Saturday, 30 July 2011

Oh, The Good Life

In 1984, alternative sitcom 'The Young Ones' mocked the safe middle class comedy of 'The Good Life' for being so 'bloody nice'. Although it's difficult to watch 'The Young Ones' these days without cringing, 'The Good Life' abides: still funny, still entertaining, still clever. It's a dismal, dirty world, after all, what's wrong with 'nice'?

No doubt you're familiar with the premise: 40 year old Tom Good lives in Surbiton with his incredibly sexy wife Barbara. He works as a lead draughtsman for a cereal manufacturer, designing the plastic toys to go in the boxes. He hates being a 'grotty little cog in a whacking great machine' and, in the grip of a midlife crisis, he decides to throw in his job, tear up his lawn and become self-sufficient, living only on what he can grow and make and sell.

(A year later, Reginald Iolanthe Perrin would go through a similar dark night of the middle aged soul but, instead of getting a goat and a rotorvator, piled up his clothes on a stony beach and faked his own death. Reggie Perrin wasn't married to Barbara Good, though.)

Commuter as Dalek.

The fruits of Tom's labour, soon to be rendered in plastic.

Barbara Good, Suburban Fox.  

This ornamental fountain will be one of the first things to go.

'If you'll excuse me, I've got three hundred weight of spuds to put in'

Society looks on aghast as a nice front lawn is destroyed. 
 Highly successful, the show originally ran between 1975 and 1978, but has rarely been off screen for the last thirty odd years. Never attempting to be hilarious, the show relies on strongly drawn characters and intelligent, witty scripts and has aged remarkably well. The self-sufficiency idea, which was very much in vogue at the time, is still a great sit for the com to work around and the central message is brilliantly summed up by the title of the first episode.

It may be 'nice', but it's a quietly revolutionary philosophy.


  1. The Good Life is a bit like Get Carter - it's great, but there aren't any characters you can identify with. If only Michael Caine had played Tom Good... at least then he would have had three things to be proud of.

    PS. I always fancied Margot, not Fliss Kendall.

  2. With regards to the Young Ones, I was having a similar conversation with a friend a few days ago. I had borrowed a dvd box set of The Young Ones and The Comic Strip. I was very excited about watching these. Sat myself down, and a few hours later had given up on them. What I found most shocking about both of these was how old and dated they both were. In fact in some cases I felt a tad embarrassed watching them.
    The humor seemed so focused on Thatcher, Cruise Missiles and other 80s 6th form common room views that it just does not work nowadays. Have to admit at the time I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen, and my Dad hated it. With the Comic Strip I did still find The Thug and The Bullshitters funny.

  3. My mistake. The Comic Strip episode I found funny was called The Yob. not The Thug. Silly me. Still liked The Bullshitters.