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Goodness Gracious Me!

Series One 1996 (four programmes)
Series Two 1997 (four programmes)
Series Three 1998 (six programmes)

Sparky and very funny show which became a flagship for British-Asian comedy.  Goodness Gracious Me! takes its name, with the irony which is a hallmark of the show, from Peter Sellers' cod-Indian novelty hit of 1960.  The provocative title originally suggested was, in fact, Peter Sellers Is Dead: this was the name under which the first manifestation of the show was pulled together by producer Anil Gupta, in the unusual form of a live performance organised as a kind of 'pitch' to an audience including TV commissioners.  The aim was to circumvent the ingrained impression that an ethnic-minority performance team would not be able to deliver a mainstream hit: some of the ground had been prepared by a BBC2 show, The Real McCoy (with a largely Afro-Caribbean cast), but the GGM team sought to go where it had not, developing material which would 'transfer' to a largely white audience. 

The 1996 radio series made a small piece of history as the first Light Entertainment show to be financed by BBC Television: besides serving as a space to develop ideas, it was intended as a kind of extended pilot, to see how the concept would 'take' prior to the commitment of a full TV commission.  (This arrangement had, of course, operated unofficially for both sketch shows and sitcoms from the late 1980s on).  Despite its 'crossover' agenda, the show stuck like a limpet to themes of Asian identity, was still continually inventive and became deservedly popular whilst still in its radio incarnation.  Many of the sketches featured regular stock characters, notably the raddled Bollywood gossip columnist, 'Smita Smitten -- Showbiz Kitten'; the all-Asian superhero, Bhangraman, who is able to avert disaster by practising traditional dance; the self-explanatory 'Mr Everything-is-Indian' and 'Mrs I-Can-Make-It-At-Home'; and the bourgeois Kapoors, who insist their name is pronounced 'Cooper', play golf and complain about immigration.  There were also occasional songs and frequent one-off items, including the memorable sketch about a group of Bombay lads out on the razzle, who end up in the local Berni Inn for an English, insulting the waiter and daring each other to order the blandest dish on the menu. 

The performers were Meera Syal (who had appeared in The Real McCoy), Sanjeev Bhaskar, Nina Wadia, Kulvinder Ghir and Nitin Sawnhey (now a well-known musician, he did not appear in the later series).  Surprisingly for the period, the show had largely different writing and performing teams, with the bulk of the script delivered by Sharat Sardana and Richard Pinto (later responsible for the Channel 4 sitcom Small Potatoes, also starring Bhaskar), although the cast (usually Bhaskar and Syal) sometimes contributed.  The television version, also titled Goodness Gracious Me! and produced by Anil Gupta, aired on BBC2 between the second and third radio series; a second series, drawing heavily on radio's Series Three, went out late in 1998, and a third in 2000. 

Commercial releases: A BBC Radio Collection double cassette, consisting of a 'Best of Series One' compilation and programmes 2, 3 and 4 from Series Two, was issued in 1998.

© JB Sumner 1998-2000. Thanks to Huw Bucknell and Mike Scott. Last updated 10/3/00