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Series / The Good Life

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This is the life...
"Mozart and Mendelssohn were dead by forty. Why aren't you?"
The opening line from the first episode (Tom reading the dedication from a birthday card).

1975 Brit Com about a married couple, Tom and Barbara Good (Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal), who decide to give up the rat race and become completely self-sufficient.

On his 40th birthday, Tom Good gives up his job as a draughtsman in a company that makes plastic toys for boxes of breakfast cereal. Their house is paid for, so he and his wife decide to live a sustainable, simple and self-sufficient lifestyle while staying in their home in Surbiton. They dig up their gardens and convert them into allotments, growing fruit and vegetables. They buy chickens, pigs, a goat and a rooster. The Goods generate their own electricity, attempt to make their own clothes, and barter for essentials which they cannot make themselves.

Their actions horrify their conventional, and conventionally materialistic, next-door neighbors, Margo and Jerry Leadbetter (Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington). Well, they horrify Margo. Tom's friend and former colleague Jerry is mostly just bemused. Hilarity Ensues. Notable for being a sitcom about sustainability before sustainability was a common topic of discussion.

Came ninth in Britains Best Sitcom. Also famous for Vyvyan's passionate rant about how much he hates it in The Young Ones.

Known as Good Neighbors in the US, because NBC had an unrelated one season series also called The Good Life a couple years before.

This program provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: 'Sir' seems convinced that Tom's name is 'Tim', and everyone is either too polite or too obsequious to correct him. The few attempts that are made to correct him just result in confusion, as 'Sir' asks who 'Tom' is. However, in the final episode 'Sir' admits that it's "...a bit of a habit. Call people by their wrong name - puts them at a disadvantage, old executive ploy."
  • Acting Unnatural: In one episode, Tom and Barbara think Margo is having an affair. When Jerry walks in, Tom tells Barbara to 'be natural'. They then both stand to attention and grin like idiots.
  • The Alleged Car: In series 3 episode "A Tug At The Forelock" Tom decides to build his own, powered by the engine from the rotary cultivator, as an alternative to the (less economical but more sensible) horse Barbara got from the coal-man, who was upgrading to motor power. Despite Jerry's quizzing them on the lack of tax and insurance, its general roadworthiness is not brought up in that episode.
  • Almost Famous Name: One episode revolves around Tom and Barbara being interviewed by a newspaper that turns out, after they've told everyone they know, to be a low-circulation local paper (outside the region they live in) with a similar name to the famous national paper they thought they would be appearing in.
  • Arrow Cam: At least one episode includes an example of 'Goat Cam': "Geraldine! Kill!"
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: For all their bickering, Jerry and Margo do genuinely care for each other. Margo always backs Jerry to the hilt when he's in serious trouble, and Jerry is quick to defend her when someone else is having a go at her.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After their row in "The Last Posh Frock", Barbara picks up a full gravy boat. The audience and Tom both react expecting that she'll dump it over him. Instead, she calmly pours it all over herself to show him how he's made her feel—like a slovenly thing that doesn't even count as a woman, it's so incapable of being attractive.
  • Billed Above the Title: "Richard Briers in The Good Life". Briers had been playing sitcom leads for over a decade when he was offered the role of Tom, while Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington were primarily known for their stage work. note 
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word:
    • Margo says almost exactly this line (minus "such") to her choir mistress in the series 1 episode "The Pagan Rite" regarding the fact that she, not the choir mistress, is the one baking gingerbread cookies for the meetings.
    • She uses the same line about the word "deceit" when Tom and Barbara accuse her of lying to Jerry in "The Green Door" (under the mistaken impression that she's having an affair).
    • Tom tries to substitute acquire for steal with regards to the unused oil left in the tank of a neighbor who's moved out.
  • Butt-Monkey: Margo - Deconstructed in one episode, where she tipsily pours her heart out about being fully aware of this trope ever since she was in school:
    Margo: I never understood jokes... so I became the butt of them.
  • Catchphrase: "Thank you very much, Jerry!" "Jerry... the chequebook!"
  • Character Signature Song: Tom habitually whistles the bridge from "Over the Rainbow".
  • Chekhov's Gun: The mention of recent break-ins in the finale episode. Margo and Jerry's new burglar alarm provides humor, but it comes back very seriously in the final few minutes.
  • Christmas Episode: In 1977's "Silly, But It's Fun", the Leadbetters' Christmas is ruined when they fail to receive an order that they returned (the Christmas Tree was too short, you see), so the Goods invite them to celebrate Christmas with them.
  • Commonality Connection: Harry Bennett stole some of Tom's leeks in "The Day Peace Broke Out", but the two became friends due to their shared interest in cricket.
  • Continuity Nod: A few. The show has pretty good continuity, in particular in limiting Tom and Barbara's wardrobe. In "The Day Peace Broke Out", Barbara mentions Tom missing a chicken when trying to shoot it, which occurred in "Say Little Hen...".
  • Contrived Coincidence: Margo and Jerry go on holiday, Tom injures his back and a freak storm hits Surbiton the week the Goods need to get their first harvest in at the end of series one.
  • Coupled Couples: Tom and Barbara, and Jerry and Margo.
  • Courtroom Episode: "The Day Peace Broke Out".
  • Deadpan Snarker: The whole cast, but Jerry in particular.
    • After ‘Sir’ calls Tom Tim yet again, he asks Barbara to remind him of her name and, deadpan, she replies Fatima - an Eastern name that would have been highly unlikely to be borne by a Briton of European descent in the 1970s. ‘Sir’ rolls with it.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Some of the Goods' plans wind up like this. Tom's attempt to sell surplus vegetables falls flat when he's run off by other veg-sellers and doesn't have the quantity needed to sell to restaurants (they switch to fruits the next year, which do turn them a small profit), the insurance and road tax problem with the rotary cultivator (which means they have to go back to being Margo's housekeepers again).
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The rowdy young men in the remand home that Barbara speaks at are all uncharacteristically quiet and attentive when she's on stage... not because they find the topic of self-sufficiency interesting, but because they don't want her to leave a patch of sunlight that makes her dress see-through.
  • Drama Queen: Margo. Becomes a disastrous combination with The Prima Donna when the amateur dramatics society does The Sound of Music. She's a wreck before the show even has a chance to go wrong.
  • Earth Mother: Barbara Good, who is frequently an Unkempt Beauty.
  • Eccentric Exterminator: In "Whose Fleas Are These?", Tom and Barbara have an outbreak of fleas at their house which is treated by professional "disinfestation" expert P.V. Bulstrode, who freely declares that he loves his work, his family having been in the insect business since the bubonic plague was sweeping across Britain.note  He gains entry into the house by pretending to be an encyclopaedia salesman (explaining to a confused Tom that his customers find it less embarrassing for the neighbours to overhear), and sings merrily to himself as he puts a flea Tom has been keeping in a jar under a microscope.
  • Emotions Versus Stoicism: A couple of episodes revolve around this. Emotion usually wins.
    • "Home Sweet Home": Tom decides they should move to a farm and Barbara tries to support him because there are very sensible arguments for it, even though she's very attached to the house. Tom soon realizes that he doesn't want to leave either, but he tries to let Barbara take all the blame when she confesses. (When Jerry lets slip that Tom was pining as well, she throws an egg at him.)
    • "The Happy Event": When their sow gives birth to a runt, Tom is all for letting it die because that's what you do with runts. Barbara is not happy with how "[his] efficiency has become [his] god" and the Leadbetters are disgusted with the callousness. Ends up with an emergency run to the hospital for some oxygen, with the help of a constable.
  • The Engineer: Tom, an excellent draftsman, is very good at building (and occasionally inventing) machinery and gadgets for the house and garden, from an effluence digester to an oxygen tent for a piglet.
  • Epic Fail: Tom tries to shoot a chicken with an air pistol. He misses from six inches away. On the other hand he does scare it into (finally) laying an egg!
  • Epunymous Title: It's about "the good life," i.e. a meaningful life living off the land, but also, the Goods and their life.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Jerry's (and formerly Tom's) boss Andrew is often referred to as "Sir", even in the third person.
  • Everything's Messier with Pigs: Particularly when they dig their way into Margo's garden.
  • Fair-Weather Friend: After he's unceremoniously fired, Jerry finds all his contacts in the business don't want a thing to do with him.
    "You know, Tom and Barbara are the only real friends we've got. Pity they don't have any money or power."
  • The Gadfly: Tom enjoys winding up the class-conscious and soft-living Leadbetters, such as when he mock-commiserates with Margo over her housekeeper and gardener vacationing for a month and drags her into a conversation about how terrible it is that people feel financially secure these days and need a little fear of poverty to keep them in line.
  • Gargle Blaster: Tom's home-made "peapod burgundy"; one episode features the foursome getting plastered on it.
    Tom: It's hurting the back of my eyes!
  • George Jetson Job Security: In the Series 2 episode "Mutiny" Jerry is fired by "Sir" for telling him his Dutch colleague cannot stay at his house because Margo is performing in The Sound of Music that evening. When Tom confronts "Sir" over Jerry's firing, "Sir" explains that the firing was temporary, and was intended to shake Jerry out of thinking that he is irreplaceable.
  • The Ghost: A number of Margo's acquaintances, including Miss Mountshaft of the music society, are talked about regularly but are never seen.
  • Godwin's Law: In "Pig's Lib":
    Mr Carter: No threats, I just want to have a chat.
    Tom: That's what Hitler said at Munich.
  • Happily Married: Both couples fight — Jerry and Margo constantly — but have very strong relationships.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jerry, although he doesn't hesitate to put his foot down when needs be.
  • Ho Yay: In-universe example. Tom and Jerry make a few jokey comments about being married to each other.
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: Traditional version in the Christmas Special but the Goods have a habit of wearing their own home-made clothes as well.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A staple. Often it will be Barbara or Tom dismissing the other's anger / frustration, a few pertinent lines of dialogue, and then becoming just as outraged. That, or one of them expressing an opinion and the other dismissing it until the other acts like they're the one who came up with it.
  • Innocent Innuendo:
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Margo was not kicked out of the music society, she resigned!
    • When Jerry refers to the amount of "crawling" he has to do to get Sir's job, Margo says "You don't crawl, you maneuver."
  • It's All About Me: Tom strays into this occasionally, doing things without regard to Barbara's or his neighbours' feelings and causing the problem of the episode. Richard Briers has said he didn't find Tom very likable because of this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Margo. She may be stuck-up, but she isn't afraid to apologise when she's wrong, and she does genuinely care about her friend Barbara even if she is condescending.
  • Kick the Dog: In the Series 4 finale, "Anniversary", the Goods' home is burgled and instead of leaving when they couldn't find anything worth stealing they proceed to completely vandalise the interior of the house - even going as far as to rip up Tom's birthday card. The look on Barbara's face should tell you all you need to know about how pointless it was.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Averted; both couples have active sex lives, and neither has or desires children. In one episode Jerry comments sardonically that he and Margo use so much protection they barely touch.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Justified Trope. Tom and Barbara sold the majority of their clothes because they needed the money.
  • Malicious Misnaming: In the final episode, 'Sir' finally calls Tom by his correct name instead of Tim. He admits that it's just "...a bit of a habit. Call people by their wrong name - puts them at a disadvantage, old executive ploy."
  • Manchild: Tom, who often has a twelve-year-old boy's sense of enthusiasm (and humor, to Margo's chagrin).
  • Market-Based Title: As noted, it has a different name in the US.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Everyone except Margo at the end of "The Windbreak War", when they accidentally break the eponymous item, along with a garden statue. Jerry, Tom and Barbara look fearfully at Margo...who thinks it's hilarious and breaks into peals of laughter.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Tom and Barbara think Margo is having an affair in one episode. She's actually visiting a weight loss clinic.
  • Modest Royalty: Georgette, Lady Truscott, who calls on Barbara to do some public speaking for a variety of charitable causes. Margo is dazzled by her title and keen to impress, but Lady Truscott gets along much better with Tom and Barbara, even when Tom drafts her into helping him carry lumber inside or she has to catch escaped chickens with Barbara. (She also prefers to go by George, as she finds Georgette to be an Embarrassing First Name.)
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode where the Goods find out they've been burgled.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Margo forces the Goods to get rid of the pigs as they'd agreed because they got into her garden, not realizing they would have to sell them to an abattoir to recoup the money they'd spent on them. She's horrified and begs Tom to get them back.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Tom wheedles Margo into buying an expensive spinning wheel so that he can borrow it for homemade cloth; he assumes that Margo simply order "chequebook, Jerry" as she always does with no problem. Back at home, Barbara is convincing Jerry that he needs to stand up to Margo when she starts overspending. (Of course, Tom and Margo are being selfish and Jerry should stand up for himself once in a while, but Barbara didn't mean to scuttle Tom's plan.)
  • No-Sell: After the running joke about how terrible / strong the peapod burgundy is, Sir not only manages to stomach it, he asks for seconds... and thirds... and finally the whole bottle.
  • No Sense of Humor: Margo is adept at offering up cutting witticisms, but actually laughing out loud at something because it is funny is another matter. In "The Windbreak War", she drunkenly admits that it's a problem she's had her whole life.
  • No Sympathy: Although it doesn't come with berating, "The Last Posh Frock" is about Tom having zero sympathy for Barbara wanting to feel feminine once in a while. When she's clearly upset over being taken for a boy and tearing her last nice dress, Tom laughs and ignores her; when they get into a heated argument after Tom fawns all over Barbara's glamorous school friend (directly after saying he would only look at Barbara if he was in a roomful of supermodels) and Barbara pours gravy all over herself to complete the picture of "what Barbaras look like", he does not understand why she's upset until Jerry chews him out.
  • Noodle Incident: The amateur production of The Sound of Music. Margo prepares for it for a few episodes and eventually we see her getting ready to perform. The episode cuts directly to Tom, Barbara and Jerry discussing what transpired. It begins with Tom asking, "That was The Sound of Music we saw wasn't it?" and goes downhill from there.
    Tom: Why did Margo sing "Maria"?
    Jerry: That's the name of her character.
    Tom: I know, but I thought that song came from West Side Story.
    Barbara: It did.
    • When asked about it later Margo confesses that at that point she might have done anything... and begins to laugh finally seeing the funny side of the disaster.
  • Not So Above It All: Margo has her moments .
  • Not What It Looks Like: In "The Happy Event," Jerry and Barbara are pulled over on their way to get oxygen from the hospital for the runty piglet. After Jerry gets testy with the constable, Barbara lets slip that she's not actually Jerry's wife when she says they're in a hurry. "I dare say you are," says the constable snidely.
  • Odd Couple: The premise is essentially a double odd couple with the socialite Leadbetters and self-sufficient Goods, although Barbara and Jerry tended to be the moderating forces between the two.
  • One-Neighbor Neighborhood: Other members of the neighbourhood are occasionally mentioned, but we never seem to meet the next-door neighbours on the other side of the Goods' house—in one episode the house is explicitly up for sale, then an artist named Mrs. Weaver moves in, and later moves out. Nothing is said of people who live across the street or a few doors down.
  • Only Sane Man: Between the Goods' activities and whatever social junta Margo is embarking on, Jerry tends to fall into this by default for his generally easygoing nature.
  • Orphaned Punchline: In 'Suit Yourself', we join the dinner party just in time to hear everyone dutifully laugh at Sir's joke: "It's a one-legged dwarf!"
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: This is a favorite of Margo's. When at Sir's retirement dinner, she very pleasantly asks Jerry's rival Snetterton about how his gumboils are doing lately.
  • Plastic Bitch: In a rare male example, a minor recurring plot point is Jerry's ongoing rivalry in the company with the smug and odious fellow executive Snetterton, who it is rumoured to have had plastic surgery, and at least a nose job. Towards the end of the show when "Sir" is planning to retire, and they are both competing to be named his successor, Jerry even tries to find evidence the rumour is true hoping it will be his ace to get the job, much to Tom and Barbara's amusement.
  • The Pollyanna: Tom, to the point of annoying Barbara by remaining incessantly chirpy about the challenges of self-sufficiency when she's momentarily fed up with it.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Averted in "The Windbreak War"; what looks very much like an Escalating War in the making is scotched by Jerry forcing everyone to sit down and talk through what's happened. Then they all get drunk and hit on each other.
  • The Pratfall: In one episode, Margo and Jerry are trying to help Tom and Barbara with their harvest. When Margo comes out, she promptly slips in the mud and lands on her backside; later, she tries to pick up a sack of potatoes and knocks the other three over domino-style.
  • Pretty in Mink: Margo had a white fox wrap.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr Carter, the new head of the neighborhood association, to everyone's suprise. Margo drags him in hoping that he'll ban the Goods from keeping pigs and Tom is fully expecting a petty little rules tyrant. They're shocked when Mr Carter sits them down, talks through both of their perspectives, and strikes a compromise.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The last scene of "Pig's Lib" is Tom sternly warning the pigs "Pinky and Perky" not to let slip that he didn't make it to the slaughterhouse in time to save the originals.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Both the Goods have run into this trope due to their need to make-do-and-mend; in Barbara's case (one example being repurposed trousers with one leg the wrong colour!) this is much to the concern of Margo; in Tom's, he had to sell his suit to buy his wife a "posh frock" and make amends, thus turning up to a little gathering in a dinner-jacket and totally inappropriate trousers.
  • Running Gag:
    • Tom and Barbara's home-made wine and the effect it has on the drinkers. Jerry in particular learns to avoid it.
    • Mrs. Dooms-Patterson, who is never seen but is always mentioned as being enormous.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here
    Margo: They're becoming incoherent and vulgar! Jerry, do something!
    Jerry: All right. [stands up] Good night. [leaves]
  • Seen It All: Jerry doesn't even blink when he finds Tom and Barbara covered in soot in his front hall because they're always in some kind of a state.
  • Serious Business: Margo and the Music Society.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Barbara, especially in "The Last Posh Frock" from Series 3. She doesn't mind getting grubby but there are times when she likes to remind herself that she is feminine and pretty.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: Tom and Jerry.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Tom and Barbara have their moments.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Jerry's business rival, the odious Snetterton.
  • Stealth Pun: The two male leads are called Tom and Jerry. This is never mentioned in the show. They are also Mr Good and Mr. 'Better.
  • Suburbia: It's set in Surbiton. Which Americans will be astonished to learn is a real place; it's about ten miles south-west of the centre of London.
    Although the actual exterior shots are done in Northwood, which is about 14 miles NW of Central London and similarly bucolic. This area's notoriously heavy and sticky London Clay soil features in many muddy scenes.
  • Talking to Plants: One episode is based around this concept. Barbara ends up naming a runner bean, Douglas.
  • Take Our Word for It: Margo's performance in The Sound of Music.
  • Tempting Fate: Tom and Barbara gloat a little too loudly over their new, home-built generator when Margo and Jerry fret over impending power cuts. When the generator abruptly stops working on the weekend, leaving the Goods with a thawing freezer of fish, Jerry is all too happy to throw their boasting back at them.
  • Theme Naming: The Goods and the Leadbetters. Of course, the Goods are living "the good life" while earning the derision of their supposed "betters"; there's also the fact that Tom and Barbara merely want a good life, while class-conscious Margo and career-climber Jerry are obsessed with being better than other people.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Margo, who often wears a few outfits per episode (and on a few occasions buys a completely new outfit for a few days' use). Lampshaded by Jerry, who sometimes complains of her shopping habits.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Jerry and Barbara, which they're both aware of but never impacts on their happy marriages; Tom and Margo to a lesser extent. Face it, if it wasn't for Margo's sensibilities the foursome would have been swinging like monkeys. note 
  • Upper-Class Twit: Or rather upper-middle class twits.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The Leadbetters' relationship with the Goods pretty much amounts to this, especially Margo. They constantly criticise Tom and Barbara for their choice of lifestyle, but when it comes down to it they're in fact also their staunchest defenders.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Barbara and Jerry each give one to Tom for his complete dismissal of Barbara's feelings in "The Last Posh Frock". After Tom gave her a big spiel about how he didn't care if she was unglamorous and then fawned all over her very glamorous school friend, she tears into him for dismissing her feelings as silly and "acting like a woman". When Tom goes to Jerry for some "women eh" sympathy he gets a sharp lecture instead and is chased home by Jerry's Signature Laugh.
    • He gets it again when he instantly spends their £10 profitsnote  from the fruit crop on a loom he saw in a secondhand shop without even talking to Barbara first. This one he does understand the wrong in by himself.
  • Wrench Wench: Barbara, who is at least as mechanically capable as Tom.
  • Yes-Man: Jerry is a cheerfully unapologetic example; in one episode as he's about to call up his boss on the phone and grovel, he whips out a comb and works over his hair. When Tom tries to appeal to his dignity, Jerry shrugs it off. He doesn't mind "crawling" because it gets him the comfortable lifestyle he enjoys.

Alternative Title(s): Good Neighbors, The Good Life 1975