Saturday, April 18, 2020

"We Have Heard The Chimes At Midnight ..."

It is another melancholy beginning to the latest From The North update Keith Telly Topping is very much afraid, dear blog reader. Because, to quote yer actual Peter Davison in The Five Doctors: 'Great chunks of my past [are] detaching themselves like melting icebergs.' Which is, you know, sad.
After a spectacular start to his TV career in the 1960s, when he played leading roles in two classics by Dostoevsky, the actor David Collings, who has died aged this week seventy nine, became a cult favourite of SF fans with appearances in UFO, three Doctor Who stories and, most notably, as the popular character of Silver in the 1979 supernatural detective series Sapphire & Steel. Although he started out as a stage actor, Collings did not consolidate his reputation there until completing more than a decade of TV appearances, after which he took a string of important roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company. At the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park he was Polonius opposite Damian Lewis's title character in 1994's Hamlet, directed by Tim Pigott-Smith; David had first played a pretentious if benignly-intentioned Polonius for an RSC touring production with Philip Franks in 1987. Collings was a delicately-featured, red-haired actor with sensitive blue eyes who was equally good at playing neurotic and sweet-natured parts. On TV he also had a good line in eminent characters from history: Percy Grainger in Ken Russell's Song Of Summer (1968), Sir Anthony Babington in Elizabeth R (1971), John Ruskin in The Love School (1975), William Wilberforce in The Fight Against Slavery (1975) and William Pitt in Prince Regent (1979).
David Cressy Collings was born in Brighton in 1940 to George Collings, a greengrocer and his wife, Lillian. At Varndean Grammar School David enjoyed acting but had no intention of following the profession and, on leaving, started work as a designer in lettering, inheriting that interest from his father, a keen artist. From 1960 David was happily involved in amateur dramatics for the Withdean Players and the Lewes Little Theatre, but then was recommended by the actor Freda Dowie to director David Scase, who had been appointed to run the Liverpool Rep. After six months on Merseyside, Collings found himself pitched into TV through another unsolicited recommendation, this time from the actor John Slater, who thought he might be suitable casting in a 1964 Play Of The Week presentation of Crime & Punishment. Thus David found himself playing the impoverished Raskolnikov, murderer of an old pawnbroker, in a three-and-a-half hour existential epic alongside Steven Berkoff, Peter Bowles, Julia Foster and Sylvia Coleridge. Five years later he was in another Dostoevsky production, a six-part BBC adaptation of The Possessed, as the charismatic rabble-rouser Pyotr Verkhovensky, alongside Rosalie Crutchley, Joan Hickson and Angela Pleasence. In the same year he was the Clerk in a seven-episode BBC version of Canterbury Tales. Other early TV roles included a memorable episode of Gideon's Way - The Prowler - in which he played an emotionally disturbed man attacking young women. His movie debut came in an uncredited walk-on as one of the King's Messengers in 1966's A Man For All Seasons. David made a rare movie appearance as a lovable Bob Cratchit in the musical Scrooge (1970), with Albert Finney. In the same year as he was captured by aliens and imbued with superhuman powers in a very weird episode of UFO - The Psychobombs. In Doctor Who he was an unrecognisable alien, Vorus, with ideas of blowing-up The Cybermen with a home-made (stock-footage) rocket in 1975's so-bad-it's-brilliant Revenge Of The Cybermen, the robot-phobic Poul in the classic 1977 four-parter The Robots Of Death - which mixed an Agatha Christie-style whodunnit with hardcore SF elements straight out of Isaac Asimov - and, in 1983, the immortal title character in Mawdryn Undead. Mark Gatiss described Collings as 'the greatest Doctor we never had.' David finally got to play his own incarnation of the Time Lord in an audio adventure - Full Fathom Five - for Big Finish (2003), capitalising on his vast experience in radio drama.
Having played Legolas in The Lord Of The Rings on Radio 4 in 1981 and making a guest appearance in the final episode of Blake's 7, Collings joined the RSC for the first time as Newman Noggs in the 1985 revival of David Edgar's Nicholas Nickleby on tour and on Broadway. He also appeared in a star-studded chorus in the Don Taylor television script of Sophocles' Oedipus (1986), with Michael Pennington, Claire Bloom and John Gielgud. He voiced the eponymous lead for the long-running Japanese series Journey To The West, released in English-speaking countries as Monkey. The show was a popular hit and had a cult following, particularly with younger viewers. For the RSC subsequently, between 1996 and 2001, he played Thomas Cranmer in Henry VIII, Baron de Charlus in Tennessee Williams's Camino Real, Count Lerma in Schiller's Don Carlos, Sir Politic Would-Be in Ben Jonson's Volpone, Cardinal Pandulph in King John and Sancho in Lope de Vega's Madness In Valencia. After the millennium, he played a neat double of Sir Henry Green and the Duke of Surrey in Kevin Spacey's Richard II (2005), directed by Trevor Nunn at the Old Vic and graced a startling revival of Middleton and Rowley's Jacobean shocker The Changeling (2006) for Declan Donnellan's Cheek By Jowl company at The Barbican; the cast also included Will Keen, Olivia Williams and a then-unknown Tom Hiddleston. One of his favourite roles was appearing with his son, Samuel, in Toby Frow's 1950s revival of Marlowe's Edward II at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, in 2011; he was old Mortimer and Matrevis while Sam doubled as the king's lover, Piers Gaveston and his poker-wielding murderer, Lightborn. His CV also included guest-starring in Z-Cars, Holby City, Knock On Any DoorThe Professionals, Danger Man, By The Sword Divided, Mystery & Imagination, The Troubleshooters, Love Hurts, Them & UsThe Regiment, The All Electric Music Arcade, The White Rabbit, Fame Is The Spur, The Strange ReportTake Three Girls, Breakaway, The Shadow Of The Tower, Special Branch, Sinister Street, Point Counter Point, Front Page StoryThis Man Craig and Fall Of Eagles among many others. He was also noted for his children's television appearances including the role of Julian Oakapple in Midnight Is A Place. In 1989, he played the villainous Charn in Through The Dragon's Eye and had a recurring role as the headmaster in Steven Moffat's TV breakthrough, Press Gang. He was terrifying as the titular Lord Dark in Dark Shadows (part of the BBC's Look & Read strand). He also had roles in most of the major drama anthologies of the 1960s - Armchair Theatre and Play Of The Week on ITV and The Wednesday Play, Out Of The UnknownTheatre 625, Omnibus, Play For Today and Thirty Minute Theatre for the BBC. David was married firstly to Deirdre Bromfield, whom he met at the Lewes Little Theatre, in 1962 (they divorced in 1975) and subsequently to the actor Karen Archer in 1983, from whom he was separated, although they reportedly remained close friends. He is survived by Karen, by their children, Samuel and Eliza, his daughter, Kate, from his first marriage and his sister, Nola. He was predeceased by Deirdre and two of their children, Matthew and Bethian. And, if you want to read a far better written obituary of David, check out Toby Hadoke's outstanding and touching piece for the Herald.
According to Wikipedia another of this blogger's favourite TV actors, James Garbutt has also recently died aged ninety four. Born in 1925, in Houghton-le-Spring, James worked as an art teacher at schools in and around Newcastle and was a key member of The People's Theatre in Heaton, during the 1950s and 1960s where his contemporaries included Alan Browning and John Woodvine. He made his TV debut in Sid Chaplin and Alan Plater's acclaimed 1969 Wednesday Play, Close The Coalhouse Door, an affectionate history of the mining industry in the North East told through family drama, comedy sketches and songs. His subsequent credits included: The Troubleshooters, The Borderers, Z-Cars, The Onedin Line, Warship, Doctor Who (in the 1975 serial Genesis Of The Daleks), Bill Brand, Juliet Bravo, One By One, All Creatures Great & Small, Soldier, Soldier (in the episode Band Of Gold which launched Robson Green and Jerome Flynn's brief-but-spectacular pop career), Boon, Between The Lines, Casualty, The Witch's Daughter, Woodstock, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, Centre PlayThe Stars Look Down Can We Get On Now, Please?, Play For Today, Floodtide, Rockcliffe's Babies, Gems, The ManageressSpender, The House Of Eliott, Coronation Street, Badger and The Franchise Affair. He appeared in several movies including 1979's The Thirty Nine Steps (alongside David Collings), Superman (1980) and High Heels & Low Lifes (2001). He is probably best known as the proudly defiant socialist coal miner turned capitalist shop-keeper Bill Seaton in the first three series of When The Boat Comes In (1976 to 1977).
Another veteran actor and From The North favourite, Brian Dennehy has died aged eighty one. 'It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father, Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not Covid-related,' his daughter Elizabeth tweeted. 'Larger than life, generous to a fault, a proud and devoted father and grandfather, he will be missed by his wife Jennifer, family and many friends.' Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1938, Brian entered Columbia University in New York on a football scholarship before enlisting in the Marine Corps from 1958 to 1963, including a brief stint on Okinawa. Dennehy was known on the big-screen for roles in films such as Cocoon, Presumed Innocent, Tommy Boy, Romeo + Juliet and Gorky Park. His breakthrough role was opposite Sylvester Stallone in First Blood. He was also a celebrated stage presence, winning two TONY awards for Death Of A Salesman in 1999 and Long Day's Journey Into Night in 2003. Dennehy also won a Golden Globe for the TV mini-series adaptation of Death Of A Salesman. He was long associated with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago for his many performances in adapted works of Eugene O'Neill. His last appearance on stage was in 2016's White Rabbit Red Rabbit. 'Theatre is something that I've always enjoyed and that I care about,' Dennehy said in 2016. 'But as you get older, it is harder and harder to do, but it's always worthwhile.' He also amassed six EMMY nominations throughout his career, most recently in 2005 for sexual abuse drama Our Fathers. He featured in episodes of The West Wing (albeit, sadly, not a very good one), Thirty Rock, The Good Wife, Miami Vice, Kojak, Serpico, M*A*S*H, Dallas and Hunter. He starred in the popular crime drama Jack Reed TV movies and also appeared as a recurring character in the NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me! Most recently he was in the NBC series The Blacklist and he will be seen posthumously on the big-screen in Son Of The South.
     'I don't look like an actor, I don't sound like an actor, I'm just another person,' Dennehy said in 2018. 'Which really is the whole point of acting, is trying to be just another person.' Built like a truck but with the capacity to be as gentle as a pussycat, Brian Dennehy was smarter than the average bear-like character actor. The six feet three inch performer made his screen breakthrough as an adversarial small-town sheriff in First Blood (1982), the thoughtful opening instalment in what would become the Rambo series. It was the first in his hat-trick of hits from that decade: he also starred as one of a group of aliens who have a rejuvenating effect on an elderly community in Cocoon (1985) and played a grizzled but amiable cop in F/X (1986), a highly enjoyable thriller set in the special effects industry; it was popular enough to spawn a 1991 sequel - F/X2: The Deadly Art Of Illusion - reuniting Brian with co-star Bryan Brown. Unusually for a character actor, Brian had a handful of movie leads, including The Belly Of An Architect (1987), a rare foray into arthouse cinema. Dennehy's range, from cowering vulnerability to a righteous fury, was given full rein in Peter Greenaway's otherwise austere tale of an esteemed architect dying of stomach cancer; the critic Janet Maslin called it 'one of the best things' the actor had done. He also gave a complex and probing performance as the serial killer John Wayne Gacy in the TV mini-series To Catch A Killer (1992). 'I've had a hell of a ride,' Dennehy also said in 2018. 'I have a nice house. I haven't got a palace, a mansion, but a pretty nice, comfortable home. I've raised a bunch of kids and sent them all to school and they're all doing well. All the people that are close to me are reasonably healthy and happy. Listen, that's as much as anybody can hope for in life.' He is survived by his wife, the costume designer Jennifer Arnott, whom he married in 1988 and by their children, Cormac and Sarah, as well as by three daughters, Elizabeth, Kathleen and Deirdre, from his first marriage to Judith Scheff, which ended in divorce in 1974.
Norman Hunter, who died this week aged seventy six, was labelled indelibly by Leeds United fans during the 1972 FA Cup final victory over Arsenal. The slogan on the banner - Norman Bites Yer Legs - became synonymous with one of the toughest, most uncompromising defenders of the post-war era. But, this actually did a disservice to an outstanding footballer who was known for his steel, but who could also produce silk. Gateshead-born Hunter moved to Elland Road when he was fifteen, forsaking a career as an electrical fitter. He made his first team debut as an eighteen year old in 1962, establishing a formidable central defensive partnership with Jackie Charlton and going on to play seven hundred and twenty six games in all competitions in fifteen years at the club. Only three men played more matches for Leeds - Charlton, Billy Bremner and Paul Reaney.
Hunter was a key component of Don Revie's talented but little-loved side which won the First Division title in 1968-69 and again in 1973-74, the FA Cup in 1972, the League Cup in 1968 and the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971. It was at Elland Road where Hunter wrote his name into legend, a man who epitomised the style and philosophy of Revie's team that won many plaudits and - sometimes grudging - respect within the game but also attracted fierce criticism for their ruthless, win-at-all-costs approach. Nothing, however, should detract from the stature of a man who was so highly regarded and respected by his peers that he was named the first winner of the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award in 1974. Off the field, Hunter was a warm and friendly personality. He was hugely popular with all he met, enjoying a long career as an astute analyst and summariser of Leeds games for BBC local radio. He was also part of a group of hard men who populated the game in the 1960s and 70s, along with the likes of Liverpool's Tommy Smith and Chelsea captain Ron 'Chopper' Harris. When he sustained an injury at Leeds, Revie's veteran right-hand man Les Cocker was allegedly informed 'Hunter has broken a leg.' The coach is claimed to have replied: 'Whose is it?' The Norman Bites Yer Legs tag stuck after Brian Clough, later to manage Hunter for an ill-fated forty four days at Leeds, referenced it in his 1972 FA Cup final analysis. Norman himself, with his noted dry humour, called his own 2004 autobiography Biting Talk.
Hunter was as tough as nails and one of the most enduring images is his full-on fist fight with Derby County's Francis Lee (an England team-mate) that saw both men sent off at the Baseball Ground in November 1975. The result of the fight, if anyone is interested, was celebrated in a memorable chant heard across the country 'Norman Hunter chinned Francis Lee!' (somewhat ruder variants also existed). But he was also a defender of the highest calibre and was perfectly at home in the top flight, as well as the more nuanced surroundings of Europe. Revie's Leeds should have actually won far more trophies than they did but were dogged by misfortune. And, losing to Sunderland, obviously. One such occasion saw Hunter sent off when his frustration boiled over in the closing seconds of the defeat by AC Milan in the 1973 Cup Winners' Cup final and he decked Gianni Rivera with a vicious right-hook. It came after a series of highly questionable decisions by the Greek referee Christos Michas and fans inside the stadium in Thessaloniki threw missiles during Milan's lap of honour in protest. Michas was subsequently banned for life. Leeds felt similarly aggrieved when they lost to Bayern Munich in the European Cup final in Paris two years later, most notably when Peter Lorimer's volley was ruled out for a dubious offside call with the score still nil-nil.
Hunter was the permanent understudy to England's World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore, limiting his career to a mere twenty eight caps when so many more would have been collected in the modern era. But Moore was immovable in the early years and squad rotation was seldom considered. Hunter made his England debut in a win in Spain in December 1965, yet while he was a trusted member of Sir Alf Ramsey's 1966 World Cup squad, he did not play a game. Only the eleven who played in the win over West Germany in the final at Wembley received a medal, although Hunter finally got one after a successful campaign to have them awarded for all members of England's triumphant squad at a Downing Street ceremony in 2009. Hunter was also in England's squad when they defended their crown in Mexico four years later, making a solitary appearance as an eighty first-minute substitute for Martin Peters against West Germany. Sadly for Hunter, his England career is best remembered for an uncharacteristic mistake which led to their failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup in Germany and Ramsey's subsequent sacking. Hunter had been picked ahead of Moore, whose form had been indifferent and who had also made an error leading to a goal in England's two-nil defeat in Poland. In the return game at Wembley, England needed to win but were being thwarted by Poland's eccentric but brilliant goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski. In the second half, Hunter missed the sort of routine tackle on the half-way line that he had completed thousands of times, allowing Grzegorz Lato to run clear and set up Jan Domarski for the goal that, ultimately, stopped England from qualifying. There is an infamous image of the inconsolable Hunter trudging from the Wembley turf.
    A small piece of social history: On that same day - 17 October 1973 - in response to the escalating Yom Kippur war, OPEC, the Arab oil producing countries, summarily cut production and quadrupled the world price of oil. This, effectively, ended the relative affluence upon which, as Ian MacDonald would subsequently write in Revolution in the Head, 'the preceding ten years of happy-go-lucky excess in the West had chiefly depended.' It's a less sentimental suggestion for 'the day the Sixties (conceptually) ended' than some symbolic musical event perhaps, but, it's probably a much more realistic one. The resulting financial crisis in Europe sent inflation spiralling and led to all sorts of ramifications in unexpected places - not least, the virtual destruction of the British film industry for the next decade and a vinyl shortage which meant the record industry almost went the same way. It was the chilling moment where the Swingin' Sixties turned, overnight, into the 'Sober-and-Soon-to-be-Unemployed Seventies.' That this occurred on the same day England's football team failed to reach the final stages of a tournament they had won eight years previously may seem insignificant to some. But, just as that famous 'some people are on the pitch...' victory in 1966 appeared to encapsulate the spirit of an era - when England (and, specifically, London) was, quite literally, on top of the world - so the gloom that settled over the country during the winter of 1973-74, with its three-day weeks, powercuts, 'Cod War' with Iceland and general austerity amidst national strife and whispers of a right-wing military coup in the offing, was inextricably tied to the failing fortunes of Sir Alf Ramsey’s ageing side. And there are many that will still tell you it was all Norman Hunter's fault for missing that bloody tackle.
Hunter's final England appearance came, fittingly, in his mentor Don Revie's first game as England manager, a three-nil win over Czechoslovakia in October 1974. Hunter left his beloved Leeds for Bristol City in a forty thousand quid deal in October 1976, playing more than one hundred games for The Robins in three years before a brief stint at Barnsley. Hunter succeeded his former Leeds team-mate Allan Clarke as Barnsley manager in October 1980 and guided them out of the former Third Division in the 1980-81 season, staying at Oakwell until February 1984. He also had a spell in charge of Rotherham United and in more recent years contributed his expertise on radio, as well as a successful after-dinner speaker. Hunter's enduring footballing image may be as the archetypal hard man but those who saw his career in the wider context will attest that he was an outstanding player, one of the finest ball-playing defenders of his generation and a man who deservedly attained legendary status for his magnificent career at Leeds. In 1968 Hunter married Susan Harper and the couple had two children, Michael and Claire who survived him.
It was Peter Bonetti's sad misfortune that, despite his outstanding goalkeeping agility - his nickname 'The Cat' was well deserved - and despite the many matches he played (more than seven hundred for Chelsea), he is remembered above all for one disastrous day in Mexico in 1970. A match in which Bonetti, who has died aged seventy eight, should not even have been playing. It was the quarter-final of the World Cup against West Germany, whom England had beaten four years earlier in the final. The first-choice England goalkeeper was, of course, Gordon Banks but on the morning of the match in Léon, scheduled absurdly for the intense heat of noon so it could be shown during TV prime time in Europe and at a breathless altitude, Banks was to be seen outside the England team hotel, pale-faced and being supported by the anxious England doctor, Neil Phillips. He was suffering from a nasty case of food poisoning. So it was that Bonetti played instead of Banks, though hardly in the ideal condition to do so, as he had not had a competitive game since the FA Cup Final seven weeks earlier. Nevertheless, he made several fine saves during the first hour. When England squandered a two-nil lead to lose, however, Bonetti was largely made the villain of the piece. He was undoubtedly at fault for the first German goal, when he allowed Franz Beckenbauer's low shot to squirm under his body and into the net. The equaliser, however, scored by Uwe Seeler, was a complete fluke. When Karl-Heinz Schnellinger lobbed the ball into the English goalmouth, Bonetti, off his line, was arguably out of position, but Seeler knew little about the back header with which he scored. As for the third and decisive German goal, it had as much to do with the defenders' weariness as with Bonetti's positioning. Terry Cooper, the England left-back, was too tired to prevent West Germany's substitute, Jürgen Grabowski, from crossing. Bonetti did not get to the high ball, Hannes Löhr headed it back and Gerd Müller volleyed home from close range. It would prove to be Bonetti's seventh and last game for England. But his international record, until then, had been excellent. The first match came in July 1966, a two-nil victory against Denmark in Copenhagen and before the Léon match he had conceded only one goal in his previous six.
Standing five feet ten inches tall and weighing eleven stone, he was something of a contrast with the giant goalkeepers to whom we have become accustomed over the last two decades, but Peter was brave and spectacular and, pre-Léon, had shown no signs of nervousness. He had also been a member of the victorious 1966 England World Cup squad, although Banks had played all the matches in that tournament. Born in Putney to Swiss parents, Bonetti moved with his family, as a child, to the Sussex coast, where his parents opened a cafe in Worthing. His talents as a goalkeeper were soon apparent in local schoolboy football and he was enlisted by Reading for its youth teams. Then, after his mother had written to Chelsea asking them to give her son a trial, he was signed at Stamford Bridge. In the 1960-61 season, at the age of nineteen, he became the first-team goalkeeper. Chelsea were relegated to the Second Division but, under the managership of Tommy Docherty, they bounced back in their first season. Initially, the young Chelsea team flourished under Docherty and in 1965 Bonetti played a significant part in helping them win the League Cup final, then a two-legged affair, against Leicester City. That achievement was outshone when his inspired goalkeeping enabled Chelsea, after a replay in the final against Leeds in 1970, at last to gain the FA Cup which had eluded them since their foundation in 1905. Bonetti was just as good when, in Athens a year later, Chelsea beat the formidable Real Madrid to take the European Cup Winners' Cup. His last game in goal for Chelsea was against Arsenal in May 1979 - his seven hundred and twenty ninth for the club, during which he had kept clean sheets in two hundred matches, conceding one goal or fewer in more than two-thirds of his appearances. In 1975 he briefly left Chelsea on a free transfer for a spell in the US with the St Louis Stars, but returned the following year. He played five games for Dundee United in 1979, and on retirement he lived on the Isle of Mull, where he worked as a postman. He then became a goalkeeping coach with Chelsea, Newcastle United, Fulham, Manchester City and the England team, and in 1986, at the age of forty five, appeared for non-league Woking as they beat Weymouth one-nil in the FA Cup. Latterly he worked on match days at Chelsea in the hospitality section. With his second wife, Kay whom he married in 1992, he had a son, Scott and he had four children - Suzanne, Kim, Nicholas and Lisa - from his first marriage, to Frances Jennings, which ended in divorce.
After all that death and depression, dear blog reader, this blogger rather fancies something nice to eat. One wonders if this lady does takeaways, for instance.
On Thursday of this week, this blogger knocked off from work at 6.30pm and at 6.30pm and about three seconds he rang up the local takeaway for a nice, fattening king prawn and beef curry with boiled rice. Which was subsequently delivered to the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House inside twenty minutes and scoffed almost immediately it came out of the tin-foil carton. Seriously, this one hardly touched the sides of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's stomach on the way down, this blogger was so utterly Hank Marvin at the time. Note to self for future reference; never try to get through the day on a bag of crisps, a bottle of pop and one (one!) Rich Tea biscuit. On a scale of one-to-ten in terms of how much this blogger deserved this, with one being 'I sort of quite deserve this but I could live without it' and ten being 'I REALLY, REALLY deserve this', well ... you do the maths.
So, another week of lockdown at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House is over and this blogger currently has the novelty of two - yes two - days off in a row. First time that's happened in three weeks. This blogger must say, he is still rather enjoying working from home - the novelty hasn't quite worn off yet. The commute, in particular, is jolly impressive. But, there is one thing that this blogger misses about the office and that's when one has come off the phone from a particularly challenging or lengthy or sometimes, not even an awkward call but rather a touching or strange one, is it can be quite pleasant to turn to a nearby colleague and say 'you will not believe the call I've just had!' You can't do it when you're on yer Jack Jones, dear blog reader. Well, you possibly can, but you get locked up for talking to yourself. Hang on. I am currently locked up ... and I am talking to myself. See. Told you.
One of the most singularly melancholy aspects of wandering around a virtually deserted Newcastle city centre - as this blogger did when getting in the weekly shopping this very morning - was seeing all of those businesses that this blogger knows so well (many of them old, established firms going back decades) all completely shuttered-up. Pubs, restaurants, stores ... And this blogger couldn't help but wonder just how many of them will be reopening when all of this horrid virus malarkey is over. Because, this blogger is fairly certain that some of them won't be. Mind you, walking down Northumberland Street Keith Telly Topping noticed that signs saying 'We Are Closed' in McDonald's window were accompanied by all of the lights in the gaff being on. So, when all this is over, don't be at all surprised if the price of a Big Mac goes up by twenty pee. Cos, someone's going to have to pay for leaving the lights on.
Watching one of this week's official government Coronavirus briefing - this one led by the legend that never will be Alok Sharma - caused this blogger to reflect upon something. Listen, dear blog reader, this blogger is sure that yer man Alok is a really nice chap who is kind to his mother and all that but, every time this blogger sees him, he can't help but be reminded of Mad Frankie Boyle's description of Nick Griffin on an episode of Mock The Week: 'He looks like a shaved owl who's been fast-tracked for a management position at Greggs.'
And finally, dear blog reader, many, many (many) years ago, before most of you were born, this blogger will wager (we're talking about the 1970s, here), this blogger's beloved England cricket team spent an entire winter Down Under (when women glow and men chunder, they reckon) getting their bums thrashed and their knackers bruised by a Sheila called Lilian Thomson. Or something. It was right chastening stuff (particularly for poor Bumble Lloyd's googlies).
Nevertheless, this blogger still used to watch the Australian Broadcasting Company's nightly highlights programmes on BBC2 - introduced by Richie Benaud - which had been satellited over to the UK just to see if it was all as wretchedly horrible as the early morning radio commentaries made it sound (it was ... and then some). That said, this blogger became utterly obsessed with the theme tune from the highlights programme. It was a highly whistle-able jaunty little flute-and-synthesizer-dominated number - the Aussie equivalent of the BBC's use of Booker T's 'Soul Limbo' - and, this blogger presumed, it was some obscure instrumental either from an Aussie movie nobody had heard of or that it had been knocked up in a basement studio in Sydney by the Antipodean equivalent of a member of the BBC Radiophonics Workshop. This blogger doubted that he would ever hear it again but that tune haunted the edges of his memory for years and Keith Telly Topping tried everything he could think of to discover what the Hell it was and if it was commercially available. He wrote to the BBC. They couldn't help. He wrote - airmail - to ABC in Australia. Never even got the courtesy of a reply. He asked his cousins in Brisbane if they could find out. Nothing. It was a mystery this blogger thought would ne'er be solved. Cut forward now many, many (many) years to around 1995(ish) and this blogger was siting watching Midnight Cowboy late one night on TV (a film, let it be noted, he must have seen half-a-dozen times, at least, over the years) and blow me cornet stiff but, there it was - accompanying the Florida dream sequence of Ratso Rizzo and Joe Buck running on the beach. The end credits told this blogger the tune was called - not unreasonably - 'Florida Fantasy'. And that, far from being obscure or unheard of, it was an instrumental on one of the biggest selling movie soundtracks of the decade, had been written by one of this blogger's heroes - the legend that was John Barry - and had won a bloody Grammy! The point of all this, dear blog reader, is that sometimes, the really fun part of any search for knowledge isn't the discovery, it's the search itself.
So, here endeth yet another From The North bloggerisation update from the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Where life, just for the moment, has taken on an aura of rampant surrealism unmatched by anything in this blogger's experience. Except, possibly, that time this blogger - with a case of bronchitis that was threatening to turn into consumption - spent a day overdosed on Benylin watching Performance, Blow Up and Scream & Scream Again back-to-back. That was a bloody odd day. I must try to repeat it at some stage.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Tim Brooke-Taylor Obituary

The comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor - a huge favourite of all of us here at From The North - has died at the age of seventy nine from complications related to the coronavirus, his agent has confirmed. The entertainer, best known as one-third of the popular comedy The Goodies (1970 to 1982) and as a regular on the BBC radio's panel show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue (which began in 1972), died on Sunday. Fellow Goodie Graeme Garden said that he was 'terribly saddened by the loss of a dear colleague and close friend of over fifty years. [Tim] was a funny, sociable, generous man who was a delight to work with. Audiences found him not only hilarious but also adorable. His loss at this dreadful time is particularly hard to bear and my thoughts are with Christine, Ben, Edward and their families,' Garden added. Their colleague, Bill Oddie, remembered Tim as 'a true visual comic and a great friend. Fifty years and he only got cross with me once. Well, maybe twice. No, quite a lot actually! No one could wear silly costumes or do dangerous stunts like Tim. I know it hurt cos he used to cry a lot.' Stephen Fry described Tim as 'a hero for as long as I can remember,' continuing that Tim was 'gentle, kind, funny, wise, warm, but piercingly witty when he chose to be.'
Tim's career spanned more than six decades and his comic roots lay in The Cambridge Footlights, which he joined in 1960. Membership of Footlights first brought him into contact with Garden and Oddie as well as future Monty Python's Flying Circus members John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle. One of Tim's biggest contributions to British comedy was co-writing and performing in the famous Four Yorkshiremen sketch with Chapman, Cleese and Marty Feldman, originally for the ITV comedy series At Last The 1948 Show! The sketch later became a popular fixture of the Monty Python team's live shows. But it was as one of The Goodies that Tim found international fame, becoming a household name in Britain, Australia and New Zealand with the show attracting millions of viewers in its heyday. A recent release of the complete Goodies BBC collection reveals the series could often be patchy and that many episodes have not aged particularly well. But, to an eight-nine-ten-eleven year old in the mid-1970s, it was, trust this blogger, the funniest thing on TV. By miles. As part of The Goodies, Tim even enjoyed an unlikely pop career. At a time when novelty comedy songs regularly made the UK charts, the trio achieved five top forty hits in 1975 at the height of their popularity on TV, the biggest of them, 'The Funky Gibbon'. These mostly weren't very good - especially 'The Funky Gibbon'! - although, even then this blogger will admit he does have something of a soft spot for their cover version of 'Wild Thing'!
Timothy Julian Brooke-Taylor was born in Buxton, Derbyshire, the grandson of Francis Pawson, a parson who played centre-forward for Cambridge University and England in the 1880s, helping to explain, perhaps, Tim's lifelong support for Derby County. Tim's mother was an international lacrosse player and his fifty-nine year old father was a solicitor and local coroner, who had been wounded in the World War I and was serving in the Home Guard when Tim, his third child, was born. 'I was a mistake, as far as I can gather,' Brooke-Taylor later recalled. His father died when he was thirteen and his mother got a job as a school matron. A somewhat mischievous child, Tim had - he later claimed with some pride - been expelled from primary school at the age of five. He then went to Thorn Leigh Pre-Preparatory School, Holm Leigh Preparatory School (where he won awards for his prowess as a spin-bowler in the cricket team) and Winchester College which he left with seven O-levels and two A-levels in English and History. After teaching for a year at a prep school in Hemel Hempstead and a term back at Holm Leigh as a master, he studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge. There, he read Economics and Politics - and, subsequently, Law - and mixed with other budding comedians, including Cleese, Chapman and Jonathan Lynn in The Footlights Club (of which Tim became President in 1963). That year, in the aftermath of previous ground-breaking Cambridge reviews, like Share My Lettuce (1957) and Beyond The Fringe (1961), the Footlights sent out another show that was to have a profound effect on the future of comedy, Humphrey Barcley's Cambridge Circus (initially A Clump Of Plinths). Whilst this wasn't as innovative as its immediate predecessors (though it did enjoy a successful Edinburgh residency, a West End run and, later, a world tour), rather it was the cast who were to achieve lasting greatness. These included Lynn, David Hatch, later to become head of BBC Radio comedy and Jo Kendall, along with two sets of writing partners, Cleese and Chapman and Tim and Bill Oddie. Halfway through the world tour, Chapman was forced to leave the cast to return to England for his doctorate exams and was replaced by another medical student, Graeme Garden.
With the success of Cambridge Circus, BBC producer Trevor Nunn commissioned some of the team to record a radio series, I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again (1964 to 1973). It was also, of course, the gestation, not only for the most influential comedy series of all time, Monty Python's Flying Circus, but also for one of the great cults of the 1970s, The Goodies.
In the mid-1960s, Brooke-Taylor performed in On the Braden Beat with Bernard Braden, taking over a slot recently vacated by Peter Cook. Tim played a reactionary city gent who believed he was the soul of tolerance despite frequent displays of right-wing bigotry. By 1967, Tim had teamed with Eric Idle as a writer on The Frost Report and Oddie and Garden were writing sitcoms for Humphrey Barley at LWT when Brooke-Taylor with John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman created At Last, The 1948 Show! for Rediffusion, produced by David Frost. As a building block in the comedy of both Monty Python and The Goodies, At Last! was vital. The series, perfected the manic exploitation of unrelated sketches, which became Monty Python Flying Circus's trademark (some sketches - most notably, The Four Yorkshiremen - subsequently became so famous via Python remakes that many younger fans do not recognise their true origin). It also allowed Brooke-Taylor (who co-produced the series) room to experiment with slapstick, something that was to become one of The Goodies' most celebrated aspects. At Last!, for example, included the memorable sketch in which Tim plays a man visiting a psychiatrist (Cleese) because he thinks he's a rabbit! One episode featured Bill Oddie as a hospital patient, visited by a robotic, cliché-spouting Brooke-Taylor. Tim followed this by spending 1968 as Marty Feldman's straight-man in the BBC series, Marty along with John Junkin and Roland MacLeod. Brooke-Taylor had already been involved (in 1967) as a writer on Twice A Fortnight, a late Saturday night BBC sketch-based variety show featuring Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Oddie, Garden, Dilys Watling and Jonathan Lynn. The following year saw a short lived BBC2 production called Broaden Your Mind - a star vehicle for Garden and Brooke-Taylor which also featured Oddie as an occasional writer/performer.
During this period Brooke-Taylor appeared in the short film One Man Band directed by and starring Orson Welles. Brooke-Taylor recalled: 'Graeme Garden and I made two series of a sketch show called Broaden Your Mind in 1968 and 1969. We were watching the first programme of the second series in Graeme's flat. As it ended the phone rang. He answered it, said a few words, put the phone down and said: "That was Orson Welles." I remember saying "What a coincidence, I was expecting a call from The Pope." It was Orson. He'd seen some of the first series and got our phone numbers. We [met] him the next day and agreed to write and shoot some stuff with him.' The bulk of filming was completed in 1969, although assorted linking narrations and inserts were filmed by Welles in 1971. After Welles' death in 1985, all of his unfinished films were bequeathed to his long-term companion Oja Kodar and she, in turn, donated many of them to the Munich Film Museum for preservation and restoration. In 1999 the Museum edited together the complete footage of One Man Band into a twenty nine-minute cut, which has subsequently been screened at festivals. The full restored footage has never been released on DVD, although an unrestored print was used in Vassili Slovic's acclaimed 1995 documentary Orson Welles: The One Man Band.
As a result of collaborating with Welles on the uncompleted project, Tim worked with the celebrated auteur again on Nicolas Gessner and Luciano Lucignani's 12+1 (also known as The Thirteen Chairs). Brooke-Taylor remembered: 'I went to film in Cinecitta and was in the producer's office. Ed Pope was on the phone trying to persuade Orson to do the film. He was running through a list of the cast, big names but Orson was not liking them. Eventually Pope got to my name. Pope had no clue who I was and asked where I might be. I nervously put my hand up and was given the phone with the whisper "Get [Welles] to do it." A limo was ordered for me to meet Orson in a café in the Via Veneto. Orson's first words were 'This is a load of crap.' He was right but I kept pointing out the good bits as I desperately wanted him to do it. We agreed to completely re-write his scenes. He originally was going to be a magician, but we re-wrote the scene with him as a ham actor doing Doctor Jekyll & Mister Hyde. We shot most of it in a cinema in Rome and some in The Players' Theatre in London. There were evening shoots in Rome. Orson would occasionally get annoyed with the director and ask me to take over. He'd usually had a drink or two and I found myself shouting "Get over there you big fat pouf." He'd stop, glare and then smile and return to doing what I'd asked. He knew he and I were on the same side. It's not a great film, but I thought he was terrific to work with. When I got back to London we still had some filming to [do] on his TV project. When I disagreed over something he said "Just because you've been in a B-movie doesn't mean you know everything now." He grinned and said "Sorry, I meant an A-movie" remembering he was in it as well. I didn't see him again after that. But I always had the best memories of working with a truly great man.' The Thirteen Chairs is also notorious for being Sharon Tate's final film before her shocking murder in August 1969.
Michael Mills and Barry Took, who brought Monty Python's Flying Circus to the BBC, were also responsible for the decision to give Brooke-Taylor, Garden and Oddie their own BBC2 series in 1970. Initially, to be known as Super-Chaps Three, then Narrow Your Mind, The Goodies' ludicrously addictive premise had Tim, Graeme and Bill playing, in effect, exaggerated versions of themselves. Many episodes were written in the same kind of stream-of-consciousness manner of Python, although, with Garden and Oddie's grounding in sitcom writing on Doctor In The House, the plot element was retained and therefore most episodes would feature a storyline of sorts. The characters were: Brooke-Taylor, the patriotic, arrogant and cowardly 'Tim', Garden, the epitome of the over-the-top SF Loony Scientist 'Graeme' and Oddie, the scruffy, cynical, violent 'Bill' who, despite his manic oubursts would often be the one to inject a note of horrid sanity into the proceedings. Although many of the aesthetic elements which became well remembered did not arrive in the series until later in the decade (Oddie was not bearded in the first series, Tim had yet to acquire his union-jack waistcoat and Graeme his large-framed spectacles, for example), their first pad (there would be two later versions) was firmly rooted in the 1970s. Especially Graeme's computer and Bill's Chairman Mao poster, which remained, along with Tim's throne and portrait of the Queen, unchanged throughout the decade.
'Television loves a formula' the critic Roger Wilmut in the book From Fringe To Flying Circus (Queen Anne, 1985). 'Any idea which produces good rating is certain to promote a flock of imitators, all conceived within a tight predictable format, which can easily be written, directed and acted by a team of experienced hacks who appear to be working in their sleep. In 1970 the current formula was 'caper'-type crime series, with teams of criminals or semi-official law enforcers, lots of action and little plot. It was partly to send up this idea that Garden, Brooke-Taylor and Oddie created the formula for their own series - except that, wisely, the formula was kept as unspecific as possible.'
Radio Times announced before the first episode that 'The Goodies - as opposed to The Baddies - are a firm of three who lay themselves open to some very strange commissions.' Tim, Bill and Graeme (as they proudly declared in their theme song) would do 'anything, anyplace, anytime (hai-hai-hai!)' In their first adventure, the trio were hired by the Royal Family, via their representative (George Baker) to protect the crown jewels. Needless to say, they failed miserably, though the palace were impressed by the fact that they had 'done their best.' This began a fascination with ridiculing royalty which was to last for most of the trio's career. There were some great visual gags in the episode, though the most important scene was the opening as the trio established themselves to the audience arriving at their new office and setting themselves up in business.
Tim: 'We are The Goodies'
Graeme/Bill: 'We know that!'
Tim: 'And we are, err, going to do 'good' to people.'
Bill: 'How wet!'
Certain elements became rapidly familiar; ridiculously speeded-up action sequences, with slapstick violence and Garden's brilliant talent for mimicry. Oddie's musical ability (previously a key element on I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again), with the help of musical arrangers Michael Gibbs (and later Dave McRae) became vital to The Goodies sense of focus with chase sequences often accompanied by Oddie's songs such as 'Come Back' or 'Dumb Animals'. One plot device regularly used in the first series had Bill achieving 'total awareness' with the use of 'mind-expanding lemon sherbet'! The team parodied ITV adverts (Tim's frequent appearances as the bratty, incomptent Baked Beans kid) while the first series closer, Pirate Radio Goodies, was a wonderfully surreal tale of the the trio's attempts to start a station whilst possessing only one record ('A Walk In The Black Forest'). Later Graeme 'flips' and becomes an eye-rolling Nazi, almost drowning as he goes down with his sinking ship.
 Tim: 'Leave him Bill, that's not our friend out there... He would've wanted it this way.'
 Bill: 'No he bloody wouldn't!'
Interestingly that episode was one of the few in the series to have been written by all three. Brooke-Taylor was closely involved with the setting up of the series and the characterisation of the trio but he was often unable to be involved in the actual writing of episodes because of his other work (chiefly in radio comedy). Some episodes carry the credit 'written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie (with Tim Brooke-Taylor's biro).' Brooke-Taylor described the writing process thus: 'Bill and Graeme tend to write very fast... also, they tend to divide the show up into two halves and write half each.'
The second series, in 1971, featured the boys tracking the Loch Ness Monster, cleaning up Britain's environment, tackling women's lib, saving the nation's art treasures, bouncing around the world for charity, meeting 'The Baddies' - evil android replicas of themselves - and, most famously, battling Twinkle, a giant kitten, who destroyed London in a brilliant send-up of King Kong. The episodes featured guest appearances by the likes of Stanley Baxter, Bernard Bresslaw, Roy Kinnear, June Whitfield, Patrick Troughton and Michael Aspel (whose contribution ended when the kitten stood on him). Kitten Kong, in fact, was so successful that the episode was re-filmed, with additional pussy material a few months later as Britain's entry to the Montreaux Light Entertainment festival where it won The Silver Rose. Tim can be seen in the first episode of the following series - The New Office - painting the trophy gold!
Wilmut states that: 'Much of the credit of the effectiveness of Kitten Kong and other Goodies film sequences must go to Jim Franklin, who directed the filming for the first two series; thereafter he also did the studio direction, taking over from Producer John Howard Davies. With his previous experience as a comedy film editor, he was the ideal choice.' Although there was no new Goodies series in 1972, the team were still active, appearing in a regular series of sketches on the Sunday evening variety show Englebert With The Younger Generation. Their short inserts formed a necessary counterpoint to the ghastly banality of the surrounding showbiz malarkey. Additionally, at Christmas, The Goodies appeared on that bastion of BBC1 respectability, Christmas Night With The Stars alongside Mike Yarwood, The Two Ronnies and the cast of Dad's Army.
'Ideally, The Goodies will be great in seventy years time' said Tim Brooke-Taylor at the time. 'Basically, we are trying to produce the greatest half-hour of comedy anyone has ever seen, each week.' Certainly, Oddie and Garden's scripts, which were described by Halliwell's TV Encyclopedia as 'anarchic, farcical comedy; each episode starting at least as a spoof on some aspect of life, but degenerating into a hopefully hilarious mess of sight gags, one-liners and elaborate visual trickery' loaned themselves very well to the excesses of the era. In many ways The Goodies were as much a part of Britain in the 1970s as flared trousers, kipper ties, power cuts, Derby County and glam rock. Their three-seater bicycle (in reality, a modified tandem) became one of television's most easily recognisable icons. As this blogger wrote in The Guinness Book Of Classic British TV in 1993: '[they] may have worn Star Jumpers and Hai-Karate Aftershave, but television was a better place for having known them.'
By the time that Jim Franklin took over production, in 1973, The Goodies style and structure was firmly fixed. The series' targets were the establishment, especially royalty (despite the fact that Prince Charles cited The Goodies as one of his favourites and even reportedly offered to play himself in the episode Scatty Safari) and, at the other extreme, the bland industry celebrities who were, seemingly, queuing up to appear as guests on the show. A Sunday evening BBC2 institution with a large following across the country, The Goodies was especially popular with students who, perhaps, recognised the Footlights backdrop to the humour.
Despite the fixed thematic targets, however, The Goodies were also content to experiment with unusual subject matter. They parodied film musicals in The Lost Island Of Munga (which brought a return for Henry McGee's Moriarty-style super-villain - he had previously appeared in The Stolen Musicians), science-fiction in Invasion Of The Moon Creatures (a story that tipped the hat at Doctor Who to such an extent that the TARDIS even put in an cameo appearance and ended with a lengthy parody of A Clockwork Orange), the NHS in Hospital For Hire (guest-starring Harry H Corbett and including a memorably understated sight-gag featuring Sooty) and the police in Goodies In The Nick.
The 1973 special, Superstar - this blogger's favourite Goodies episode - took the trio one step closer to the pop-music adulation they seemingly craved. The late DJ John Peel appeared, introducing Bill (now renamed Randy Pandy) on a mock-up of Top Of The Pops. Sadly, the fact that Peely was doing a - not even remotely flattering - impression of filthy albino kiddie-fiddler Jimmy Savile means this classic episode is unlikely ever to be repeated on TV. According to an interview with Q magazine in 1990 (a story he subsequently retold on the Lee & Herring BBC radio show a few years later), after Peel had given one of The Goodies singles a slagging in a music magazine, he claimed that he was threatened by two of the group in London's Marquee Club before the intervention of Robert Plant saved his neck. Peely commented, dryly, that he wouldn't have minded if it had been someone fashionable, but to get threatened with a chinning by the people who gave the world 'The Funky Gibbon' was a source of some embarrassment to him. Both Garden and Brooke-Taylor subsequently - and with much humour - denied that any such incident had ever taken place and it certain does sound rather unlikely. Nevertheless, it is true that for the next few years Peel bore as many and frequent attacks through the series (he 'Bored for Britain' at the Montreux Festival d'Boring in Daylight Robbery On The Orient Express, for example) as more obvious showbiz targets like Max Bygraves, Des O'Connor and, the series particular favourite, Nicholas Parsons (who always seemed to take his slagging with incredibly good grace).
Another of the memorable early episode of The Goodies was the 1973 Christmas special, The Goodies & The Beanstalk, featuring a plethora of guest stars (Alfie Bass, John Cleese, Eddie Waring and Arthur Ellis). The trio, having 'fallen on hard times', left their Cricklewood base for Everest and an International edition of It's A Knockout with a difference. A week later the fourth series ended with The Race, a wonderfully absurd story of the lads entering their house into the Le Mans endurance event. It included a plethora of great sight gags and (for the time) relatively impressive special effects.
Possibly the pinnacle of the group's creative time came with the thirteen-episode series of 1975. This was the era of the trio's recording career with the year's most successful episode, Kung-Fu Kapers (a take of the UK's, then current, fascination with all things martial arts) spawning its own spin-off song, 'Black Pudding Bertha'. A single which got the very non-BBC word 'bum' into the Top Ten and onto daytime Radio One. By this time Monty Python's Flying Circus had ended and Oddie certainly thought this helped with The Goodies audience figures: 'We have a more tolerant audience, especially since Monty Python's not on ... people suddenly realised we were all right and we've been allowed into this group. Also, we asked the BBC to put us on at nine o'clock. People do tend to be very conscious of their image as viewers, especially in this kind of area where they know, for example, that we appeal to kids. A fully blown Time Out, Sounds and New Musical Express reader would not have been seen dead watching The Goodies at that point. You've got to be a Python fan because that's clever and we're not, we're childish.' This wasn't just the province of some viewer's prejudice - something the trio themselves acknowledged via Cleese's cameo in The Goodies & The Beanstalk where he looks disdainfully at Tim, Bill and Graeme and sneers: 'Kids programme!' - it also extended to the BBC themselves. Oddie continued: 'The first two seasons went out at times ranging between twenty-past-nine and half-past ten. By the fourth we were going out at six forty-five. Consequently the BBC started labelling us as "a kids show" because they realised the kids liked it. So then they started getting uptight about content.'
The whole 'Ecky-Thump' phenomena is a classic example of the group at work, taking a currently topical theme, cleverly subverting it to their own off-centre view of the world, getting one of the group (in this case, Bill) involved in a 'flip' variant of the main theme and ending the episode with a collection of chases and high-jinx, overplayed with Oddie's music. One scene in the episode, infamously, led to a viewer - Alex Mitchell - dying from heart-attack whilst laughing at it. (In 2012, Mitchell's granddaughter, Lisa Corke, suffered a heart-attack at the age of twenty three. She was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome and the doctors caring for her believed it was likely that her grandfather suffered from the same, hereditary, condition.)
The Goodies took over the British Film Industry in the fifth series opener and, after sacking all of the directors (even Ken Russell despite the fact that they rather liked him for having burned Oliver Reed at the stake) clashed over what sort of films to make. Next they were turned into clowns by some unusual US Army surplus tomato soup. Wacky Wales saw the trio involved with Druids ('The Seventh Day Repressionists' led by Jon Pertwee going so far over-the-top he was down the other side) and a religious Rugby competition.
Scatty Safari (featuring a guest appearance by another of the series regular 'showbiz' targets, Tony Blackburn) was a witty rant against zoos - and Rolf Harris, making this another episode you're unlikely to see any time soon[*] - ending in the same manner as The Pied Piper Of Hamlyn ('the other side' of the mountain, in this case, being ATV). In another well-remembered episode, Graeme created 'Frankenfido', a dog designed to win Crufts made out of spare parts of people '... and Donny Osmand!' The Goodies spent an episode alone on a lighthouse that turned into a rocket at the climax, became involved in South African politics (in a controversial episode which showed that Garden and Oddie, despite often being labelled as 'childish' could produce hard-hitting satire with the best of them) and squirted each other to death with tomato sauce in the Bun Fight At The OK Tea-Rooms. The series ended with Tim chanting 'I'm a tea-pot' and the trio considering cannibalism (and worse) when their pad becomes encased in concrete in The End.
Tim: 'I want a son. I must have a son. Graeme, you're a doctor ...'
Graeme: 'Sorry, can't be done.'
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!'
[*] footnote: The whole question of Goodies repeats is rather a vexed one, something which all three of the cast complained about, at length, over the years. Unlike many long-running BBC comedy series of the era, The Goodies has not enjoyed extensive repeats on terrestrial TV in the UK, with the series not having been widely repeated since the 1980s. A decade later, UK Gold did broadcast an - almost - complete run of the show, including many of the earlier - less well-known - episodes, some of which only exist as black and white telerecordings albeit, these often featured really annoying cuts (more likely for timing purposes rather than content). The reason for the BBC's seeming reluctance to repeat The Goodies - a short batch of episodes over Christmas 2010 after a large and vocal Internet campaign by fans aside - has been much debated. Aside from The Goodies making the odd allusions to a couple of subsequently convicted sex-offenders, one of the main problems appears to be an avoidance on the part of the Beeb to get involved in any potential controversy. Particularly surrounding themes and attitudes which were acceptable in the 1970s but seem very awkward and uncomfortable now (the series' use of 'blackface' in episodes like Alternative Roots, That Old Black Magic, South Africa, The End and Kung-Fu Kapers, for instance).
By now, the series extra-curricular success was exemplified not only by the records, but also the regular spin-off books which appeared and included much of the show's wackiness. The Goodies File (1975) and The Goodies Book Of Criminal Records (1976) cannily expanded on the basis of televised episodes and, much as the Monty Python books did, brought the series to a new generation of fans. And, while The Goodies weren't The Monkees by any stretch of the imagination, the sight of Bill, Tim and Graeme on Top Of The Pops doing 'The In-Betweenies' or 'Wild Thing' does, undeniably, have a certain nostalgic kitsch about it.
One problem that sometimes impeded the programme was its very topicality. Whilst Monty Python's Flying Circus remains (thematically) timeless, The Goodies often set their series firmly in the, then-present. As previously noted, when seen today, the episodes which still work well are those that are not fixed with many obvious reference point. Goodies Rule - OK?, the 1975 Christmas episode is a good example, set in an irreverent parallel world where, having fallen on hard times (again), The Goodies become Britain's only source of income, play 'Wild Thing' at Wembley to an audience entirely made up of screaming, spliff-smoking policemen and indirectly cause the election of a 'dummy' government which bans all humour. Finally, we had the memorable sight of television's puppets assuming control, giant Dougal's and Zebadee's destroying Chequers in the process. Again the episode was an excuse for the appearance of a number of guest stars - Patrick Moore, Sue Lawley and returns for Waring and Blackburn along with a regular collaborator, Nationwide anchorman Michael Barrett. Early Goodies episodes had tended to feature mock news reports read by Corbett Woodall in the role of a po-faced BBC newsreader (something he would repeat in drama series like The Brothers), although once Barrett had taken over this role, later series' brought a new proto-realism to these sequences. And, when David Dimbleby introduced the election-night shenanigans of Politics, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that we had stumbled into a (sur)real episode of Panorama.
During 1976, The Goodies got involved in The Cod War by breeding the world's largest fish - the wonderful Lips (Or Almighty Cod) - started a 1950s revival in Hype Pressure ('William and Grayfunkle' reaching the 1960s just as Tim turned into a Mike Mansfield-inspired mad-director and conceived plans to 'direct' World War III), became advertising men and sold the world string (an episode featuring Valerie Leon in a brilliant recreation of the then-current Hai Karate adverts), and, in another genre-hop, saw their sons revive cricket in 2001 ... And a Bit ('and so it came to pass that the MCC inherited the world and retained The Ashes!') The series ended with an 'almost live' performance of some of their best known musical numbers in front of a studio audience; check out the (unintentionally) hilarious audience participation in 'Please Let Us Play'.
However, by 1977, The Goodies were known to be upset by the treatment of the series by the BBC. And not just because of the corporation's discomfort with the South African episode's political subtext. Whilst the six-episode series that year saw an erratic mix of brilliance (Dodonuts where Graeme finds a dodo in a pet shop: 'Was it going cheap?' asks Tim, 'No,' replies Graeme, 'it was going SQUAWK!' and the hilarious Scoutrageous) and ineptitude, some episodes veering from the sublime to the ridiculous (notably the trio's blinkered and suspiciously jealous pastiche of new-wave, Punky Business), The Goodies had problems getting script approval. This was notably evident in Royal Command Performance, another - rather gentle - attack on the royal family which was scheduled for broadcast on the day that Princess Anne was due to give birth. In the event, the BBC postponed the broadcast, replacing it with a repeat. Garden said: 'To show how "in touch" the BBC were, our administrator said "I've got a solution - instead of putting this one out, why don't you put out the one you recorded last Friday?" We said, "This is the one we recorded last Friday!"'
The 'Tim' of the show was a patriotic coward, much given to declaiming his views to the accompaniment of 'Land of Hope & Glory'. In The End as Tim began his standard speech, Bill took off the record and smashed it saying, 'Silent revolution, Lord Timbo!' As Oddie noted: 'Tim, quite rightly, claims that he is hardly ever seen in a shirt and tie (but somehow he feels he should be). There's no question that he's patriotic in so much as he's pro-royalty and I'm not.' Brooke-Taylor added: 'We've taken little sides of ourselves. I am a coward. Once, I was doing my 'Land of Hope & Glory' speech - "We must fight them et cetera" - that, originally, was all it was, but I said "I'd never do that, I might say it all, but at the end I'd run away." Which is, in fact, how it finished. The other two went out and I hid in the cupboard.' 'You've got to have a right wing neo-con loony,' Tim said in a 2005 radio interview. 'And with a name like mine I don't think I can be the revolutionary.'
The 1977 Christmas special Earthanasia is one of the finest half-hours of TV comedy ever made. Recorded live, in 'real time', in one room with just the three characters (this is also what marks out episodes like The Lighthousemen and The End for greatness). A Christmas Eve radio carol service is interrupted by the announcement that the world is going to be blown up at midnight; the United Nations having decided this is the best route forward with the ever-worsening problems of racism, over-population, inflation and pollution. The Goodies attempt to spend their final half-hour coming to terms with their 'worthless existence.' Bill, typically, wants to go out with a bang, skateboarding to Wembley to 'bang in a hat-trick' whilst licking the chocolate off two-dozen Mars Bars before sitting in on a reunion concert of The Beatles. That will, he notes, still leave time to 'pleasure' Jane Fonda and The Three Degrees and 'hold hands with Doris Newbold.' 'You've never held hands with Doris Newbold?' asks an incredulous Graeme. 'No' replies Bill. 'I've done everything else but I never held hands!' Tim, meanwhile, is horrified that he'll miss Christmas, does the 'I'm a teapot' thing again and demands that he must die 'wearing my shiny shoes!' The episode highlights all that is, genuinely, great about The Goodies, a dark, claustrophobic, apocalyptic and wickedly funny world-view. In Earthanasia sacrifices were made, Bill even shaving his trademark beard off to fit in with the story. It would be over two years before their next series appeared and it was to be their last for the BBC.
The eighth series began in controversy, after one of their finest episodes, Politics, a superb exposé‚ on Satcchi & Satcchi-style marketing techniques and Brooke-Taylor's Rice & Lloyd-Webber-esque rise to prominence as 'Timita' - though the episode is chiefly remembered for its dreadful pun 'Don't cry for me, Marge and Tina.' The following story, Saturday Night Grease, apart from being eighteen months too late in terms of musical fashion, also landed the series in hot water with Mary Whitehouse. The opening sequence, taken almost shot-for-shot from Saturday Night Fever, caused Mary to blow her shit, stating: 'Tim Brooke-Taylor was seen undressing, then dressing to mock John Travolta in an exceedingly tight pair of underpants with a distinctive carrot motif on the front.' She went on to describe The Goodies as 'too sexually orientated' which proved that she had been watching a different programme from the rest of us for the previous decade (presumably, she took particular umbrage at the 1971 Gender Education episode featuring Beryl Reid as Desiree Carthorse, a thinly-disguised, unflattering, parody of herself). However, the Corporation's disappointingly non-committal reaction to such crass and ignorant criticism convinced Brooke-Taylor, Garden and Oddie that their future lay elsewhere and, after completing the series (which included the superb Spielberg pastiche U-Friend, Or UFO) the team, including Producer/Director Bob Spiers, quit the BBC to join LWT. In many ways, however, the Saturday Night Grease debacle should have told The Goodies that their days were numbered (the normally effective chase-sequence, which takes up most of the second half of the episode, being particularly self-indulgent). It seemed that The Goodies were in danger of running out of ideas.
Although the series they made for LWT in 1982 was not a patch on their BBC work, it did at least include two classics, Football Crazy and Big Foot. Nevertheless, the disappointing reaction to their LWT Christmas special, Snow White 2, must have been seen at the time as the final straw and The Goodies ended in 1982.
Brooke-Taylor subsequently drifted into routine, bland sitcoms (Me & My Girl, You Must Be The Husband) and radio comedy (the long-running Hello Cheeky and the even-longer-running I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue), whilst Garden and Oddie continued, for a time, as writing partners (penning Yorkshire's not-particularly-good Astronauts). Later, Garden returned to medicine (in the sense that one most associates him with fronting programmes about human anatomy). Tim also appeared regularly in advertisements, including Christmas commercials for Brentford Nylons and in a public information film for the E111 form. In 1971, he had played the short, uncredited role of a computer scientist in the film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. After the end of The Goodies, Tim also worked again with Garden and Oddie on the animated series Bananaman, in which Brooke-Taylor was the narrator, as well as voicing the characters King Zorg of the Nurks, Eddie the Gent, Auntie and Appleman. He also loaned his voice to another children's series, Gideon. His CV included acting appearances in The Upper Hand, One Foot In The Grave, Heartbeat, Agatha Christie's Marple and Doctors.
In February 1981 Brooke-Taylor was the subject of This Is Your Life. Tim and Graeme were co-presenters on Channel Four's daytime game show, Beat The Nation. In 2013 Tim appeared in Animal Antics, a spoof news programme in which he was often upstaged by a man dressed as a dog. Tim was also the co-author of several books based mainly on his radio and television work and the sports of golf and cricket. He also took part in the Pro-Celebrity Golf series (opposite Bruce Forsyth). Brooke-Taylor appeared on the premiere episode of the BBC golf-based game show, Full Swing and also fronted his own series Golf Club With Tim Brooke-Taylor in 2001. He served the University of St Andrews as Rector between 1979 and 1982.
A gentle and sensitive man Tim once admitted leaving his own living room when the weekly results were announced on Strictly Come Dancing, as he couldn't bear seeing anyone thrown off the show. Tim was appointed an OBE in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to light entertainment (it was an honour his character was always angling for in The Goodies. In Royal Command Performance he craved to be made both an earl and an OBE. That, Graeme quickly pointed out, would make him 'an earlobe!') After visiting Buckingham Palace to receive the honour from the Prince of Wales, Tim admitted 'one had to bite one's tongue,' having often poked fun at the ease with which honours were handed out in the 1970s. He is survived by his wife, Christine and their sons, Ben and Edward.