TV preview: Goodness Gracious Me Special

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When the BBC has something to celebrate, it doesn’t usually do it by halves, so chances are that you’ll have heard it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary of comedy and entertainment.

In fact, with all its commemorative shows and one-off specials, the Beeb has left us with very little reason to switch the channel.

And as if you needed any further reason to stick, the cast of Goodness Gracious Me have reunited for 30-minute special episode.

When the show first aired (originally on BBC Radio 4 in 1996, and then televised on BBC2 from 1998), it was a groundbreaking and innovative - if a little risque - exploration of the integration of traditional Indian culture into modern British life.

Conceived, written and performed by British Asians, stars Sanjeev Bhasker, Meera Syal, Kulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia won over the nation with their take on culture and poking fun at the various stereotypes; with one of the more famous sketches featuring the cast ‘going out for an English’ and parodying the often-drunk British people who settle down to a curry after a night of partying.

And the show’s stars have this gem to thank for their notoriety among the comedy world. Meera Syal, one of the show’s creators and stars, has since become one of our best-known Indian personalities, writing for various newspaper columns and making regular television appearances.

And Syal has fond memories of the show, telling Sue MacGregor on BBC Radio 4’s The Reunion last year: “The memory actually for me was just that it felt a bit like a juggernaut. It got on at the beginning and it just seemed to have its own momentum. I do remember thinking that we had something really special and if only we could keep that together and harness it the right way. I’d been waiting for this for a long time - I think we all had.”

And speaking of the comedy’s then-topical content, she says: “I think what emerged from the material that we were doing and the way we all were is that the politics would always come second to it being funny; that actually if you make people laugh, where we were coming from was a radical enough place that just being there was a political statement.

“For example, I think the ‘going for an English’ sketch is a hugely political sketch - it’s holding up a mirror to British society and British racism. However, if you made that the forefront of the sketch no-one would remember it or enjoy it. What you have to do is get the funny right first and then trust that where you’re coming from politically will inform all of that.”

In this one-off special, expect to be reacquainted with well-known characters including the competitive grandmothers and the Kapoors (pronounced Cooper).

Plus, we’ll also be let in on some unusually hard-hitting legal advice, and the heartbreaking ending of black-and-white movie classic, Madrasablanca.


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