Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Football and Comedy: The Goodies (1982)

Football and comedy: two worlds that only usually collide whenever someone employs Joe Kinnear, yet hidden away in the depths of our psyche are images and memories we've harvested from decades spent watching the television.

Though we may have forgotten by now, the world of football has featured in many of our favourite comedy TV programmes. Sometimes a mere passing reference (no pun intended) is all we've needed while at other times nothing less than a full blown tribute to the beautiful game was provided for our viewing pleasure.

And that's why The Football Attic feels it necessary to begin this new series where we highlight these funny football memories from the past, no matter how slight or unfunny they may be. To start off, we bring you a bumper post highlighting an entire episode of The Goodies which is jam-packed full of football references from start to finish.

You can watch the video below, and if you'd like your experience enhanced further still, we've provided a few things to look out for in the listing further down this page. (Oh, and a warning: Some of the language used during this episode is a little... how shall we say... 'of its era'?)

The opening titles beckon the start of series 9, episode 3 of The Goodies. This series was the only one to be shown on ITV (London Weekend Television specifically) and our featured episode was originally broadcast on 16 January 1982.

During its 12-year run on British TV, The Goodies had several different variations on their theme tune, and if I'm honest this is probably my favourite. Not that you needed to know that or anything.

Our first sight of football and, if we're not mistaken, it's some grainy stock footage of the 1976 FA Cup Final between Southampton and Manchester United.

A nice use of some replica Admiral Southampton away kits on the actors there. Of course there's no disguising the fact that this spliced into the original stock footage, but hey ho...

Our first sight of The Goodies' flat, and there's Tim Brooke-Taylor showing support for his favourite club in real life, Derby County. Then we catch sight of the opening titles to The Big Match, such as they were at the time, but connoisseurs will note that the music doesn't match up to the graphics. The reason for that, we suppose, is that this footage is taken from a 1986 VHS release featuring this episode and one other from series 9. Presumably Jeff Wayne wouldn't allow his excellent theme tune to be used at the time, but at least we can confirm the issue was put right on subsequent DVD releases of this episode.

Yes, it's the warmest of welcomes to Fred Dinenage, occasional understudy for Dickie Davies on World of Sport and here a more than capable stand-in for Brian Moore. To his credit, Dinenage plays it absolutely straight, telling it like it is - or at least how it was back in the early 1980's. References to Manchester United's entire supporters club being arrested and Chelsea 'hitting six, punching twelve and strangling four' were funny yet satirically reflected the poor state of football in Britain at the time, as the episode goes on to explain...

Fans of The Goodies will know that their favourite show has a rich tradition of sending up TV commercials that stretches way back to the early 1970's. This time the target was a commercial for Barbican alcohol-free beer, one of several fronted by former Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy (and here's another). Graeme Garden does an excellent impersonation of Gateshead-born McMenemy, finishing off with a wonderful punchline and comedy pass-out that was so good it made its way into the show's opening titles.

Who better to report on the growing violent tendencies among football's elite supporters than mild-mannered Kenneth Wolstenholme. Here he is talking to 'Twerp of the Month' Bill Oddie who brilliantly adopts the phraseology of the modern footballer to great effect ("I dunno, I just seem to be getting them right at the moment, Ken...")

A lovely bit of interplay between Tim Brooke-Taylor and himself on the TV screen where his alter ego appears as a Chief of Police, intent on ridding football of its hooliganism...

...and to that end Tim removes his football supporter's gear to reveal his Chief of Police uniform. Frustratingly for Brooke-Taylor, his outer garb is taking a long time to remove, so Tim ad libs his way through the sequence with the occasional "Hang on" and "Wait for it" to keep the audience amused.

A nice reference to the football kit designs of the early 80's. "Look at those shirts" says Tim. "In the old days they didn't have silk shirts. No, they had rough hessian shirts - with collars. Yes, I said collars, but they don't have collars nowadays, oh no. They have plunging necklines..." I'm not sure collars actually had died out by that stage, but the observations made in the dialogue are nonetheless delightfully written.

Once again we see some location footage taken at a football ground somewhere... but exactly where is it? The answer: Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace. There are the terraces upon which Bill stands in his thug persona, and onto the pitch run our traditionally dressed players. Tim Brooke-Taylor provides the commentary, perfectly mimicking the newsreel films of the wartime era.

Part Two of the show begins with Graeme Garden in traditional 'mad scientist' mode using Subbuteo to test the effects of watching football on some unsuspecting mice in the stands. A great setup you've got there, Graham - not sure about that playing technique though...

Having converted to the supposedly safe pastime of watching ballet, we're treated to new opening titles for The Big Match complete with David Ordini's theme tune, 'La Soiree', and updated logo. Graeme Garden this time impersonates Brian Moore ('- or Less')

Over at Covent Garden, the match is about to begin between Aston Villa (featuring Wayne Sleep) and Cricklewood, the latter featuring Garden, Oddie and three men bearing a striking resemblance to Kevin Keegan, Pele and Johann Cruyff.

A Big Match-style caption provides us with the half-time score, then it's Graeme Garden x 3 thanks to some split-screen jiggery-pokery. Having already given us his Moore-than-capable depiction of the Big Match presenter, we then see him impersonating pundits Brian Clough and Tommy Docherty with some aplomb.

A small detail it might be, but why is the old guy in the ballet crowd wearing an Ipswich Town rosette?

Listen out for some fruity narration from Garden: "Are we going to see Sleep's famous banana as he tries to bend it round the wall?"

A lovely little sequence here as Garden plays the dying swan, and a dying swan with a floppy arm and an itch, at that...

The game ends as a draw, so penalties are required. But what's this? The players themselves are being thrown into the net starting with Pele, but not before some more fruity narration from Garden who tells us that the Brazilian legend "usually goes to the left."

Unfortunately for Cricklewood, Pele's body crosses the line but his head doesn't, so it's no goal. (A case for goal-line technology if ever we saw one...?)

Wayne Sleep in goal deals capably with Cruyff but he's unable to stop Bill Oddie who fully crosses the line and claims a moral victory for Cricklewood.

Funny game, ballet...


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