Thursday 30 November 2023

A Mirror Into Society: The Good Life 1975 Series

Mentioning this archetypal film, The Good Life, brings smiles to many British Sitcom fans of the 1970s. The movie was developed by expert comedy writers Bob Larbey and John Esmonde, who wrote other series, including Ever Decreasing Circles and Please Sir. The Good Life featured characters like Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Richard Biers and Paul Eddington.

The sitcom consisted of 30-minute episodes, including two specials and four-episode seasons. Two things influenced the development of the show:

  • Jimmy Gilbert's desire to find a space for Richard Biers and his promotion to the leadership of comedy at BBC.
  • Esmonde and Larbey's conversation about middle age, as they were at that time approaching 40.

Far-Reaching Influence

Amazingly, TV shows continue to influence different areas of life. A good example is the online casino industry, where gambling platforms use the popularity of these shows as a basis for slot game themes. Slots like The Godfather are usually crafted around favourite TV shows to immerse players on a different level. Further, movies and shows can represent different societal themes, forming a basis for raising awareness.

In the Good Life show, Esmonde and Larbey craft a story of a man who, at 40, was employed at a job he didn't like and was miserable but decided to start a new life. After thinking through what kind of life such a character would desire, the writers ended in self-sufficiency. The two writers presented the idea to Jimmy Gilbert, who liked it and later approached Richard Biers, who would feature as Tom Good in the series. After a successful collaboration, the writers produced a pilot episode, which they forwarded to the Controller of BBC-1 for approval.  

The Set Up

Life is approaching 40, and Tom Good doesn't seem to be satisfied with the achievements he has made so far. It's been eight years working for JJM Limited with his friend, Jerry Leadbetter, who seems to excel while Tom is lost in ever-increasing discontentment. After taking stock of his life, Tom is tired of commuting daily, doing a job he dislikes and receiving little pennies as a salary. He, therefore, quits his job and tries a self-sufficient life in a suburb, Surbiton.

Good receives unwavering support from his wife, Barbara, although he is indifferent to her feelings. Even though he showcases determination and courage, Tom is cultured in obstinacy and chauvinism. However, this does not stop Barbra from quitting her secure job to support her husband's dreams. This sitcom takes a different approach as it uses harmony as its plot, contrary to most TV shows' prevalent thought of conflict.

In the suburb, the Goods have a different neighbouring couple: Jerry and Margo Leadbetter. Jerry is hard working and has to beat the traffic of daily commutes to offer Margo the life she is used to. Contrary to Barbra, who's very supportive, Margo is pretty awful, with humourlessness, snobbishness and intolerance. Thanks to her spouse, Margo can live a luxurious life while staying at home and caring for the house. 

Margo appears to be controlling and determines the direction of their life, while Jerry keeps her happy. Jerry is neurotic because of his responsibilities and envies his neighbours' achievements. Although the show begins as a vehicle for Biers, the Leadbetters become stars in their own right in later episodes. 

In summary, the Good Life is a prime display of the real-life experiences of people seeking self-sufficiency. The humour combines inoffensive and warming storylines to express the core battles that individuals have to conquer to enjoy the best of life.