the black keys down the other, coffee came only in white and a racist official smashed his sunglasses for making people look darker.

All this fine intent would surely be welcomed, although at the time the BBC censored parts of it for being 'too hard' on the South African police

But the episode is not without its issues – not least for its very casual use of the epithet 'nig-nog'.

Graeme Garden this weekend offered some defence, saying: 'If you put offensive words into the mouth of a villain, is that still offensive or is that making a point? I think at the time we were using language which was pretty well current, but would not be current any more.'

But it was not only the tools of the racist regime that used the appalling term, the Goodies themselves casually bandied it about too.

And in another interview from 2010, Garden admitted: 'I think we were being casually ­racist - and almost everybody was in those day. The word would slip out.'

Further, the episode involved blacking in the crudest way. In the clip below Tim Brooke-Taylor dons boot-polish except for white eyes and mouth to portray a black South African, who goes to work in a company called Sambo Enterprises.

Afterwards, Bill Oddie says he should have played the part, saying: 'I can do the voice,' before dropping into an offensive parody of Southern African-Americans: 'Howdy-do there honey, Zip-A-De-Do-Dah.'

Although his stupidity is part of the joke, the tone does not sit well on modern ears.

And at the end of the show, England is taken over by black South Africans, with the three Goodies using shoe polish to 'integrate'.

Rastus T. Watermelon

In the season five episode The End the trio all found religion. Oddie became a black Muslim, smearing his face in boot polish and rejecting his 'slave name' of Bill and called himself Rastus T. Watermelon

Rastus is another derogatory throwback from the minstrel shows, a largely invented character name for a generic African-American.

In a 2003 interview, Oddie said: 'Sometimes I think: Oh no, that's me, doing that ridiculous voice and everything... But none of my black friends have said they found it offensive. The only people who have are white liberals.' Sound familiar?

'Rastus P Watermelon is so blatantly ridiculous that you can't really take offence,' he added.

Brooke Taylor insisted in the same interview that 'A lot of black people loved The Goodies because I was the British twit. You can't get more obvious than that…'

Assorted other racsim

In Alternative Roots, a parody of the slave-era epic that was a massive hit for the BBC at the time, involves the trio joining the Black And White Minstrel Show, with again the laughs at the time coming from the trio's blackface.

In Kung Fu Kapers, their most famous episode featuring the Yorkshire martial art of Ecky Thump, Garden does a Muhammad Ali routine that morphs into an Al Jolson impression. And it's not the only tome over the run that he does the impersonation.

The Charity Bounce episode features a director of only Chinese-run businesses: The Yellow Pages

Sexual assault for fun

The Invasion Of The Moon Creatures features a send-up of Clockwork Orange, with Oddie And Brooke-Taylor as gangster rabbits, wielding giant carrots as the Droogs brandished umbrellas. In one scene they drag a screaming woman into a rabbit hutch, with the insinuation she's being raped. Afterwards she gives them a cheery wave goodbye, entirely content with the assualt.

The Caught In The Act episode revolves around a strip club and features Garden and Oddie looking up women's skirts to determine what colour knickers they are wearing .


The team often camped it up, for example with Brooke-Taylor flogging a brand of soap powder called Fairy Puff. And in Kung Fu Kapers, they use the term 'poof' as an insult.

In their defence…

The Goodies were far from being Bernard Manning, and were on the progressive end of the scale for the era, as the South Africa episode proved.

Indeed, they often used their silliness to take on other serious issues, some ahead of their time, such as pollution, police corruption and alternative medicine.

They also wrote an episode designed purely to provoke TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse,. In Gender Education Beryl Reed playing an obvious parody, the interfering busybody Desiree Carthorse

And comedy-wise, they were hugely creative with each episode having an entirely different premise, an eclectic format that can be hit or miss – and stylistically oscillating from the childish to the satirical – but the team were certainly always trying out new ideas. And Oddie wrote some banging comedy songs to back them up.

• Next week The Goodies release a 12-disc set of their complete BBC collection, priced £59.99. Buy it here.

• The Anorak Zone website has reviewed and rated all the Goodies episodes, starting here..

Published: 17 Sep 2018

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