The Good Life. Image shows from L to R: Margo Leadbetter (Penelope Keith), Tom Good (Richard Briers), Jerry Leadbetter (Paul Eddington), Barbara Good (Felicity Kendal). Copyright: BBC.

The Good Life

BBC One sitcom about a couple practicing self-sufficiency. 30 episodes (4 series), 1975 - 1978. Stars Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington.

When I'm 65 is repeated on Gold on Sunday at 8pm.

Series 3, Episode 3 - A Tug Of The Forelock

In order to pay for fuel for their new 'transportation' the Goods offer to work for the Leadbetters as cleaners while theirs are away. The arrangement does not operate smoothly as Margo has no time for the Goods sense of humour during work hours. However after a swift sacking and a drawn out rehiring, things improve.

Further details

Tom and Barbara struggle to wheel their cart - it is finally broken beyond repair. They set it down and sure enough, the wheels fall off and its load spills. Agreeing it is no longer practical to try to repair, Tom's attention is caught by Jerry in his garden performing the most incredible act. He is mowing his own lawn... poorly. They mock his efforts until he becomes hostile.

Bringing the load inside - which in this case is logs for the woodburner - they hear a knock at the door. It seems Margo has a crisis! Her vacuum is whistling and will no longer pick up dirt. Tom reaches for his tools but Barbara quickly diagnoses a full bag: Margo's cleaning lady is on holiday and has left Margo to fend for herself. In fact the Pearsons have both gone on holiday, hence Jerry's mowing the lawn. The Goods mock the snobbery displayed by Margo but she admits to not being one of "nature's little housewives".

Getting back to their transport problem, the Goods contemplate a new cart, but that still requires being pushed. Suddenly Tom remembers the engine in the largely unused rotary cultivator. He draws a diagram and plans how he could adapt it into something they could use for transport. Barbara points out that a regular expenditure on petrol cost could be prohibitive, but after a few calculations Tom reckons they could run it for as little as £30 a year. A bargain - if they had more than £1.28 in cash to their name! Barbara suggests swapping, but everything they have is already spoken for - and Tom is saving swapping her body for a rainy day! It suddenly dawns on them that they could take up the new workload that the Leadbetters have on offer...

Next door the Leadbetters are close to blows over the situation they find themselves in. As they start to fight Tom and Barbara interrupt, offering their services. Jerry pounces at the opportunity but Margo is unsure: she feels that ordering her friends about will be hard. Jerry, however, reminds her that the normal cleaners are not back for almost a month. She quickly agrees and delivers a long list of jobs within seconds.

Tom is in the shed. Barbara enters and tears a cardboard box to shreds in seconds in a vent of frustration. It seems Margo's unrealistic expectations and demanding manner has brought her to breaking point. Tom on the other hand has been left alone by Margo and is working on his adaptation to the cultivator. Barbara asks if they can use it to flatten Margo upon completion but Tom says no. She continues to moan but Tom is unsympathetic. Just then Margo appears and coolly instructs Tom that he is running behind schedule, before gliding out as quietly as she entered. He is momentarily outraged before running out of the shed to get to work!

Margo is scrutinising Barbara's work in the sitting room, and identifying numerous faults. Jerry returns from work to find her with a lot on her mind; it seems the Goods have been up to no good. Barbara made silhouettes on the projector during a meeting of the Surbiton Ladies Conservative Association and Tom leered in through the window at Mrs Hornsby. Jerry of course finds the whole thing hysterical, while Margo is outraged at the behaviour. The Goods enter from the garden. Jerry fakes annoyance with them and they pretend to be subjugated farm workers in return, affecting drawling west-country accents, bowing and curtsying to their superiors. They have come to complain that they haven't had any "wages in ages". The ridicule is turned on Margo but she can't handle it and runs off in dismay.

Some time later Margo is tossing salad in the kitchen with particular vigour. Tom and Barbara enter to try and make amends but she is very snappy and clearly genuinely upset. Tom knows that they like to joke but also knows her expectations. He suggests trying to find a compromise. Margo dismisses his idea however, as she has her own suggestion. They inquire as to what it is and are swiftly sacked!

Barbara enters the shed and turns away to cry. Tom follows and asks her not to - in fact she is laughing at the idea of Margo giving them the sack. Covering up the now finished, modified rotary cultivator, they turn to retire for an early night but Jerry appears to show that there are no hard feelings on his part and to pay them for their work. Enquiring as to what was so important that the Goods actually broke their self-sufficient ethos to earn money, they unveil their new creation. Jerry is hardly bowled over but does seem quietly impressed - until he asks how much the insurance and road tax cost. Tom clearly has overlooked these rather major details! Jerry laughs mockingly and departs.

Margo is in her sitting room attempting to clean. When the Goods declare themselves, she's strangely happy to see them. It seems that today they are friends whereas yesterday they were servants, and so there is no more hostility. When Tom understands this he tries to rock the boat again by asking to switch back to employee, but she wastes little time in refusing the notion. Barbara pleads their case by saying that they are reformed characters and will do the job "sensibly faced" this time, causing Tom to laugh at exactly the wrong moment. Margo again dismisses even the slightest possibility of re-hiring them. But Barbara is determined and reminds her of the size of the house, arguing that cleaning it will leave her with very little time for social functions. Her buttons pressed, Margo is finally broken and agrees to their reemployment. Tom asks for three weeks' wages up front; Margo looks scandalised but hands over the money, saying that any poor behaviour and she will expect it all back. The three have sherry to celebrate. Tom notices the time and heads out to the garden whilst Margo instructs Barbara that she'd like her to start with polishing. She gets to work, with Margo overseeing every stroke she makes.

Later, Jerry and Margo leave their house as they plan to drive to the pub. They call over the wall to Tom and Barbara, asking if they would like to join them. The pair oblige but say they will drive in their own vehicle. When Margo finally sees it she instructs Jerry to "drive on", he tells Margo that the Goods don't know the way - once again she instructs him to "drive on"!

Broadcast details

Friday 24th September 1976
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Richard Briers Tom Good
Felicity Kendal Barbara Good
Penelope Keith Margo Leadbetter
Paul Eddington Jerry Leadbetter
Writing team
John Esmonde Writer
Bob Larbey Writer
Production team
John Howard Davies Director
John Howard Davies Producer

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