A quarter of a century since the first Goodness Gracious Me episode hit our screens we celebrate some of the best sketches and characters.
The Goodness Gracious Me sketches featuring Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Syal and Nina Wadia first made their appearance on BBC television in January 1998 and in many ways set the bar for many who would follow.
To say the program, which was produced by Anil Gupta, broke the mold would be an understatement. Up until then British television much like their counterparts in the US was a mish mash of post-war attitudes towards first generation immigrants. It was dodgy accents and even dodgier storylines that revolved around widely held outdated views of what the new arrivals were like.
Here was a show written and starring a talented team that ridiculed those views and then went a little further. We learned that we could laugh at each other but more importantly have some payback.
The team were able to mix the classic traditions of British comedy with what it felt like being Asian. They delved into Asian culture and elevated them to new levels.
Most notably the characters have stood the test of time. We can watch the Coopers efforts to be quintessentially English and realize we all know someone in our wider family who will go to that extra effort to avoid the ’embarrassment’ of being Asian.
We are rooting for the ‘Check Please!’ diner and hope just time he will say the right thing but can’t wait for his brutally honest observation of his date.
The dad who thinks everything is ‘Indian’ finds obscure links between historical facts and his love for his native homeland. For a moment we are left thinking…’well you know he might be right you know’.
The competitive mothers will exacerbate their son’s achievements – and take on how Asian parents or any parents for that matter will go out of their way to never find any faults in their own offspring.
The range of Punjabi and Hindi catchphrases uttered by among others ‘Bhangra Man’ and the ‘Kiss My Chuddies’ teenagers incorporated the language of our forefathers into the sketches. These were the only jokes we got. They didn’t need subtitles and for that small moment we felt we were being spoken to directly.
Then we had those sketches that helped shed light on society’s stereotyping of Asians and minorities.
The white reporter is insistent on finding a crime taking place due to someone’s cultural and religious traditions only to realize that things are far simpler than they look.
‘Going out for an English’ was just one of those wonderful television moments where the viewer is put into the shoes of the hapless waiter who must put up with the constant barrage of outdated and abusive comments whilst simply trying to do his job.
It is a shame that despite the efforts of Goodness Gracious Me we still have storylines and writers who seem insistent that the ‘familiar’ plots stay front and center. There is still a long way to go.
Here are some classics
Asian Top Gear
The one true god
Mothers love their sons
First time in a pub