The Unbelievable Graeme Garden
So revered is The Goodies' Graeme Garden, that The Chaser was desperate to work with him at a commercial network.
For nine seasons and 76 episodes Graeme Garden was one third of The Goodies, and to many Australians he always will be.
Together with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie, he produced classic British comedy from 1970 – 1982, replayed relentlessly on Australian television.
The replays have made The Goodies trio revered by generations and Garden (pictured, second from left) remains grateful.
“You get the impression it’s part of the culture because everyone saw it every night over here, for years and years,” he says.
“We have a big fan base and footprint in Australia. Much bigger than the UK. They never repeated it. So after 1982 or whenever it was we were never seen again.”
In Australia he is still recognised despite the intervening decades.
“I do look a bit different but they still seem to recognise me now and again. I don’t know how!” he laughs.
“In the UK they recognise my voice more because I’m on the radio.”
Three die-hard fans, Craig Reucassel, Julian Morrow and Andrew Hansen were so determined to work with Garden on a TV adaptation of his long-running radio show The Unbelievable Truth they were were willing to work with Seven for their first commercial TV project.
“It started when Tim Brooke-Taylor and I were on Cockatoo Island (comedy festival) and Andrew interviewed us. We’d been talking about developing the radio show over in the UK and I suggested possibly getting it going in Australia. But of course there’s no kind of radio outlet for it,” Garden explains.
“I spoke to The Chaser guys and they said ‘We could give it a go on television.’ So the upshot is here we are.”
The series sees three celebrity panelists asked to lie on a given subject, whilst also trying to include several truths without being detected.
“I thought it was much funnier to have a lecture which is entirely untrue and then try and some facts in that. So bizarre facts are hidden amongst bizarre lies, which means that you can do so many more gags. With any luck the bizarre truths are as funny as the lies.”
Whilst Reucassel acts as host, Morrow and Hansen alternately appear with more fake lectures.
The radio version has been running on the BBC since 1985 but the Seven series is the first television adaptation
“There’s an amazing team of graphics, artists, photographers, editors, who are producing lots of images that we can drop in to illustrate as we go along. I’m amazed by the amount of stuff they’ve produced in a very short time and how well they cue them in at exactly the right moment.
“That gives the show a whole flavour and a big lift and really makes it television.”
In the UK the host is Peep Show‘s David Mitchell.
“Unfortunately he’s already involved in two shows on television that are to do with truth and lies. So we thought rather than offer it up and get knocked back for that reason, we’d bide our time until the other shows grind to a halt, and then maybe push for it then!
“In the UK we have a long history of panel shows going right back to early radio days and a lot were developed on radio before moving to television.
“I think audiences in the UK are used to a diet of panel games and they respond very well to them. Here I don’t know if audiences respond to them as well. With this one I would have thought you’d have as many laughs as you would in a good sitcom.”
Garden is no stranger to the art of deception, having also been host of the UK series of Tell the Truth.
“It was a team show about truth and lies with somebody claiming to be somebody interesting and two of them being liars and the panel had to question them,” he says.
“This one is only similar in that it’s about truth and lies. The panel don’t get to question the speaker, they just have to interrupt and say ‘That’s a truth!’ whenever they think they’ve spotted one.
“It’s not a team show it’s every man for himself.”
Comedians appearing in the Australian series include Toby Truslove, Scott Dooley, Sam Simmons, Merrick Watts, The Umbilical Brothers, Kitty Flanagan, Sarah Kendall, Virginia Gay, Cal Wilson and Tom Gleeson.
Garden says Australia’s “go-for-it culture” sees The Chaser team bringing energy to the TV version, although shooting has required some explanation to studio audiences.
“Because they don’t really know how the game works we play a round with the audience before the show starts. We get them out to show them how the game works and once they know how it works they can appreciate it from the start,” he says.
“They’ve been very much up for it, whooping and cheering when people score points, so it’s very exciting.”
Lastly for Goodies fans, there is good news on the horizon with the three veteran comedians still close friends.
“I work with Tim all the time on our other radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and I see Bill now and again. The three of us came out in 2005 and did a stage tour and Tim and I have been back again. Tim and I are certainly hoping to come back and do some things,” he says.
“So watch this space.”
The Unbelievable Truth premieres 9:30pm Thursday on Seven.