Richard Briers (1934 – 2013) / Bob Godfrey (1921 – 2013)

I was saddened to hear that the very wonderful Richard Briers passed away on 17th February 2013.

This is him in one of his greatest roles, as Roobarb The Dog:

I guess it’s a toss-up between that or his perfectly-cast role as Tom Good in The Good Life (AKA “Good Neighbours”). I loved both shows when they were first shown in the 70s (and ever since), but I’d have to say that Roobarb & Custard has had the most direct influence on my own philosophy, musical development and way of life.

I first came across Roobarb & Custard and its maker Bob Godfrey on the brilliant “Do It Yourself Film And Animation Show”, a TV series about, well, making animations. I was never actually going to do any of this because I never had a camera of any kind at that age and couldn’t even conceive of getting one. In the intervening years I’ve slowly forgotten how compelling and entertaining this series was, but I’ve just found episodes on Youtube and I’ve fallen in love with it all over again! You don’t have to be an actual or potential animator to enjoy it – there’s plenty of humour along with really illuminating insights into the world of animation and even film-making in general.

And, hey –  now I have more than enough technology to make animations – cameras, computers, lights! Even pencils and pens… if I can find them.

Pity I can’t draw.

Rather strangely, I wrote this blog on 22nd February 2013 and felt a little silly for including Bob Godfrey in what was supposed to be a tribute to Richard Briers. I even checked Wikipedia to see if Mr. Godfrey was still alive and found that it said he was. But today (23rd Feb) I was looking at the Facebook page for Roobarb and discovered that he had also died – on 21st February, just four days after Briers. A strange coincidence and very sad to hear.

So I’m now editing this post slightly to reflect the fact that it really has become a double obituary to both of these great men.

The Good Life, with Briers cast as the “back-to-nature” suburbanite Tom Good alongside his (usually) equal-partner, wife Barbara (played by Felicity Kendal) may seem very gentle to young modern people and hipsters, but it really did deserve its massive popularity and acclaim. It was one of those “perfect” sitcoms, like Dad’s Army or Fawlty Towers where each cast member is flawless in their role and there’s not a flat joke or wasted beat.

 

After a lengthy TV career, Briers also appeared in a number of Kenneth Branagh‘s stage and film adaptations of Shakespeare.

Not surprisingly, for anyone familiar with his roles, Briers appears to have been unfailingly likeable in real life. According to critic Michael Coveney, writing in The Guardian, Briers was “always the most modest and self-deprecating of actors, and the sweetest of men… Although he excelled in the plays of Alan Ayckbourn, and became a national figure in his television sitcoms of the 1970s and 80s, notably The Good Life, he could mine hidden depths on stage, giving notable performances in Ibsen, Chekhov and, for Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance company, Shakespeare.”

Richard Briers as Tom Good from the Good Life
Richard Briers as Tom Good from the Good Life