The Telegoons

A Short History of The Telegoons...

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Contents of this Chapter:
   Introduction...
   Radio's Crazy Gang--"The Goons" (...includes a list of the BBC Goon CDs)
   Goon Shows Preserved While You Wait...
   The Wonder of Ultra-Kendall-Vision...
   Running Jumping & Standing Still...  
   Let's See Them Do That On Television!  
   Telegoon Toon Time...  
   Voice Actors, Puppeteers & Producers...  
   Go Ask Eccles & Bluebottle...  
The Persistence of Goon Memory...
   Neddie Seagoon Puppet Restoration Fund...

The Persistence of Goon Memory...

Way back in 1964, when I was a teenager, my whole family (myself, mother, father, two sisters and my grandmother) avidly watched and enjoyed all of the Telegoons episodes, broadcast on the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation’s new 625-line black-and-white TV system. I still have a vivid memory (proving that the persistence of Goon memory is at least 35 years) of seeing the exploded and blackened Bluebottle puppet sitting up on a lamp post, in The Last Tram (T.G. 1st series, #5).
   
Bluebottle: You rotten swine! You’ve deaded me with the dreaded electric voltage!

As a child I often used to travel the streets of Wellington, N.Z., by electric tram, and being a member of the TV generation, The Last Tram episode of The Telegoons therefore got my interest in a way that the corresponding Goon Show radio performance did not. In my experience, the mental pictures generated by The original lantern-slide wireless-type Goon Show (as it was so often introduced) will forever be influenced by the Telegoon puppets. This is quite OK by me, since after all, the puppets were based on the Goons’ own drawings of the outlandish characters they portrayed so well. We all have our own cherished mental images of the characters, but rather like reading the book and then seeing the movie, The Telegoons gives us a chance to gain an inkling of mental images other than our own. To me this is valuable because it enriches my original experience.

In the early 1960s, studio video tape recorders were still very expensive (and home VTRs and VCRs were non existent), so The Telegoons episodes were filmed in B&W on 35 mm film, and distributed outside the BBC in the 16 mm format. It is interesting to note that although BBC's London television audience saw the shows telecined from the original 35 mm film prints, the British 405-line television system of the time would have been just as well served by 16 mm prints. Indeed, if the resolution of the extant 16 mm prints is any indication, many overseas viewers (most of whom were using the then new 625-line system) got a better look at the The Telegoons than did the London audience with the original 35 mm prints on 405 lines. Getting back to the topic of home video recording, now that it is commonplace (first with VHS and Betamax, but more recently with DVD-R), the BBC still has not rerun The Telegoons on television, nor has it released the any of the episodes on home video. Videotape and/or DVD copies, therefore, are very few and far between. 

What all of this means is that very few people have had the opportunity of seeing any of The Telegoons episodes. Fortunately for those of us who were living in the Antipodes (New Zealand’s North and South Islands) in the early 1960s, and were old enough to appreciate television comedy, Television New Zealand (then known as the NZBC) purchased The Telegoons series, and aired it soon afterwards (see Tele-Goonography). 

I do not know how many of The Telegoons episodes still exist on 35 mm in the BBC archives or on 16 mm in the archives of TVNZ, or elsewhere. However, at the 2nd annual convention of the Goon Show Preservation Society (Son of A Weekend Called Fred, held in Brighton, of Phantom Head Shaver fame, UK, Oct. 1997), a Telegoons episode was screened, from a surviving 16 mm film prints (which was rented from a Leeds film library). An additional attraction at this event, in the words of Maxine Ventham (who organized the event during her term as GSPS Secretary), was “...a lonely small, large, rotund figure of enormous value...” Yes, folks, it was one of the Ned Seagoon puppets used in The Telegoons, recently discovered, and in a very fragile state indeed. In one attendee’s words, “Not much survives of the Telegoons...even the puppets themselves are falling to bits now.”  However, on the brighter side, there are persistent rumors that the GSPS owns all 26 episodes of The Telegoons on 16 mm film, legitimately bought by the Steam Count (a.k.a. Bill Horsman, chairman and a founding member of the GSPS), no less. You can read all about it in the April 1986 issue of the GSPS newsletter (NL#45). Many Bothans died to bring us this information (oops! Wrong web site!!!). Oh, by-the-way, the great Spike himself attended the above-mentioned SOLD OUT event.

Will the BBC get around to releasing The Telegoons on home video? Only time will tell. The very successful re-release of many of the Goon Show episodes on CD and audio cassette, not to mention a heightened public interest in our radio and television heritage, suggests that they could possibly even make some moola by doing this.


Next section in this chapter: Neddie Seagoon Puppet Restoration Fund...  
 

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