23 August 2002 | Sonatine97
The Good Life, Good Show!
The Good Life has been repeated many many times on the BBC ever since it first aired back in the mid to late 70s and for good reason too.
Back then Britain was going through years and years of industrial strikes culminating in 78/79 with the so-called "Winter Of Discontent" when National Strikes crippled the country. During the 70s there were many situations when most of the country had its power cut off for nights on end by striking energy workers.
Thus millions of families would be cast in darkness huddled round candles, talking or trying to read under the gloom. It also gave thought to our total independence on eletricity and the power it provides us at the simple flick of a switch.
And so The Good Life came to light (bad pun I know). However, the writers decided not to make a comedy about people suffering darkness at the hands of militants and strikers. Instead they decided on taking a typical middle-class couple into the realms of voluntary self-sufficiency.
So enter, Tom & Barbara, our selfless & willing guinea pigs who decide the rat race and huge bills is not a world for them. And for the next 4 years we seem them struggle & succeed in their attempts at going their own self-sufficiency way at the bemusements of their neighbours.
This kind of environmentalism was a relatively new concept to British audiences in the 70s and perhaps underlined why the show was such a great & enduring success. But it also raised lots of questions both for us the viewing audience and Tom & Barbara themselves.
Generating electricity is no easy thing as Tom found out when the Electricity Board finally cut their power for not paying their bills. Both Tom & Barbara had to adapt really quickly and get used to the idea that nothing was going to happen any more by simply clicking on a light switch, opening a fridge or turning on a tv.
All these creature comforts we take so much for granted are all gone for Tom & his wife. And trying to build his own little power generator in his celler using the effluent of his pigs to create some form of electricity not only makes for a great episode but also shows us how much hard work & self sacrifice is involved by going the Green Route.
Two major questions that surfaced during the show involved the keeping of animals in Tom's back garden and the hard work, noise, odours etc that this creates and the problems it causes to the neighbours; the difficult matter of having to kill their own chickens bare handed rather than simply going to the shops and buying frozen foods killed by other people.
Interestingly the Goods (Tom & Barbara) were childless which was probably intended by the writers otherwise the show could have suffered if children were involved.
As time went on some of the episodes looked very "samey" from earlier episodes and the laughs were becoming just a little desperate. So to learn that the series would finally end in 1978 was the right choice. Its always best to finish on top than try to stretch a joke too far.
Even though the topicality of the show was popular at the time, I don't think it set a trend with the British in reality. Self-sufficiency was good & funny providing someone else did it, but for the majority of the population it was just too damned hard to even contemplate.