To paraphrase Neddy Seagoon’s famous question, which appears in the title above (and must be said very rapidly), what is a “Telegoon”? Simply put, Telegoon (which is a combination of the words television and goon) in its plural form refers to Grosvenor Films' puppet version of BBC radio's famous “Goon Show”. “The Telegoons”, as the series was called, in more ways than one, was television's answer to the original radio version of the “Goon Show”, replacing “its all in the mind, you know” and “let's see them do that on television” taglines with real pictures. The term “Telegoon” was coined by producer Tony Young of Grosvenor Films, who having directed Goon Show members Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Spike Miilligan in a non-Goons feature film in the early 1950s (”Penny Points to Paradise”), had long dreamt of bringing the actual Goon characters to the television screen.
Made as a
series of 15-minute puppet films, the familiar “Goon Show” stories were adapted
by Maurice Wiltshire from Spike
Milligan’s original radio “Goon Show” scripts. Giving the films
complete authenticity, they were made in collaboration with BBC-TV and
were voiced by the original show’s members, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and
Milligan. The sound tracks were freshly recorded by the Goons in early 1963, which brought them back together again for the first time
since the end of the “Goon Show” in 1960. That Tony Young was able to
get the Goons back together for “The Telegoons” project was a
by many to be a near miracle, and was a considerable achievement, since by 1963 they were all busily involved
in their own respective post-Goon careers. Although not completely
appreciated by the typical older dyed-in-the-wool Goon fan, “The Telegoons”
television series, of which 26 episodes were made out of a planned 52, finally put faces to the voices that had been enthralling the radio fans for years.
The new visual presentation of Spike's original radio scripts also won a new, younger generation of followers, from the ages of 7 to 17.
The history of “The Telegoons” abounds with further interesting stories, such as a stand-in used for Peter Sellers' voice parts in the early stages of the production, and the possibility that Ron Field's electronic puppet lip synch may have predated Gerry Anderson's work in this area by several months, but to learn more you'll need to visit other parts of this website.
Alastair Roxburgh, September 2004.