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C&G 115 Jun 2005
#115 Jun 2005 - Print Email PDF 
Posted by bretta 25/12/2006


» #115 Jun 2005

Issue No. 115                     14th June 2005
E-mail <> with UNSUBSCRIBE in the body of your message. If you are using multiple or forwarded e-mail addresses, please specify the e-mail address which you originally used when subscribing, otherwise we may not be able to remove you from the mailing list.
E-mail <> requesting transfer to the E-mail mailing list.
Newsletter enquiries:
General enquiries:
'The Goodies Rule - OK!'
P.O. Box 325
Chadstone VIC 3148, AUSTRALIA
- Brett Allender <>
- Lisa Manekofsky <>
- David Piper-Balston <>
- Linda Kay <>
1. QUIZ & QUOTE - Goodies brainteasers for you and you and you
2. BOFFO IDEAS - News and club happenings
3. SPOTTED!!! - The latest Goodies sightings.
4. 2001 AND A BIT - Tim, Graeme and Bill sightings post-Goodies.
5. FEATURE ARTICLE - Bill Oddie - Observer profile
(by "Magnus Magnesium")
QUOTE: "You're a man, not a woman. Go and have a look!"
(a) Which Goodie says this quote?
(b) Who was he speaking to?
(c) Which episode is this quote from?
QUIZ: This month's questions are from the episode: "Invasion Of The Moon Creatures"
(d) What are the names of the two rabbits that Graeme is sending to the moon?
(e) Which phrase do the three Goodies conclude all of their sentences with while talking to each other over the radio?
(f) Which theme music does Graeme's radio telescope play when he tries to use it?
(g) Which rabbit turns into Big Bunny?
(h) What sign is hung around Graeme's neck when he tries to explain his space program to the authorities?
The answers are listed at the end of this newsletter.
You can make it happen here. Liven up the club with a boffo idea for bob-a-job week. E-mail <> with your comments, ideas or suggestions - meanwhile these are the boffo ideas which our club has been working on this month:
As the next C&G won't hit the press until at least mid-July, the "Goodies Rule OK" fan club would like to wish Bill Oddie a happy 64th birthday for July 7th and Tim Brooke-Taylor all the best for his 65th birthday on July 17th. In all of the excitement surrounding the Goodies tour of Australia, it seems as though we missed Graeme Garden's 62nd birthday on February 18th, so we'll reschedule it for thirty seconds time as it will be next Christmas in another minute! A belated Happy Birthday, Graeme, from everyone at GROK.
More exciting than getting your wig-spotters badge! If you've seen the Goodies recently, e-mail <>with the details. Here's where we've Spotted!!! The Goodies this month:
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 29th May)
It appears that the Goodies DVD box set from Network, containing the two previously released DVD sets, may have been released or is about to be released in England. Choices Direct says the release date was 23 May but that the set will be dispatched in 48 hours; says it is "usually dispatched within 72 hours" (which implies neither vendor has it in stock). isn't listing the box set at the moment.
My assumption is that this just the two previously released sets in a slipcase (see the photo at ). Please let us know if you have any additional details.
Since the two original sets ("The Goodies - At Last!" and "The Goodies - At Last A Second Helping") are on sale it would be cheaper to purchase them individually rather than getting the box set.
(contributed by Lisa Manekofsky)
The following article appeared in "London and more" magazine, Issue 14 Vol. 1 (April 20-25, 2005).
Goodie Goodie Yum Yum
by Julian Hall
Last month saw the reunion of the seminal comedy act, The Goodies. After a quarter of a century Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and everyone's favourite ornithologist, Bill Oddie once again joined forces for a short tour of Australia.
The trio were last seen in action in 1982 when The Goodies 12-year run finally ended on ITV - although the BBC had been their home for a decade. During that period, The Goodies award-winning mix of visual gags, outrageous stunts - many of which they performed themselves - and witty banter became cult viewing. Among the many episodes that live long in the memory, for anyone over the age of 30, is one featuring a giant white cat that wreaks havoc around London - the image of it climbing and toppling (what was then) the Post Office Tower is still one of the icons of comedy television. Other memorable moments include a Second World War version of the famous First World War football match between English and German soldiers, with penalty kicks taken by tanks and other such mayhem. It's all a far cry from the rather sedate Channel 4 quiz show "Beat the Nation", from which Graeme Garden and Brooke-Taylor will be familiar to today's viewers.
"Until this tour was suggested, I hadn't even seen the programmes for 25 years," confesses Brooke-Taylor. "When I did see them again, I was pleasantly surprised. I think I like them more now than I did at the time."
For Brooke-Taylor, reliving the past might have seemed daunting but that wasn't the only difficulty; as the show has never been repeated on terrestrial TV. Plans to do so about four years ago were scotched by Jane Root when she was Controller of BBC2. With only fleeting appearances on satellite, it was the 2003 release of "The Goodies...At Last" DVD that sold 100,000 copies and started a renaissance for the programme. A fast-selling sequel released last month has further pushed things along. However, the lack of TV repeats is a strange anomaly for a show that was so popular, spawned successful books and even Top-Ten hit records, and for which there is clearly a market. "You just have to look at the reviews of the DVD on Amazon to see the reactions of parents who have shown it to their children," adds Tim.
In Australia there are no such difficulties with nostalgia, as the show is regularly repeated along with "Dr Who" in an early-evening slot on ABC. One of the show's viewers was the daughter of John Pinder, the man who runs the Sydney Comedy Festival. A fan himself, Pinder took up her suggestion that a re-formed Goodies troupe would be an asset to the festival and made it a reality.
"We met him over here last autumn to discuss it," says Brooke-Taylor. "We were a bit dubious at first but we ended up thinking that it was a good idea. It has been fun revisiting it, like going back to your old school." Musing on another analogy, Tim adds: "It was actually a bit like three knights from the Crusades dusting off their armour and going into battle again."
Of course, like every school reunion or crusade, there are past events that are best put to one side: "Our attitudes are the same, but time has changed the feel of some of the sketches. For example, some of the things that we did about South Africa we couldn't do now, despite the fact that we were saying the right things. Even though you are being ironic, using the word nigger these days would be impossible," says Tim, laughing when I suggest only a gangsta rapper could get away with this now.
Among the sketches that were performed by The Goodies on tour were ones that featured John Cleese in their student revue days at Oxford, as well as ones used in the "At Last the 1948 Show," a forerunner to "Monty Python." "It was strange doing those sketches, as we were parodying the old men we have become," says Tim.
But being older doesn't mean that the trio have lost touch with today's comedy. In a recent interview, Bill Oddie has expressed his liking for "Little Britain", "The Office", and "Nighty Night", (all notably on BBC2 where The Goodies enjoyed their prime slot), meanwhile "Little Britain" cast members David Walliams and Matt Lucas, as well as members of "The League of Gentlemen" team, have attended Goodies' retrospectives in London.
"It's nice to know that these people acknowledge us," admits Tim, who adds Channel 4's "Green Wing" to the list of current 'Goodie goodies'. When it comes to "The Office" though, he personally has some reservations about it: "My children say it is because I've never worked in an office but, as I say to them, I was never in the Home Guard but that has never stopped me enjoying "Dad's Army".
While the present generation have the opportunity to decide whether the charms of classic comedy like "Dad's Army" are for them, the lack of Goodies' repeats means that while they were received in Australia as one of their own, The Goodies are unlikely to tour the UK.
"Bill is vehemently against it," informs Tim. "A tour would require a previous knowledge of the show which, without television exposure, is difficult. It all really depended on how Australia went. If we did something it would be small-scale...perhaps a short run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival."
A run in Edinburgh would surely find an eager audience, but it's very much wait and see at the moment. Perhaps Australia - which has sent us a number of its own home-grown entertainment products - will help to remind us of our own comedy heritage. And as "The Goodies" look back on the success of the Australian tour, maybe it could be the start of the second leg rather than the end in itself.
4. 2001 AND A BIT
If you've sighted Tim, Bill or Graeme in a post-Goodies role, e-mail <> so that we can tell everyone where to spot a Goodie nowadays. Those of you seeking radio & tv alerts between issues of the C&G should consider signing up for the Goodies-L mailing list (more details available on the club website),as our crack (cracked?!) team of reporters attempt to post alerts as the information becomes available.
* "Birding With Bill Oddie" is shown at various times on UKTV Documentary and UKTV Documentary Plus 1.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 26th May)
* "Springwatch with Bill Oddie" starts next Monday, 30 May, on BBC 2. As far as I can tell from the online listings available so far, the show will air Monday (30 May) through Thursday (2 June) from 20:00 to 21:00. It appears that the Mon-Weds episodes will be repeated the following day (Tues, 31 May through Thurs, 9 June) on BBC 2 at 14:30-15:30.
The next week the show will air in the evenings only on Monday, 6 June - Thurs, 9 June on BBC 2 at 20:00. 
Please check your local listings to verify the scheduling info.
Here's a description of the show: "In the biggest ever survey of British wildlife in spring, Bill Oddie, Kate Humble and Simon King will be following the fortunes of a cast of unforgettable wildlife characters over three weeks at the climax of the season. From blue tits and badgers in Devon to sea eagles in Scotland, the series will throw up a host of animal stars."
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 26th May)
* The BBC Nature website is offering a free download of "Mini Oddie", an animated version of Bill Oddie, at
According to the website, "Once downloaded, Mini Oddie will pop up on your screen every now and then and deliver messages. These include: updates from the Springwatch with Bill Oddie TV programme; handy hints and reminders on how to help wildlife; and news and information on ways to get involved".
At present Mini Oddie is only available in a PC version.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 29th May)
* Here is an extract from a piece from The Daily Telegraph about Bill's very popular programme which managed to get Bill on the cover of the Radio Times yet again. The article is by former 'Celebrity Big Brother' contestant Germaine Greer.
For really wild reality TV, see Bill Oddie
By Germaine Greer
(Filed: 03/06/2005)
There's more to reality television than Big Brother. Nothing very interesting will transpire when a gaggle of self-obsessed twentysomething humans are imprisoned together in a sterile environment for 11 interminable weeks. On Celebrity Love Island, because everyone is so conscious of being watched, neither love nor death will be allowed to happen. With human reality television there can be neither triumph nor tragedy, no matter how the producers load the dice.
Real sex and real violence can be seen in real time on TV - but not on Channel 4. Only on BBC2's Springwatch with Bill Oddie can viewers expect to see knock-down, drag-out sex, rapine, slaughter, infanticide, fratricide and even genocide, as they happen.
Springwatch viewers can see into the glaring golden eye of the sea eagle as it rends the flesh from the living breast of a captive bird and feeds it to its blood-splashed young. They may even see the great birds make love, trying to caress with beaks made for slaughter. The eagles do their murderous thing in real time. When we were shown rutting badgers, it was a bit of cheat because their porno-flick was shot on infra-red camera months ago. Even so, it knocked the socks off Big Brother's heaving shapes under the duvet. And everywhere there are babies - fluffy or furry, funny, achingly vulnerable, incurably optimistic babies.
In Springwatch, wildlife gets to strike back at all those programmes that not only consign it to an unpaid supporting role but routinely abuse it, even to the point of having humans eat it alive for the cameras, or tip tray-loads of it down the front of their trousers. In Springwatch, the critters are the stars of the show, and they know how to drive a hard bargain. Having taken the Endemol shilling, the Big Brother stooges have to keep their microphones on at all times, and may never make themselves invisible to the cameras. Brute creation defies the producers; the cameras have no option but to watch at the mouth of the badger sett like cats beside a mousehole.
Human reality television doesn't have Bill Oddie. Everybody loves Bill. They specially love him when he is trotting around a farm in Devon in the lee of a long-legged blonde in skin-tight jeans. They will even endure him making repeated jokes about his tits versus Kate Humble's tits, the tits in question being blue. Oddie-lovers on the internet can get him on demand in capsule form as mini-Oddie, an animated graphic that announces desk-top alerts to news, information and tips on UK wildlife.
The trailer for the current BBC2 Springwatch programmes shows Oddie enduring violent extremes of make-believe weather, and promises to have him explain what these vicissitudes mean for the survival of our wildlife. It's a tall order and it's no grave criticism of Bill to say that he doesn't quite pull it off. The show goes out in real time from eight to nine in the evening from location in Devon and elsewhere, four times a week for three weeks, finishing on June 16,exploiting the honeyed hours of sunny twilight as we draw towards the shortest night of the year.
Spring becomes summer even faster than a kitten becomes a cat, hurtling from three degrees of ground-frost to scorching winds in less than two weeks. I can't be the only person who begs for it all to slow down, to let its phases be captured. As the chrysalises open, as the over-wintering ladybirds awake, as the swallow swoops in with a beakful of mud, you want to shout like a photographer "Hold it!" while you get the picture, but the day spins past you unseized. My goslings are already getting their adult plumage; it seems only yesterday that they were eggs.
(David Piper-Balston - Goodies-l - 3rd June)
Sex and heartache in the nest box ALISON ROWAT June 06 2005
The TV Week
LISTENING posts picked up a strange noise over Britain this week. It was the sound of millions of people saying "Awwww" all at once. If it's springtime it must be time for Springwatch with Bill Oddie (BBC2, Monday-Thursday, 8pm), the programme which brings the nation together to coo over all baby creatures great and small.
Science has its own ways of telling us that spring has sprung. A soil temperature approaching 50ºF is one indicator. The end of the football season another. A more reliable guide is the start of feel-good TV. Spring and summer schedules are like little girls, full of sugar and spice and all things nice, while the slugs and snails stuff - Sopranos, 24, Casualty - is kept to the cold, dark winter nights when viewers are in the mood for a little blood and noir.
Not that Springwatch was entirely a programme you could watch comfortably with mother. There was too much copulation for a start, but that's wildlife programmes for you. It was the hedgehogs you had to feel sorry for. No sooner had Miss Tiggywinkle and her unnamed beau met at the bottom of the garden than a bank of 1000-watt porch lamps blazed into life so the action could be filmed. It must have been like getting it on in the middle of a UEFA cup final.
Helping the former Goodie to host the three-week wildlife watch is Kate Humble. Bill and Kate are like Morecambe and Wise without the laughs. He's the short, fat hairy one, she's the tall creature given to unpredictable outbursts. With Eric it was "Arsenal", with Kate it's "tits".
'Tis all entirely innocent. The tits to which Kate was referring was one of two families that had nested in the barn. Kate's tits (do stop sniggering at the back, Jenkins) were giving cause for concern. Mum was a first-timer and did not appreciate that little beaks need lots of food. Had she been human, social services would have left her to rot. The audience at home, however, were immediately caught up in the drama, willing the little family on. I fear much heartbreak to come over the next two weeks.
A brighter picture was to be had from Simon King on Mull. "This is big country and it has the wildlife to match," said King, struggling to contain his excitement. No wonder. His job is to keep an eye on a family of sea eagles. Frisa, the female, was named after the loch, her partner, Skye, after the island, and the two chicks are called Itchy and Scratchy after a competition among local schools. Modern children have no poetry in their souls. Springwatch was that rare thing, a programme that all the family could watch together. Baby animals for the kids, double entendres and Kate Humble for dad, and for mum, a reminder to put bacon on the shopping list.
(David Piper-Balston - Goodies-l - 6th June)
* A new book entitled "The New Birds of the West Midlands" includes a lengthy foreword written by Bill Oddie. Further information about the book can be found at
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 13th June)
** Thanks to Linda Kay for passing this along.
The Disney Channel in Germany will be showing the film "George and the Dragon" in which Bill Oddie appears. 
As far as I can tell, it's scheduled for tomorrow, 14 June, at 22:30 and again on 6 July at 20:15. There's information (in German) at this page:
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 13th June)
* This is Local London has an article at about winning a game of golf with some celebrities, including Tim Brooke-Taylor. I'll cut & paste the full article below. Please note that to be eligible for the contest you must already have a golf handicap and be a member of a golf club.
Tee off with celebrities
By Dave Peters
THE Bucks Free Press is offering you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take on one of the world's greatest sportsmen out on the golf course.
We need three keen golfers to represent the Bucks Free Press at the star-studded Redgrave and Pinsent Celebrity Golf Classic at HarleyFord Golf Club in Marlow on Thursday, June 2 where they will take on Olympic oarsmen Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent.
The duo have proved unbeatable on the water and they are pretty hot on the golf course as well.
Both have won the Redgrave and Pinsent Celebrity Golf Classic before and both are keen to captain winning teams again this year on June 2 when the ninth annual Redgrave and Pinsent Golf Classic tees off again in aid of the SPARKS (Sport Aiding Medical research for Kids) charity.
But you could be there trying to stop them.
Our team of three Free Press readers will team up with a celebrity captain for 18 holes of golf in glorious countryside and elite company.
Celebrities who have attended in the past include Peter Shilton, John Conteh, Ruud Gullitt, Peter Ebdon, Zinzan Brooke and Wasps coach Warren Gatland.
This year's line-up is equally impressive with Dennis Waterman, Nicholas Parsons, Kevin Whateley, Mark Illot, Chris Broad and Anna Walker all signing up alongside Stuart Storey, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Duncan Preston.
Last year's Free Press competition winners Richard Patterson and Peter Kirkman spent a day with actor Robert Powell as they finished on 80 points, 13 points behind winners Harleyford Juniors, in the 18-hole stableford competition, as the Free Press finished in the middle of the field.
Last year's event was won was TV presenter and programme writer Johnny Ball, who was the winning captain, leading home his team of Joe Land, David Harding and Jonathon Kingsbury.
John Conteh's team finished second.
To be eligible for this fantastic competition, which is worth a staggering £795, you must already have a golf handicap and be a member of a golf club and you must be available to play on Thursday, June 2.
As well as the golf, the prize includes a bacon roll breakfast, a champagne evening reception and a three course dinner with wines and a comedian.
For the first time this year people can attend just the evening dinner at a price of £50 per head. Anyone interested should email:
All you have to do to win is tell us in which year Sir Steve Redgrave won his record-breaking fifth Olympic gold before the closing date of 5pm on Tuesday, May 31.
You can send your answers by post to Golf Competition, Bucks Free Press, Loudwater Mill Station Road, High Wycombe, Bucks HP10 9TY.
or E-mail your answers to Joe Slade at
In both cases you must include a daytime telephone number, your handicap and also the name of your golf club.
All entries with the correct answer will be drawn from a hat to find our three winners.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 25th May)
* "Hello Cheeky" with Tim airs on BBC7 ( ) Sundays at 12:30. It is repeated Sundays at 21:30 and Mondays at 4:30.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 26th May)
* "Golf Clubs with Tim Brooke-Taylor" airs Thursdays on Discover Real Time (4:30) and Discovery Real Time Plus 1 (5:30)
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 26th May)
* is listing a 25 July release date for the UK version of the "At Last the 1948 Show" DVD.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 1st June)
* US retailer is taking pre-orders for the "At Last The 1948 Show" DVD (which will be released on July 26th). Their price is $17.99 with free shipping to US addresses.
The vendor is also taking preorders for the "Do Not Adjust Your Set" DVD
set, which is also priced at $17.99.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l – 13th June)
* "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" returns to BBC Radio 4 with new episodes starting next Monday, 30 May at 18:30. The first episode will come from the Ipswich Regent with guest Jeremy Hardy. Each show will be repeated the Sunday after its initial broadcast around noon (check the listings - I think the time varies slightly some weeks).
Each episode of the new series can be heard online at either live or via Listen Again for a week after the initial broadcast (until the next episode airs).
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 23rd May)
* Older editions of "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" (with Tim and Graeme) air on BBC7 ( ) Mondays at 12:30 and are repeated at 19:30.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 26th May)
* "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" (with all three Goodies) airs on BBC7 ( ) Mondays at 14:30; it is repeated Tuesdays at 6:30.
(Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 26th May)
The Uxbridge English Dictionary
(by Brett Allender)
At first glance the most striking feature of "The Uxbridge English Dictionary" is how closely it resembles my Collins Australian Pocket Dictionary which is sitting alongside it. The blue cover with the red stripe and white printing is the same, there are oodles of words neatly arranged in alphabetical order (doh!) and both have nifty little line drawings to assist with certain definitions of difficult words. Admittedly the Uxbridge version looks a little skinny by comparison, but unlike the proclaimed Collins "pocket" version, at least you don't have to be wearing Graeme's special trousers from the "Movies" episode to fit it in your pocket.
These vague similarities begin to fade when reading the fine print on the Uxbridge cover which proudly proclaims that it's the "Seventeenth Edition (Approx.) Completely Revived" and end completely upon reading what's inside. While trying to read the Collins dictionary from A to Z would have been as excruciating as listening to Sleepalong-a-Max Vol 98 in its entirety and would have probably led to Bill ringing the funny farm on my behalf, a wall-to-wall read of "The Uxbridge English Dictionary" brought many a hearty chuckle and much admiration of the comic cleverness of Tim, Graeme, Barry and the various guest panelists on "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" over the past ten years.
The "Uxbridge English Dictionary" is a wonderful compilation of ideas from the 'New Definitions' round which, from its own foreword, provides new meanings "for all those old and misleading English words that simply don't mean anything like what they sound like they ought to mean. How much less complicated it would be to live in a world where a 'bordello' was a blasé greeting ... and 'poppycock' was a streaker on November the 11th."
After a brief introduction about the Uxbridge University, it's down to business, with the A's throwing up gems like 'abacus' – a Swedish swear word, and 'avoidable' – what a cow with a headache does (complete with nifty line drawing of cow with ice pack on head). B offers up the likes of 'bacteria' – returning more upset than when you left, and 'bedlam' – a very favourite sheep and so on and so forth with lots of funny definitions and drawings all the way down to the likes of 'zebra' – the largest size of support garment.
And wait ... there's more! A handy list of foreign words and phrases, such as 'annus horribilis' – Do you mind if I don't sit down?, and a short list of abbreviations, like COPEC – Colin On Piano Empties Concert Halls rounds off a very enjoyable read, though I still might get locked away if I admit to "reading a dictionary from cover to cover" to anyone that just doesn't understand the ISIHAC brand of subtle humour.
Inside the back cover, the book describes itself as being "invaluable" (worth nothing), "impeccable" (bird-proof) and "spectacular" (short-sighted vampire).
My own thoughts are that it's very academic (a plague of clarinet players), not likely to bamboozle (to trick a deer from Disneyland) and is worthy of a baccalaureate (a degree in reversing trucks).
(additional information by Lisa Manekofsky)
A few weeks ago I forwarded information about a special offer from the publishers of "The Uxbridge English Dictionary" (the latest "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" tie-in book). The original offer included free shipping but was only available to UK residents.
I've been in touch with the publisher, who has arranged a special shipping rate for ISIHAC fans living outside the UK. They will allow any international order received by the 17th of June to purchase the book for £6.99 plus a £3.50 delivery charge (which is lower than Amazon's and other retailers' international delivery rates).
The original offer is below. Please remember the changes for international customers - there will be a delivery fee and the end date for the offer has been extended to 17 June.
Orders can be placed:
- by phone on 0870 787 1724 (quoting a credit card number) between the hours of 8.30am - 5.30pm Monday to Friday. You need to quote the following mailshot code: 'UED'.
- by post (enclosing a cheque at £6.99, made payable to 'Harper Collins Publishers', and the mailshot code 'UED'. The postal address is:
Customer Services (UED Promotion)
HarperCollins Publishers
Westerhill Road
G64 2QT
The email address is if you need to email them.
(contributed by Lisa Manekofsky - Goodies-l - 12th June)
A profile of Bill Oddie from the UK publication The Observer can be found at,6903,1504612,00.html
Here is a cut & paste of the text:
The Observer profile: Bill Oddie
Good egg
The scruffy anarchist who made Britain laugh as one of the Goodies is enjoying a TV renaissance doing something he's always loved: birdwatching. One of nature's wonders? Absolutely
Vanessa Thorpe
Sunday June 12, 2005
The Observer
Deprived of television bulletins over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of viewers of BBC2's Springwatch will have been crossing their fingers about the fate of the female peregrine falcon which had been looking after three baby chicks in an unlikely nest on top of the University of Westminster's high-rise block on Marylebone Road. These rare birds - the fastest living creatures on the planet, with a top diving speed of 200 mph - were once on the brink of extinction but are now moving to urban environments.
Well, the news is good. The mother falcon has returned after going missing last Thursday, although the future may not be so rosy for the smallest of her offspring. The last to hatch, it is cruelly designed by nature to fade away if food stays scarce.
The chief presenter of Springwatch, Bill Oddie, understands it is this kind of drama that makes viewers tune in. 'I would stake my life on the belief that the reason people keep watching is the day-to-day, soap opera-type adventures of birds and animals - when they lose a family or one of them gets killed. That's what hooks people,' he says.
The formula is certainly working. Ratings-wise this reality show, aired four nights a week from Monday to Thursday, is beating other peak-time contenders, such as Celebrity Love Island, and it is even matching the viewing figures for Channel 4's Big Brother .
Among the high-profile cheerleaders for the show are Germaine Greer, who wrote earlier this month: 'Real sex and real violence can be seen in real time on TV, but not on Channel 4. Only on BBC2's Springwatch with Bill Oddie can viewers expect to see knockdown, drag-out sex, raping, slaughter, infanticide, fratricide and even genocide, as they happen.' But Greer is clear that this explicit fare is not the only draw.
'Human reality television doesn't have Bill Oddie. Everybody loves Bill,' she points out. And, while there may be some out there who grind their teeth at his naturalist's japes, BBC2 now acknowledges that Oddie is probably their biggest star.
'He can be a troublemaker on screen. The director never knows quite what he is going to do, but we would be getting a million fewer viewers without him,' said his friend and the producer of the series, Stephen Moss.
Celebrities are often congratulated for reinventing themselves just because they have changed their hairstyle. While this is a trick Oddie has certainly never bothered with, he has gone through a public transformation. He is now talked of as a 'wildlife presenter', and little or no mention is made of his past as a mainstream TV comedian.
Now, with the success of BBC2's epic Springwatch survey, launched in The Observer last January, Oddie has been canonised as the new, climate-change-friendly, David Bellamy, despite the fact he is not a trained scientist. Unlike his hero Sir David Attenborough, Oddie's programmes take a layman's approach to describe a complicated ecology. Similarly, Oddie himself has a simple manner, but is a complicated man.
'He is complex man with very deep feelings,' said Moss. 'We have a very strong relationship, but I would say he is a "national institution" rather than a "national treasure". He is too edgy to be a treasure.'
The Springwatch project, hatched in collaboration with the Woodland Trust, has been a huge hit away from television screens too. British schoolchildren are full of it and the website has been clicked to near death.
More than 160,000 information packs have been sent out. Oddie himself appears on the website in the cartoon form he always has somehow seemed to half inhabit. Pet shops up and down the land, too, are now dominated by cardboard cut-outs of this bearded man touting bird related produce.
Strangely, Oddie's growing jolly, cardboard ubiquity as a television personality echoes one of the darkest moments from his past and something that has always haunted him. As a teenager visiting his sick and estranged mother in a mental institution, he remembers that, although she did not recognise him, she did at one point poetically and prophetically announce: 'Television is all dead bodies and cardboard.' This is a bizarre memory from a sad childhood with which he is only just coming to terms. Television has now played its own part in unravelling this bleak past. Last year, when Oddie, who had believed he was an only child, took part in the family history show Who Do You Think You Are?, he discovered, with the help of professional researchers, that Lillian, the mother who he had never really known, had lost a baby daughter during the Second World War and also suffered a very late miscarriage.
'By anybody's standards,' he has since said, 'the loss of two babies is a terrible thing, but if you think about the time in which it happened there was no support for her at all.'
Oddie later sent money to her, but they never developed any sort of relationship. 'I had demonised my mother for such a long time,' he once said. 'Even though she was ill, I viewed her as someone who had abandoned me, who was always absent from my life.'
He has had cause to think again about mental illness after suffering two bouts of clinical depression in recent years. He has described it as 'like walking through a thick fog'.
William Edgar Oddie was born in Rochdale, near Manchester, in July 1941, but grew up in Birmingham, where he attended King Edward's School and excelled at sport. At home he was raised by his father and a repressive paternal
grandmother. His psychotic mother made infrequent and sometimes violent visits. Images of smashed crockery and blood on the floor and of watching her being pulled away from the house and put in ambulance are 'freeze-framed' in his head, he has said. 'I sometimes think of them as like trailers for a film I never saw.'
While the boy Bill was an enthusiastic birdwatcher from the age of eight, Oddie the entertainer was formed at Cambridge, where he studied English at Pembroke, a college still recovering from the impact of Peter Cook. Oddie joined the university's Footlights with his friend Tim Brooke-Taylor. (John Cleese was registrar at the time and Trevor Nunn handled scripts.) An early encounter with the young medic Graeme Garden led to a brief campaign for student comedy to go 'back to music hall' and away from social satire.
Oddie was in charge of composing numbers for Footlights shows, and he quickly developed an influential line of musical pastiche that later saw him through many episodes of the cult Radio 4 show I'm Sorry I'll Read that Again and on into the heyday of The Goodies in the Seventies, when his novelty songs 'The Funky Gibbon', 'The Inbetweenies' and 'Ecky Thump' cropped up in the hit parade.
Stuffily, the BBC has refused to repeat The Goodies programmes as the comic heritage that true fans believe them to be. This has added to the reputed bitterness that the trio, Oddie, Brooke-Taylor and Garden, all feel about the adoration heaped on the more 'adult' antics of the Monty Python team.
In The Goodies, Oddie was the scruffy anarchist who received the occasional replica OBEs so coveted by the union flag-waistcoated Brooke-Taylor. Today Oddie is still a scruffy anarchist, and has recently spoken out against the Iraq war and turned his back on the Labour party, while grudgingly accepting a real OBE for his conservational work. One of very few celebrities to have refused the red book treatment on This is Your Life, he claims he is no longer the curmudgeon he once was.
Oddie has been married twice. With his first wife, the jazz musician Jean Hart, he has two daughters: one a dancer and the other the actress Kate Hardie. He has a third daughter with his second wife, Laura Beaumont, a former Sale of the Century hostess with whom Oddie now writes children's dramas. The couple live together in an idiosyncratic Hampstead home surrounded by a garden full of gnomes and patches of deliberately encouraged daisies.
Every morning at six Bill Oddie gets out his binoculars and goes for a birdwatching walk on the neighbouring Heath. This is no fair-weather, just-for-television enthusiast.
'What you see is what you get with Bill,' says his producer. 'He is genuine. Some people may hate him, but he is genuine.'
Recently Oddie has come face to face with his showbiz past after the startling success of a Goodies reunion tour of Australia, a country which hails the trio as comic gods. Within a day all 13 shows and 25,000 tickets were sold out. 'It was completely surreal, like being plunged back into the Seventies,' Oddie has said.
In contrast, the presenter, who will be 64 next month, celebrates the 'realness' of his television work with the natural world. ' Springwatch is real. There is nothing set up at all.' It is much the same with Oddie, who is grumpy, silly, and a real birder. Defying the terrible augury of his sick mother, this television celebrity stays well away from cardboard sets and as close as he can to life and to raw nature, red in tooth and claw.
William Edgar Oddie
DoB: 7 July, 1941
Career: Radio broadcaster, one of The Goodies ; presenter, Springwatch , BBC2; drama writer
Education: King Edward's School, Birmingham; Pembroke College, Cambridge
Family: Married (second time) to Laura Beaumont
(by Linda Kay)
Issue 174
29nd September, 1973 No. 62
Military intelligence (or lack thereof) has always been a good source of comedy material from way back. The Cor!! Comic artists had their poke at the Army in this Goodies outing which parodies the excesses of detail which can often bog down even the simplest military exercise.
The Goodies stand at attention as an Army Sergeant enters their office, giving them a new assignment.
ARMY SERGEANT: You Goodies will report for re-decorating a hut the Army's taken over! The job must be done by noon!
GRAEME: *Yikes!* Then it's time we got started!
The Goodies ride to the Army outpost on their trandem with the sergeant on the handlebars. Bill is burdened with a large amount of painting and cleaning supplies on the back of the bike.
TIM: Coo, this hut is miles from anywhere - must be an outpost!
ARMY SERGEANT: Get stuck in, Goodies! Everything in the Army must be *SMART!*
They reach the one room hut and the sergeant leaves them to their work.
ARMY SERGEANT: Re-decorate it inside and out ... and remember the show starts at twelve!
TIM: We'll never even whitewash the *walls* by *then!*
GRAEME: Leave it to me!
Graeme sprays the wall of the hut with a spray can.
GRAEME: My patent "shrinking liquid will bring the job down to size!
The hut is now even smaller than the Goodies and they have to bend over to work on it. Bill and Tim set about painting the outside quickly, Tim leaning over the roof as he works.
BILL: It's the size of a doll's house - this is child's play!
GRAEME: Be careful, Tim, I don't know how long the effect .. !
The house begins to grow, Tim laying across its roof as he's lifted high into the air.
GRAEME: ... *Lasts!*
TIM: Help! I've gone up in the world!
The Army Sergeant returns to urge them on. Graeme goes to the side of the house to help Tim off the roof, but Tim slides down the wet paint and lands hard on Graeme's head. Bill rushes inside the hut to continue working.
ARMY SERGEANT: Hurry up, there! Time's getting on!
BILL: While you help Tim down, I'll start painting the ceiling inside!
Bill is attempting to paint the ceiling as Tim and Graeme watch from outside but the paint is simply falling off the brush and the ceiling onto Bill's face.
BILL: Grough! There's got to be an *easier* way of doing this!
Bill wipes the paint off his head with a rag as he talks into a telephone receiver, looking out through the fourth wall of the comic panel.
BILL: Is that the Goodies artist? Look, here's what I want you to do .. !
We see the Cor! Comic artist's table and the artist's hands are turning the panel upside down. Bill is hurrying up the wall and onto the ceiling, which is now the floor.
BILL: That's it, Mr. Artist ... keep turning the frame round!
Now Bill can easily paint the "ceiling."
BILL: This is better - I never let a problem *FLOOR* me!
The hut is once again upright as the Army Sergeant urges the Goodies to hurry. Tim enters the hut carrying boxes of wallpaper.
BILL: What about that, then?
ARMY SERGEANT: Hurry, you've only 30 minutes left!
TIM: This is ready-pasted paper. I'll have it hung in a flash!
Tim begins trying to hang the wallpaper but he's getting all tangled up in its sticky back; the sawhorses he is standing on are falling out from underneath him.
TIM: *Grough!* I'm all stuck up!
Tim addresses the reading audience as he brandishes a pair of scissors and a piece of the wallpaper he's cut into a cone.
TIM: I know! I'll roll this spare piece of paper into a cone, and cut finger holes in it!
Tim sits on the floor and plays the wallpaper cone like a snake charmer's flute, the wallpaper responding by slithering up out of the box and onto the wall. Graeme watches this in amazement.
GRAEME: Snakes alive! Whatever next?
The Goodies gather outside the hut to greet the Sergeant with their finished work, only the man is darting away from the building at high speed.
ARMY SERGEANT: You only just finished in time!
BILL: Hey, what's the all-fired hurry?
TIM: Isn't this your new H.Q.?
All of a sudden a series of cannon shells hit the hut, blowing it up into a million pieces as the Goodies cower on the ground. The Army Sergeant addresses them from some distance away.
ARMY SERGEANT: No - we bought the hut as target practice for our gunners - but everything in the Army must be smart!
The Goodies load up their own small cannon and fire off some shots at the Army Sergeant in the distance.
TIM: *Bah!* You're in the Army, so we'll make *YOU* smart!
Sign-Off Line: Next Week's Goodies Story "Cannon" Fail to Make You Laugh!
III - Goody goody yum yum.
This is a fun if simple outing which takes good advantage of illustrating ideas which would be difficult to do in real life (although The Goodies would likely have found a way!). The dialogue is kept painfully simple as are the situations but each of the three set ups given to each Goody works out to a satisfying conclusion. Meanwhile the background sight gags are kept to a minimum. When the Sergeant enters the office the Goodies are saluting and Bill is holding a mop as if it were a gun over his shoulder. When Bill is juggling all the work materials on the back of the trandem a paint can and a brush are falling off the back while the ladder is hitting Graeme on the head. There are a number of items on the artist's desk, including overdue bills, a candle and a broken cup, not to mention a picture of "the editor." Tim is looking in through the window as Bill is painting the "floor" and when the hut is uprighted Graeme is hanging upside down outside the window! The brand of wallpaper Tim is using is called Reddystik. When The Goodies fire the cannon at the Sergeant the cannonball bounces twice off the ground before hitting a tree and ricocheting to knock off the Sergeant's hat. And a mouse in an Army helmet is sitting next to Bill and watching this as it happens.
Panel by panel this comic may not seem to amount to much but taken all together it works into a nifty little parody with a good payoff at the end, which makes it worth a good review!
To view these strips online, you can visit this page:
We'll post the currently reviewed issue plus the two previous issues for latecomers.
(a) Graeme Garden
(b) Tim (in drag!)
(c) Free To Live (aka Women's Lib)
(d) Flopsy and Spiro
(e) "beep"
(f) The Archers
(g) Flopsy
(h) Loony. Handle With Care
8    Goodies fan supreme
7    Mastermind of the year
5-6 Clever clogs
3-4 Reasonably Goodie
1-2 Thick as old boots
0    Rolf Harris!
- #116: 12th July 2005.
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