i Editor's Letter: The Good Life is over


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The Independent Online


Richard Briers died! Who among us, of a certain age, did not experience a wisful pang for childhood upon hearing the news? The Good Life is over.

Briers, who often had a kind word for well wishers on our high street (Chiswick), was a fine television and stage actor with many credits (not least, Ever Decreasing Circles and King Lear). But for millions in those far-off, three-channel days, he was Tom Good, husband of Felicity Kendal's Barbara, partners in a self-sufficiency experiment, much to the never-ending chagrin of snooty suburban neighbour, Margo (Penelope Keith), and her long-suffering husband Jerry (Paul Eddington).

It was different then. We ALL watched the same shows at the same time. 1977's Series 3 attracted audiences of 17 million. That year's Christmas special drew 21 million. Prompted, I can still remember it.

Tom and Barbara passed for subversive. They kept chickens, and a market garden in Surbiton. Tom's early retirement challenged Jerry's company director orthodoxy, but Barbara's physical, dirty mucking-in was an even greater effrontery to Margot's narrow views on suburban women.

While punk urged our youth to rebel, this was escapist "dropping out" for parents. As essentially '70s as Abigail's Party, it was in the British tradition of skewering the status conscious: Fawlty Towers, Keeping Up Appearances, Only Fools and Horses, and many more.

It's too easy to dismiss as "safe" today. It was astute, inventive and contained immortal characters. Richard Briers was a magnificent actor and a lovely man. He will be fondly remembered for a good life.