Monday, July 13, 2009

The Good Life

I've been meaning to post about this for some time, but a little while back some friends lent us the complete series of the 70's BBC sitcom The Good Life (known as Good Neighbors in the U.S.). Have you ever seen it? The show concerns a couple, Tom and Barbara Good, who set out to make their home in suburban London completely self-sufficient. Tom quits his meaningless job as a designer of little plastic toys that come in cereal boxes and he and Barbara plow up their lawn to plant crops, raise livestock in the backyard, power the house with methane, and brew their own peapod wine. Much of the show concerns their interaction with the couple next door, the Ledbetters, who are thoroughly entrenched in the modern industrial society and whose incredulity at the Goods' preposterous lifestyle makes for some interesting conflicts--the wife, Margot, is a very proper English lady and a social climber and is particularly nonplussed at the Goods' choices. However, the Ledbetters grow sympathetic to the Goods' cause and while they maintain their own values, they often help Tom and Barbara out in their quirky and quixotic agrarian endeavors. I admit the show is unrealistic in some technical aspects and some may find it corny (especially the first episode), but it was truly a delight for us to watch. (By the way, we are very picky about TV; in fact we have declined to make the digital transition and have not had access to broadcast TV in a while). The interplay between the Goods and the Ledbetters is hilarious, and you can't help but get attached to these characters. While the Goods' attitude is extremely perky and optimistic, the show does not exactly sugarcoat their way of life--Tom and Barbara have their share of hardships and frequently need bailing out by the mainstream Ledbetters. I would argue that the show depicts marriage very positively and explores friendship in a way that is rare in light comedies. Some viewers may object to some slightly off-color references in the show, but they are comparatively mild by today's standards.

Here is a link to the first episode.

In case you think the premise of the show is completely ridiculous, you need to check out the Dervaes family of Pasadena, California, if you haven't already heard of them. On a tiny lot just feet from a freeway, they grow almost all of their own food. Here is their introductory video and a link to their website, Path to Freedom.

The Dervaes family

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