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GOODY - GOODY - RATINGS
by Andrew Pixley
(from C&G #58 October 2000)
PART TWO SERIES 5 TO 7
As 1975 began, "The Goodies" were in and at the height of their powers. With their novelty singles flooding the charts, the BBC2 audience was about to leap by about 7 million viewers for 13 of their finest shows ever. 8.2 million viewed the debut episode of the run, "The Movies", in the perfect Monday 9.00pm slot, and this climbed steadily during the run to put the minority channel in double figures for the last four episodes. Although on BBC2, "The Goodies" shattered their own record on Monday 14 April when Bill's self-destructive attempts in "Stunning C ..." - sorry - "Cunning Stunts" saw over 12 million viewers abandoning ITV and BBC1 for the men from Cricklewood (for "Scatty Safari", 17% of the UK's adults tuned into "The Goodies" with only 14% apiece watching BBC1's News and whatever was on ITV). At an average of the season of 9 million, this is an audience virtually unheard of on BBC2 for many years. Furthermore, the RIs were still very strong; the Rolf Harris plague of "Scatty Safari" scored 73 ... and ironically it was the large audience "Cunning Stunts" which people liked the least at only 64. Nominated for Montreux, "The Movies" was rescreened on BBC2 at 9.00pm one Thursday the following May, with an audience of 4.7 million.
Three shows had reports prepared on them: "The Movies", "Scatty Safari" and "The End". For "The Movies", a panel of 196 found the show had moderate appeal - ""A larger group felt this particular show was not as good as expected ... although the last ten minutes or so of havoc in the film studio offered excellent entertainment, the earlier part seemed slow and rather feeble; it was occasionally suggested that the Goodies scored heavily when 'visual humour' and technical wizardry were involved, but made little impression with plain dialogue." However, many said "they were delighted to have the series back, and felt this first show was as 'brilliant' and 'hilarious' as ever". Once more there were comments that "their children greatly enjoyed it - an early transmission-time was occasionally requested." "Scatty Safari"'s panel of 242 people described it as "the funniest thing on television", "so stupid, you have to laugh" and "wholesome, delicious fun". Again, many asked "Why not have it on earlier? So many Goodies fans are children." One viewer commented the show was "a bit ruthless on Rolf Harris ... I hope he enjoyed it". It was felt that the trio had really enjoyed making this week's episode. Again, editing and effects were praised ("sometimes we almost believe what we see"). "The End", although with a generally favourable response from a panel of 281, was deemed to have been "one of the Goodies' less amusing programmes". Although the format of the trio being trapped together did not attract, it was agreed that the situation was tackled in their "usual inventive and appealing manner." One in ten did not care for the broadcast at all, finding it "static and long drawn out" with the setting described as "boring". The conclusion for the season was that the stars were "in a class of their own" and 76% were eager for another season.
The strength of "The Goodies" as a comedy force on British television was cemented by the extended repeat run accorded to it by BBC1, this time at 6.50pm on Mondays running through the better rated Autumn season from September to December 1975; three episodes of Season Four were also given a third transmission towards the end of this run which, for an early evening repeat, did superbly to average 10.7 million. The audience steadily grew from 7 million with the first rerun ("Kung Fu Kapers!") to the final transmission where the team again set a new high. 15.2 million people watched a repeat of the studio-bound "The End" - one of Tim Brooke-Taylor's favourite episodes - on Monday 15 December.
However, maybe the bubble had burst slightly. After the heights of Season Five, the audience of 6.1 million for "Goodies Rule: OK?" on BBC2's Christmas 1975 broadcast was lower than expected. Agreed, this was back on the minority channel, and possibly the Sunday 7.25pm meant strong competition from BBC1 and ITV, but it was a notable drop on the start of the year. Nevertheless, the RI rating of 66 was still good for the fantastic slice of visual comedy. An Audience Research Report from 99 viewers indicated most were "more amused than usual by the 'off-beat' humour of this funny threesome." Although a proportion of the audience did not, as usual, like the "zany, surrealistic behaviour", one comment was that the viewer had "never enjoyed them more". As usual, the special effects work was highly praised. Unfortunately, the ratings for the film's first repeat - on BBC2 in February 1976 - are not available.
Reception was better for Season Six which BBC2 aired in the Tuesday 9.00pm slot from September to November 1976; however, after the dizzy heights of double figures, about a million people had deserted the show to give an average of 7.6 million. Indeed, the spread of ratings for the new shows was very narrow; the highest was the advertising satire "It Might As Well Be String" with 7.9 million and the lowest was the debut Cod war/"Jaws" item "Lips or Almighty Cod" at 7.0 million. The best received show was the atypical "The Goodies - Almost Live" pop fest which closed the run, scoring an RI of 67; lagging behind the others by some way was the panto-horse parody of "Black and White Beauty" which received a low 58. However, even a repeat of "Kitten Kong" on BBC1 in the London area only could still draw 4 million, and a fourth screening of "The Goodies and the Beanstalk" on BBC1 on New Year's Eve 1976 could still attract a healthy 10.3 million.
The Xmas repeat kicked off BBC1's very rapid repeat season; scheduled at around 7.00pm on Wednesdays from January 1977, this started off with the seven episodes which had only been broadcast on BBC2 a couple of months earlier, with three choice episodes from Season Five appended to the end. The average was again 10.3 million, with very little variance from week to week. Oddly enough, this time, "Lips or Almighty Cod" rated highest at 11.1 million with "Almost Live" trailing at 9.6 million - perhaps people who missed "Lips ..." first time around were determined to catch its repeat. "Goodies Rule: OK?" got a sporadic repeat to just over a million viewers on BBC2 in a bizarre Thursday 4.25pm slot during the Queen's Silver Jubilee in June 1977 (this was its third broadcast after all); the ratings for the single transmission of "OK Tearooms" the same month in Wales are not known.
Unfortunately, another million viewers had been shed by the time of Season Seven, firmly standing in its usual Tuesday 9.00pm slot from November to December (including a re-run of "2001 and a Bit" because of the famed royal problems surrounding "Royal Command" which bumped "Earthanasia" back a fortnight to a Thursday slot). The average was now 6.2 million and very variable. The debut show "Alternative Roots" was the best rated at 7.4 million (and also with the highest RI of 69), followed by the lowest rated "Dodonuts" at 5.3 million. However, "The Goodies" was still often the highest rated show in its slot - "Scoutrageous" got an 11% share compared to 9% for "Rock Follies of '77" on ITV. The least appealing instalment of the season was the highly topical "Punky Business", with an RI of 62.
Three shows from the run were sampled. "Dodonuts"'s panel of 234 gave it a "warm reception" although "it had not been one of the best". Apart from the usual criticisms of the script being "silly and juvenile" it was commented that "the violence seemed unpleasant rather than funny". The Goodies themselves were "superb" and although "the majority recognised each performer's talent, Bill Oddie was the clear favourite" (Bill getting the lion's share of that episode's narrative). However, the report concluded "A handful of viewers did not think the Goodies were as amusing or original as they used to be." The 231 people commenting on "Scoutrageous" found it "a very novel idea, funny and fast moving" while some felt "the Salvation Army and Boy Scout Movement were not suitable subjects for humour". "Strong point is their team work" remarked one viewer of the team's performance as they "excelled both as writers and performers". As usual, the "special effects are terrific". The usual objections for the 296 commenting on "Royal Command" was an objection to "The Goodies using the Royal Family as a target for comedy", but these were in the minority (although it seems the postponement was a good idea after all). However, "this week's script ideas appeared a little weaker than usual". In conclusion, the enthusiasm for a new series was not as strong as it had been in previous years; 38% were very enthusiastic while another 33% agreed that they wouldn't mind a new series. "There was definite feeling," concluded the report, "that other series had been better."
Again, there was little time lost before BBC1 aired the repeats - generally at 8.00pm on Fridays between February and March. If anything, the ratings here were healthier than for the last BBC1 repeat season at an average of 12.6 million. The hit of the run here though was a third broadcast of the 50s revival "Hype Pressure" - sandwiched in between Season Seven shows - which gained a healthy 14.3 million.
The BBC ceased doing their own audience research and ratings in 1979 when the ratings calculations methods were standardised and taken on board by the market research bureau BARB to finally eliminate the discrepancies and counter-claims between the BBC using their own figures and ITV who were using ratings generated by TAM. Thus, the final BBC documents cover the one-off BBC1 broadcast of "It Might As Well Be String" at 7.35pm one Tuesday in June 1978 (6.9 million and an excellent RI of 70) and the rather lacklustre performance of four episodes from Season Seven given another airing on various days at the start of BBC2's 1978 Autumn season to make up for the fact that no new episodes would be ready until the following year. Running at 9.00pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Friday, the highly variable audiences fluctuated from 2.2 million ("Punky Business") to 4.3 million (the previously low-rated "Dodonuts"). As it transpired, there would be no episodes of "The Goodies", first-run or repeats, airing during 1979.
Looking back at the figures - and particularly comparing them to current industry standards when anything over 9 million on BBC1 or ITV is a considered a runaway hit - it is fascinating to see how "The Goodies" attracted so many people into the backwaters of BBC2 when they were at their peak. Not even shows such as "The Young Ones" or "Red Dwarf" have achieved this sort of pulling power since. It serves to emphasise that the fact that "The Goodies" seems land-locked to the 1970s only mirrors the short-sightedness of the BBC in realising the full potential of such powerful archival material.
THE MAIN POINTS
Highest Rated BBC2 First-Run Episode: "Cunning Stunts" (14/4/75) - 12.0M
Highest Rated BBC1 Repeat: "The End" (15/12/75) - 15.2M
Highest Rated Goodies Broadcast: "A Christmas Night With The Stars" (25/12/72) - 18.9M
Highest Reaction Index BBC2 First-Run Episode: "The Goodies and the Beanstalk" (24/12/73) - 76
Lowest Rated BBC2 First-Run Episode: "Give Police A Chance" (22/11/70) - 0.9M
Lowest Rated BBC1 Repeat: "Give Police A Chance" (19/7/71) - 3.8M
Lowest Reaction Index BBC2 First-Run Episode: "Black and White Beauty" (12/10/76) - 58