1 9 7 5 – 1 9 7 8 (UK)
30 x 30 minute episodes
A nice, cosy, middle-class sitcom made in a time when nice, cosy, middle-class sitcoms were funny.
The premise was simple. Tom and Barbara Good, a nice middle-class couple from Surbiton, decide to give up the rat race and practice self-sufficiency (next door to their best friends the Ledbetters, Jerry and Margo).
Tom and Jerry had worked together at JJM Limited, a company that designs and makes novelty plastics (mainly the toys that go in breakfast cereal).
While they had started out together as draughtsmen, Jerry had worked himself into an executive management position while Tom was still languishing in the design room with employees half his age.
So on his 40th birthday he throws it all away and goes native with his lovely wife, Barbara (Felicity Kendal).
Much of the comedy centred on the relationship between Tom/Barbara and Margo/Jerry – Margo is a social-climber, involved with the Pony Club and amateur theatricals, longing to get- noticed by the “Right People”, while Barbara enjoys home life, gardening and the occasional night out with Tom.
Penelope Keith with her oxyacetylene voice encapsulated British middle-class snobbery as Margo Leadbetter, and there were hints at 70s style suburban wife-swapping with Jerry and Barbara in the kitchen and Margo and Tom in the other room. Surbiton swings like a pendulum do (although Kewferry Road in Northwood stood in for The Avenue, Surbiton).
The Goods’ comic problems with self-sufficiency inspired thousands to try to grow their own. Lawns everywhere were dug up, vegetables pushed out flowers, and goat-keeping was on the up. By 1980, the pursuit of the good life had resulted in a record number of 51,000 smallholdings in Britain.
When the Queen was asked in 1978 to help raise money for British athletes competing in the following year’s Commonwealth Games by picking a television programme she’d like to see being made with a specially invited audience, it surprised no one that she chose The Good Life.
The Good Life remained one of the BBC’s most popular shows for years. Two follow-up specials were recorded, and the series was re-run many times.
It enjoyed a healthy export life as well, particularly in Australia and in the US where it was broadcast on PBS under the title Good Neighbors due to the fact that there had been a (flop) home-grown comedy series called The Good Life on US network television back in 1971 with Larry Hagman and Donna Mills.