The Series: An Overview
Over the years, thanks to various PBS stations, I've come to love a number of British comedy series and characters, from the wild zaniness of The Goodies to the aristocratic Audrey fforbes-Hamilton of To the Manor Born to indolent Dave Lister on Red Dwarf. However, none of them yet have matched the sweetness-
The Good Life came along somewhere in the very late seventies for me, capturing my interest from the very first episode. Besides the sheer incongruity of the situationa middle-class couple trying to practice self-sufficiency on their suburban lotthe lead characters were people I would have been pleased to know: to watch Tom make his plants grow, to have a cup of tea with Barbara and perhaps help her with a chore (and giggle over Margo's latest foible). I always hoped when I was married, my relationship with my husband would be even half as wonderful as the Goods.
For those of you unlucky to never have seen the series, the premise is simple: Tom and Barbara Good are an average couple who live in a quiet neighborhood in Surbiton, a suburb of London, directly next door to their best friends the Ledbetters, Jerry (Jeremy) and Margo. Tom and Jerry work together at JJM Limited, a company that designs and makes novelty plastics (mainly the toys that go in breakfast cereal packets). The couples are an interesting study in contrasts: while both Jerry and Tom started out at the company as draughtsmen, Jerry has worked himself into an executive position, while Tom, still longing to use his skills on something important, languishes in the design room with neophyte employees half his age. Margo and Barbara are both housewives, but Margo is a social-climber, involved with the Pony Club and amateur theatricals, longing not so much to fill her life as to Get Noticed by the Right People while Barbara enjoys home life, gardening, the occasional night out with Tom.
All this changes on Tom's 40th birthday, when he realizes he is getting older and his life is going nowhere. He voices his concernand his solution: for both of them to use their skills to become self-sufficient, growing their own crops and providing their own living from what they can cobble upand to his surprise Barbara agrees.
These events come to pass in the first episode; what follows are the adventures of the Goods as they set up and seek to maintain their alternative lifestyle, to the horror of Margo and the eternal amusement of Jerry.
The Good Life remained one of the BBC's most popular shows for years, even after it completed its run of 28 episodes. Two followup specials were done, and the series was rerun several times, a rarity at the Beeb. It enjoyed a healthy export life as well.
The producer of the series was John Howard Davies and the music was done by Burt Rhodes.
The Series' American Title Change
While the series was always known in Great Britain as The Good Life (an obvious pun on the title characters' surname), when it was brought to the the United States it was retitled Good Neighbors (retaining the pun, thankfully). This was due to the fact that there had been a well-publicized but flop series called The Good Life on U.S. network television back in 1971, about Albert and Jane Miller, a husband and wife (played by Larry Hagman and Donna Mills) who also chucked the rat-race lifebut to become a butler and maid to a wealthy household. Based on the book by Douglass Wallop (who also wrote the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, basis for the musical Damn Yankees), this series co-starred David Wayne, Hermoine Baddelly, and Danny Goldman.
Click on a character's name to find out more about them
(other credits from the Internet Movie Database)
|Tom Good||.....Richard Briers||.....(other credits)|
|Barbara Good||.....Felicity Kendal||.....(other credits)|
|Jerry Ledbetter||.....Paul Eddington||.....(other credits)|
|Margo Ledbetter||.....Penelope Keith||.....(other credits)|
|"Sir" (Andrew or Andy) ||.....Reginald Marsh||.....(other credits)|
|Other Series Characters|
Occasional appearances only
Series 1 . . . Series 2 . . . Series 3 . . . Series 4 . . . Specials
If the series is coming up in your area and you are seeing it for the first time, please note that this episode guide will contain spoilers.
Videos: BBC Video released at least three videotapes of The Good Life for American consumption, which means it is under the title Good Neighbors. There are three episodes per volume. The episodes contained in the first volume (the only one I have seen) are "Backs to the Wall" (final episode of first series), "The Wind-Break War" (third series), and the Christmas special "Silly, But It's Fun...".
DVDs: Acorn Media now has all four series and the specials of this series released to DVD.
|The Good Life/Good Neighbors is the property of the British Broadcasting Corporation and John Esmonde and Bob Larbey. This is a fan page. No copyright infringment is intended. Any opinions stated are my own and do not reflect the thoughts of the creators or producers.|