Friday, 14 March 2014

TV Series Review: The Good Life

Mr Click bought The Good Life for me last birthday and it was a proper surprise. It's a series we would occasionally watch when it was on TV and one which I'd always found funny when I was younger but it was never one that I'd actually watched all the way through, in order, before.

For anyone not familiar with the series, which was known as Good Neighbours in America, it's about two couples living in Surbiton in the 70s. They live right next door to each other with Tom and Jerry (yes, really) working together at the same firm; that is, until the night of Tom's fortieth birthday when he decides he doesn't want to do that any more and embarks on a self-sufficient lifestyle with his wife Barbara, much to the chagrin of neighbours Jerry and Margo.

What I remembered of this show from my youth was that it was about a funny couple with lots of animals in their garden having all sorts of funny disasters but generally coming out on top. As an adult I realise that this assessment is fairly accurate with the exception of one little point; there is a whole lot of sexual innuendo that went completely over my head as a child. At times it is quite hilariously smutty.

In a way this series is the precursor to more modern series, like Friends, dealing with the relationships between groups of people. A lot of the comedy comes from the way that the characters bounce off one another; I particularly love the way that Margo, the uptight posh one, always ends up saying or doing things that leads to the others laughing at her. Of course a lot of the time the things the Goods do to get by in their new lifestyle are hilarious as well, like adapting their rotary cultivator when they no longer have a car.

The box set I have is the complete four series. It was a bit of a surprise that there were only four series as I rarely remember seeing the same episode twice. One exception is the one where they go out to dinner and are discussing how much money they have, a whole £50, which enables them to pay all their bills and still have some left over. I think the episodes I'd seen before were mainly from the third series and those ones are easily my favourites.

My absolute favourite episode is The Wind-Break War, the fifth episode of the third series. After a falling out between the two couples over the positioning of an arbour in the Leadbetter's garden they make it up over the Good's homemade pea pod wine. This results in everyone getting thoroughly and utterly sloshed, with very funny results.

I think it's aged really well overall, with the exception of comments about money and the things they can buy with it. The whole self-sufficiency thing has become popular again in the last few years and so a lot of the jokes are still kind of relevant. Plus a lot of the comedy comes from the fact that it's about the interactions of two couples with very different personalities and outlooks on life so most of the jokes just don't get old.

This box set also includes the two special episodes, one from Christmas 1977 and the other being the Royal Command Performance. Ironically we watched the latter on the day when Penelope Keith was awarded her DBE; it was kind of funny to see her meeting the Queen over thirty years ago after seeing her on the news doing the same thing that day. There are some special features which I've not actually explored yet but which I'm definitely going to go back to watch.

The series are so short, as is the whole series, that I think this'll be a good bit of TV to dip and out of when I don't feel like watching a whole film but want a quick burst of something funny. I'm going to miss watching this whilst I'm watching my tea, but we've got The Two Ronnies Complete Collection up next, which I'm sure will give us just as many laughs.


  1. "Well thank you very much Jerry, that's the last time I play the tart for you"

    Love The Good Life. Brilliant writing, the perfect cast and a great situation.

    I'm currently watching Esmonde and Larby's Ever Decreasing Circles with Briers on BBC4 Thursdays evenings, another favourite of mine growing up. It's still as funny as it ever was, just like The Good Life

    1. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to watching it again and again. It's a shame that there were only four series.

      I've never really seen Ever Decreasing Circles but I'll have to give it a go some time as well.


Let me know what you think. :-)