To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the very first episode of The Good Life appearing on BBC1, we thought we’d take a look back at this uber lovable sitcom and its characters.
I remember watching The Good Life with my mum back in the late ‘70s and loving it, even though back then, I didn’t understand some of humour, and it’s still as relevant and funny today as it was then.
Just in case you live on Mars and have never seen it, here’s what it’s all about…
The show was the brainchild of writing collaborators John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, who, on Larbey’s 40th birthday, got to discussing what it might be like to leave the ‘rat race.’
This inspired the pair to pin a sitcom about a couple who do just that, and The Good Life was born.
Set in suburban London, the story’s central character is Tom Good who, like Larbey, contemplates his life on his 40th birthday. He becomes enamoured of the idea of self-sufficiency and a sixties-style dropping out from mainstream society.
After retuning from his work as a draughtsman – designing plastic toys for cereal boxes – he puts the idea to his wife Barbara, who, in the pitch black of night, dons her wellies and goes into the garden to think…
When she returns, the childless couple decide to give the self-sufficiency lifestyle a go, and it’s at this point that the sitcom really took off.
Their neighbours are the easy-going Jerry and the snobby social climbing Margo. They’re friends as well as neighbours, but Tom and Barbara’s plans for turning their garden into a small-holding do not go down well…
The rest of the show – it aired in four series – was about the trials and tribulations faced by Tom and Barbara, and the long-suffering neighbours Jerry and Margo. It culminated in a live performance on 10th June 1978 with the final episode, entitled, “When I’m Sixty-Five”, being a Royal Command Performance played in front of The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and senior BBC management.
Originally, it’s believed that Esmonde and Larbey considered Peter Bowles for the role of Jerry and Hannah Gordon for the role of Barbara, however, Bowles was “unavailable” and Gordon was ruled out because she’d had a starring role in a similar production so Esmonde and Larbey chose Felicity Kendal instead.
The writers had seen both Kendal and Penelope Keith when they starred together in the stage play, The Norman Conquests, and admired the chemistry between them. In fact, of all the actors in the show, only Richard Briers – who of course played Tom Good – was known to the general viewing public already.
The show was of course the launch pad for the subsequently very successful careers of all the main protagonists. Each has gone on to star in a variety of films, sitcoms and TV dramas as well as theatre work. All are surviving except Paul Eddington – who played Jerry – who sadly died at his home in November 1995. He was 68 when he died and had been battling cancer.
However, before they all went off and did their own thing, they made 30 glorious episodes of the show, and fans will be chuffed to hear that the BBC are about to release the whole shebang on DVD. You can in fact pre-order it now. Just click on the image below or click here… The Good Life – Complete Series 1
So finally, here’s a clip from my most favourite episode, the 1977 Christmas special, ‘Silly, But It’s Fun’