5.13: The End
The Goodies tended to be at their most inventive when they had very little in the way of resources at their disposal. Typically, come the end of a season, bereft of location work, guest stars or expensive props, and so forced to make hay from the central trio (themselves) and office set. Off-the-wall introspection and – curiously – apocalyptic ennui occurred more than once under such circumstances, and possibly the most successful of these, both creatively and in terms of viewing figures, was The End.
Corbet Woodall: And finally, a service announcement. The BBC have announced a cutback of one hundred percent.
The Season 5 finale, The End was one of six chosen for the BBC’s tentative foray into VHS releases of the series (none would follow until Network took up the DVD baton). The “Kids’ show!” jeer of John Cleese (in The Goodies and the Beanstalk) could, at times, feel justified, but the show at its sharpest was every bit as valid as its Oxbridge peers. In The End, like their Wuhan fellow victims – allegedly, but box office is booming! – The Goodies are sealed into their office. Albeit, under concrete and not remotely like a mudflood, where they must wait it out in the vain hope of rescue.
It’s Graeme who instigates their situation, having been paid fifty grand by Harry Highrise –per Andrew Pixley, based on property developer Harry Hyams, whose Centre Point development remained empty for years – to design the new Kew Gardens (with no gardens, or greenery whatsoever). This 350-foot-high block of offices will take the form of a 350-foot-high block of concrete. That there are no doors or windows is, as Graeme observes “The whole point”: “Rent is £4,000 per square foot, and that’s per minute” so no one can afford it. Further “As a matter of fact, there’s no rooms in there either, that’s so the squatters can’t move in”.
Such casual satire is typical of the show, laying in to urbanification, yet without any kind of observable ideal or zeal (renowned twitcher Bill gleefully shoots a cute bird in the episode’s opening moments). There’re subsequent digs at the Queen (now deceased, obviously), Tim’s royalism being one of the show’s favourite roasts. His letter precedes Neil’s to the bank in The Young Ones (the one that begins “Darling fascist bullyboy”) with “Oh Queen”, and most memorably has Graeme misspelling his name while taking dictation. The Queen later pays tribute to “Tim, Bill and the other one”.
Hopes of rescue are hampered by the building of the Brighton-to-Birkenhead freeway (an extenuated process depicted as noughts and crosses by Graeme on a map of England), taking one year, seven months, four days, three hours and five minutes (that’s after six months of Ministry of Works strike); still, it’s much more than two years before they run out of food (let alone air), at which point they consider eating Bill (“No I’m doing the sauce” objects Graeme, regarding who should kill Bill) before opting for the furniture instead (this sequence, inevitably, allows Garden to perform his runaway pet act upon his person, when he secures Tim’s mouse Gilbert and just about refrains from eating him).
By now, the phone is long since dead (“How can we have paid our bills, we’ve been stuck in a concrete block for two years, haven’t we?”) and the BBC has ceased to be (BC). Graeme has attempted to coordinate the trio into a functional societal unit, based on their unique status (ruling class, technical class and the workers – “And the cobblers”) since they have among them representatives of all three basic types.
Tim: But a man isn’t a man unless he exercises his right to fatherhood.
Bill: You can exercise it all you like, but you won’t find much use for it here.
Such political stirrings soon fall apart, however, after Tim bemoans his inability to foster children (“We three are doomed to be bachelors gay” imparts Bill), and Graeme hogs the lavatory for two weeks (“That was a unique experience”).
In the wake of societal and familial collapse, there is only God left to turn to. Graeme becomes a monk (complete with unsuccessful vow of silence) and in a turn of events – since it is by no means isolated in their oeuvre – that helps explain the disinterest in the show’s terrestrial repeat showings over the years, Tim becomes Jewish (having built a synagogue from matchsticks, he asks Graeme “Do you want to buy it?”), and Bill, with the aid of boot polish, becomes a Black Muslin (named Rastus Watermelon). As inadvisable as this avenue of humour is, it does elicit the classic line “Don’t mess with the Muslims, baby”. Next stop, War on Terror.
Graeme: Would you care for a glass of port?
Tim: I certainly would.
Graeme: So would I.
There’s still time for rampant hallucinations before we flash forward seventy years, complete with acute senility (“I used to have a big black woman with a cane handle”), and Bill as youthful as ever (“107 today!”) Until he dies. I’m unclear why Future Tim’s look involves his hair tied in a pate-tail, but Graeme’s Spock ears are spot on. Like Earthanasia, the episode ends with the final demise of the Goodies, although the entry of future versions suggests an existential loop (“I’m a teapot!”) whereby they are destined to a hopeless cycle of unwitting repetition and mortal error. Cheery, eh?
Tim: He’s pissed.
Graeme: Has he?
Also of note: the wall posters of (progressively more whiskery) David Essex and David Cassidy. Garden’s Cleese intonation (“Chop it off!”) and the array of nicknames and insults (“Old Graybags, old fuzzychops”). This reaches its zenith with the “Bulloddy” riff (Bill, of course, looks like Liza Minelli without the beard: “I’ve often wondered why you grew it”).
Graeme: It’s not such a bad old place.
The End received huge BBC2 viewing figures (10.3m) and even bigger BBC1 repeat-run ones (15.2m tuned in on 15.12.75). In many respects, it’s atypical of the show, eschewing prop-based humour for the most part and creating laughs from existential situations. They might not have been able, or wanted, to mine that every week, but it makes for an episode that stands the test of time – if not necessarily in a politically-correct sense – far more resiliently than much of their run.