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For the first time in history, we find ourselves subject to a puppet government.


The Goodies
5.14: The Goodies Rule – O.K.?


The one with the giant Dougal. Which, if nothing else, made for possibly the most iconic title sequence clip. The Goodies Rule – O.K.? was the trio’s 1975 Christmas Special (broadcast 21 December) and doesn’t quite muster the same reverence as the more overtly festive – in a panto sense – and definitely more coherent The Goodies and the Beanstalk from the previous year. 

The Goodies Rule – O.K.? is little more than a string of sketches bulked to fifty minutes, loosely offering a plot of the trio becoming hugely popular (via Bloddie’s songs, natch) and sequestered into distracting joe public from the rotten state of the economy. This leads to the election of a “dummy” party (of dummies) in favour of no fun at all (Sir John Peel of the Funky Gibbon Party is also standing).  They promptly pronounce entertainment outlawed as it’s “an offence for anyone to enjoy himself in any way”, enforced by the Mathew Hopkins-esque Mirth Inspectors. Entertainers are forced underground into jokeasies, drinking cold tea; Graybags offers some inimitable impressions of a good few of them. The Goodies overthrow the government, instituting a puppet rulership – the entertainers of old have lost their touch – of actual puppets. Only they turn out to be ruthless despots (cue giant Dougal).

The obvious gag of the literal puppet government yields the biggest laughs here, then; the closest The Goodies Rule – O.K.? comes to actual bite is in the coda where, having overthrown the puppets, a new Goodies-controlled puppet government is installed, a coalition of Thatch, Harold Wilson and Jeremy Thorpe (their strings worked by our trio). This then yields the secret puller of their strings: Jim Franklin (regular show director, also of Ripping Yarns and Not Only… But Also).

As neatly Elite/deep-state conspiratorial as that is – obviously, we don’t have any such thing going on right now, puppets, clones, doubles or otherwise –  the early section also boasts The Goodies as the Tavistock-esque engineers – albeit unintentionally so; they’re simply ripped off – inspirations for The Beatles (The Bootles), The Bachelors (The Confirmed Bachelors) and The Supremes (The Extremes). It’s only with their “supergroup” combo of other musicians’ gimmicks that they attain success in their own right (acccesorising such items as Donny Osmond’s teeth – cue donning of sunglasses – Wombles’ feet, Bay City Roller trousers and Elton’s specs). The subsequent performance of Wild Thing (they occupy every spot in the Top 10) to an audience of screaming police fans attempting to tear their clothes off is very funny. And fair dues to Bloddie, his song The Bounce (for Britain) is quite earwormy in its way (it starts a dance craze). It didn’t make the actual charts, however, ending their stratospheric 1975 rise in popularity that saw not only huge TV ratings but also four Top 40 hits.

The Goodies’ initial success sees – to Tim’s obvious ecstasy – a request to attend the Palace to receive OBEs (torrential rain puts a dampener on things). They’re immediately nationalised, as they’re the only thing in the country making money (the government takes 90 percent of their earnings, the rest goes to tax); as Graybags notes, it’s “our duty to cheer this rotten, miserable country up”. 

Michael Barrat: I’m sorry, what was that, Prime Minister? You want to play the xylophone?

Michael Barrat shows up on Nationwide several times (once interviewing PM Sooty and Home Secretary Sweep). We also see the genuine articles of Patrick Moore, Sue Lawley, Wogan and Tony Blackburn (as usual, sportingly the butt of unpopularity jokes). There’s an extended Max Wall bit. Graybags does impressions of Tommy Cooper, Doddy, Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile. 

Once the puppets are installed, there are Clangers in parliament, and Hector, of House fame launching an aerial assault on our heroes, but the bulk of the puppet antics take place in and around Parnham House in Dorset. Inevitably, the over-sized versions of already creepy ’50s-era puppets are most impactful, be it Pinky and Perky or the collective screams as “Andy Pandy’s coming to play” reveals his true horror. Tim confronts and eats the Cookie Monster (in a skip/bin) and Wombles attack Bloddie (the sunlight lends the scene an eerie Wicker Man ambience). Dougal’s most iconic, but for me, he’s eclipsed by the sinister “Time for bed!” as giant Zebedee bounces around the grounds.

Per Garden (via Andrew Pixley in The Goodies’ Book of Criminal Recordings), Basil Brush was originally offered the role of PM, but his handler responded that the fox did not appear with puppets. The episode couldn’t equal the BBC2 ratings of Season Five from the first half of the year (at 6.1m, it was more than a million less than the lowest-rated episode and almost 6 million less than the highest), but the BBC1 repeat two months later attracted 13m, rather making up for it.

By its sketchier nature, The Goodies Rule – O.K.? is more hit and miss than The Goodies and the Beanstalk. The Robin Hood antics provoke little in the way of laughs and do go on a bit. It’s always appreciated to have the piss taken out of the Royals, but that extended scene is a bit of an, ahem, damp squib. Nevertheless, the fifty minutes are constructed with awareness of a responsibility to stuff in as many gags, songs, cameos and references in as possible (Monty Python’s John and Eric are gumbyish down and outs), and crucially, it saves the best (the puppets) for last.

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