Common Misconceptions
The Telegoons...


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1) The Telegoons films are just rehashes of the Goon Show scripts.

They're not. Maurice Wiltshire completely rewrote them to suit puppets, and a shorter fifteen minute format. This consisted of an opening sequence followed by the main story line with no musical breaks as in the Goon Show, while the role of announcer was taken over mainly by the Grytpype-Thynne character. The puppet opening sequence served as an audience warm-up, and was not always related to the story that followed. One of the more notable changes from the original radio shows was the introduction of visual humour, to which the Telegoon characters could well have said, "Let's see them do that on radio!" The job of ensuring that each episode was exactly fifteen minutes long fell to the film editors. 

2) The Goon Show music by Wally Stott (Angela Morley) was used.

It was not. All music for The Telegoons was newly written by Edward White, well known English light music composer. The musical style of The Telegoons, including the specially written signature tune, Telegoon Toon, was completely different from the Goon Show.

3) The visual style of the puppets was determined by someone other than the Goons.

Not true. The Telegoons puppets were based on sketches of the Goon Show characters drawn by the Goons, and especially Spike Milligan, during the 1950s. Spike was the one who finally approved the look of the puppets.

4) Some or all of the dialogue was dubbed in from recordings of the existing radio Goon Shows.

None was, at least as far as the twenty six televised episodes were concerned. All voices for The Telegoons television series were freshly recorded by the famous threesome, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Spike Milligan. Part of the confusion about dubbing stems from director Tony Young and producer Wendy Danielli's initial plan to make use of the existing Goon Show recordings for the film soundtracks. After having obtained permission to use the originals, and during production of the pilot film, The Lost Colony: Introducing The Telegoons, it was a big blow to them to find that the radio recordings were going to be too fast for the puppets. This meant spending a big chunk of the production budget (which could have been used for something else) to have the Goons record new dialogue.

Note: Since there are no surviving copies of the original Telegoons pilot film, we can't simply compare it to corresponding Goon Show recording (The Sale of Manhattan, G.S., s06e11). What we can do, however, is prepare a new edit of the radio show to try and match it to the televised version. I have actually done this for the first several minutes, and the results unequivocally demonstrate that this is how the sound track for the pilot film came about. Considering that the pilot film was made with that scarce resource called private money, obtaining the voice services of the Goons in 1960 to do a 15-minute one-off before there was any sort of budget, let alone a production budget, was an expense that Tony Young and Wendy Danielli would have decided they could do without. Therefore, the most likely scenario is that the original version of The Telegoons pilot film did indeed reuse Goon Show dialogue. It probably also reused  many of the sound effects. Of course, prior to the broadcast of the modified pilot, this was all replaced by a new sound track (there were other changes to the pilot film, too, and these are discussed elsewhere, in the Goonography section of this website). 

5) Electronic puppet lip-synch was used in all of the episodes.

It wasn't. Due to a dispute between the producers and Ron Field who was the inventor of the lip-synch system, it wasn't used until the 2nd filming series. Therefore it was used in only about 50% of the episodes. Note: The broadcast episode order was very different from the filming order.

6) The Goons never visited the film studio.

Not true. In fact Spike, who had more interest in The Telegoons project than Harry or Peter, visited the studio during the production of the pilot film. Ann Field remembers Spike's visit, but her diary of the filming does not mention it. Therefore it was most probably the week before the filming began, while sets and puppets, etc., were being finalized. This places Spike's visit during the first week of February, 1960. What is most interesting is that this is only a week after the Goons recorded their last Goon Show on Jan 24th, 1960, which was broadcast Jan 28th. Not having any more Goon Show scripts to write, I can well imagine Spike in his new-found freedom arranging to visit the Grosvenor Films studio space in Kensal Road as soon as possible. He probably could hardly wait to see his character creations coming to life as puppets.

7) Tony Young's father Ralph Young developed the puppets. 

This is only partially true. The puppets were actually co-developed by Ron Field and Ralph Young, both of whom have been described as inventors and puppet makers. As well as the basic mechanical design of the rod puppets, Ron also contributed his lip-synch technology. The rod puppets were built as described in Ron's patents (GB 965,916 and GB 965,917), applied for on March 22, 1961, a year after the pilot was filmed, and finally granted on August 6, 1964.

8) The television series wasn't very popular.

This isn't true. Among the 10- to 18-year olds, The Telegoons was a cult, and is the main reason why the comic strip version, which was drawn by Bill Titcombe and scripted by Dick Millington, ran for over three years in TV Comic. Admittedly, children weren't the intended audience for the television show, but they were the ones who understood it best. The issue of popularity is discussed in some detail in the History section of this web site.

I get a lot of email from people who would like to see The Telegoons again, either on television or on home video. I refer a lot of people in the UK to the Goon Show Preservation Society (UK members can borrow all 26 episodes of The Telegoons from the GSPS Video Library). There is a link to the GSPS website on the main menu page (click on Home, below).

Here's a recent email I received on the subject of popularity:
"It is indeed an absolute misconception to say the Telegoons wasn't popular. I was in my first year at Grammar School when it came out and we all loved it. The whole of Monday lunch time was spent reliving the episode of the previous Saturday. It made a lasting impression on us." —Jonathon Walker, UK

Common Misconceptions Last Revised: July 11, 2006.

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