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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).

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 Britain's 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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 student paper with a similar name to the famous national paper they thought they would be appearing in.
  • Annoying Laugh: Jerry. A heh. Heheheheh.
  • Arrow Cam: At least one episode includes an example of 'Goat Cam': "Geraldine! Kill!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Thank you very much, Jerry!" "Jerry... the chequebook!"
  • Christmas Episode: "Silly, But It's Fun"
  • 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 does his back out 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The whole cast, but Jerry in particular.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ho Yay: In-universe example. Tom and Jerry make a few jokey comments about being married to each other.
  • 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:
    • Barbara's first attempts to barter to pay the window-cleaner's bill turn into this, partly because of the recent success of Confessions of a Window Cleaner and similar films. In this case, the milkman is so abashed by his mistake he leaves without taking payment... and then Barbara realises what he must have thought she was suggesting.
    • "Tom, you will take down my dress or I will call the police—and I'm aware that didn't come out right."
  • Insistent Terminology: Margot was not kicked out of the music society, she resigned!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Tom and Barbara think Margo is having an affair in one episode. She's actually visiting a weight loss clinic.
  • Möbius Neighbourhood: 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode where the Goods find out they've been burgled.
  • 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 Barbra didn't mean to scuttle Tom's plan.)
  • 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.
  • No Sense of Humor: Margo has trouble with this, though as noted above she can at least manage some Deadpan Snarker moments. In "The Windbreak War", she drunkenly admits that it's a problem she's had her whole life.
  • Not So Above It All: Margo (occasionally).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pretty in Mink: Margo had a white fox wrap.
  • 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 Margot; 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.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!
    Margo: They're becoming incoherent and vulgar! Jerry, do something!
    Jerry: All right. [stands up] Good night. [leaves]
  • 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.
  • Take Our Word for It: Margo's performance in The Sound of Music.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wrench Wench: Barbara, who was 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.