The Good Life: British classic TV show
The Good Life was shown in the United States as Good Neighbors
This mild and for-the-masses television sitcom was elevated from being a simple bland crowd-pleaser thanks to one character, Margot Leadbetter played by the most magnificent Penelope Keith.
She makes the program as funny today as it was when it was first shown in the 1970s. The complete series is now available on DVD.
The simple plot centers on two married couple who live next door to each other. The two husbands both worked for the same firm until one of them, Tom, decided to leave the rat-race, give up his regular monthly salary and turn his suburban garden into a small-holding to support himself and his wife.
Margot is appalled
The couples live in a moderately wealthy area in an 'avenue' of pleasant homes. Margot is a social climber who could almost have been the inspiration for Hyacinth Bucket (sorry, Bouquet). Suddenly, the quiet suburban garden to the side of her home is growing food and playing host to pigs and chickens. How appalling.
Viewers loved the snooty character
I imagine that when this series was first developed it was intended to show the trials and tribulations of the couple who were attempting self-sufficiency in the suburbs and indeed that is the basis of many episodes. But the character of Margot, who was a relatively minor character in the first few episodes was expanded and grew until she was the main attraction. To this day, someone who is being snooty might be accused of 'doing a Margot'.
The timing was right
Ecology and sustainability were issues that had quite recently been in the news thanks to Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, who was considered by many to be 'the loony prince' because of his encouragement of these matters. That was no doubt in the minds of the producers of this series when it was developed but audiences didn't really care about the pigs,the chickens and the carrot crops - we just loved Margot.
She didn't 'cook', she 'prepared meals'
Always very precise in her vocabulary, and despite the fact that her fellow actors were much-loved, she stole the show. The character of her husband was just a little too laconic. The self-sufficient Tom next door was just a tad too manic and his wife Barbara just a touch too cute and perky. We tuned in to see Margot.
A British institution
This classic sitcom became a part of our history and culture.
In fact, The Good Life was used as a symbol of typical establishment stereotyping in a rant by Vyvyan in The Young Ones (see the video below) which was made in the mid-eighties.
He says that it is just too 'bloody nice' and many of us would agree - but Penelope Keith saved the day and made this show into a delight to watch.
See Margot in action in The Good Life in the video below. See how she deals with 'the trade'.
Oh, that was so good.Let's have another.
In the clip below, Tom and Barbara have asked Jerry to 'babysit' their troublesome generator whilst they go to collect wood for fuel.
Margo, who can't abide the thought of being idle, comes to the house to find Jerry. Her quote - the very last line in the video below - is just pure and delightful Margo.
This is just way too much fun. In the clip below, Margo shows that yes, she is human after all.
In this episode of The Young Ones Vyvyan tells us EXACTLY what he thinks of The Good Life. Remember this is British so there's a bit of a profanity alert.
From this point on, Penelope Keith, who became a household name, was best known for her 'snooty lady' parts. In this, she plays a very similar character. This was also made in the nineteen-seventies, a couple of years after The Good Life.
What a treat this is for lovers of British comedy, especially those of us who love the social-climber characters and the bizarre situations their attitudes create. This is a complete treat as it contains every episode.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson