Remember The Good Life?

Observing Giles Coren and Sue Perkins as they trial self-sufficiency in the back garden of a suburban semi (9pm, BBC1) is a bit like watching mountain goats trying to infiltrate high society. They’re meticulously incompetent and thoroughly unqualified. But that’s sort of the point, and the duo’s new series (Giles and Sue Live the Good Life) is a home-brewed barrel of larks. After chortling through episode one, you might even find yourself on YouTube searching for clips of the decades-old sitcom that inspired this nostalgic TV folly.

The Good Life, which ran for nearly half a decade in the mid to late 70s, made household names out of it’s mostly unknown cast (Richard Briars was the only star vehicle), and introduced audiences to an alternative lifestyle. But cool young folk sniggered at its sentimentality. Remember that Good Life-themed episode of The Young Ones where Vivian rips through the flowery title sequence, screeching about it being “so bloody nice”?

But now, bucolic living and thriftiness are hip. In 2010, urbanite commuters dream of swapping the nine-to-five for a simpler existence, sweeping up chicken dung and tending to a turnip patch. Watch The Good Life today and it feels intensely relevant to modern middle class thinking. Tom and Barbara Good recycled (although it wasn’t called that back then), grew food and made their own clothes. Throw in a recreational drug habit and modest trust fund and they’d slip into today’s gentrified Hackney unnoticed.

But is The Good Life still funny? Was it ever funny? Actually, yes. Watch now (it’s rerun regularly on Gold; series three starts on Monday, 1.40pm) and admittedly it’s mild. But the writing is sharp and Penelope Keith’s Margo Leadbetter is like Hyacinth Bouquet, only with finer lines, exquisite comic timing and a better haircut. The two couples--next-door neighbours living in semis in Surbiton--have a hilarious dynamic. Margo and Jerry (conventional, uptight and well heeled) disapprove of their friends’ new lifestyle. But they’re also drawn to their warmth and adventurousness.

Though, it’s not cosiness and daring-do that will persuade you to stick with Giles and Sue’s show. It’s the staged farce and delirious silliness. After week one’s multiple livestock and vegetation-based calamities, you’ll want to check back in to find out how they get on when a pair of pigs turn up at their back garden farm. And watch how Sue cleverly uses up her over-ovulating hens’ produce by stuffing hardboiled eggs in Giles’ mouth.

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