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Goodness Gracious Me (1998-2000)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Goodness Gracious Me (1998-2000)
3 series 6 x 30 min episodes
ProducerAnil Gupta
Written byRichard Pinto
 Sharat Sardana
 Meera Syal
 Sanjeev Bhaskar

Cast: Sanjeev Bhaskar; Kulvinder Ghir; Meera Syal; Nina Wadia

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Comedy sketch series focusing on Anglo-Asian issues.

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The brainchild of former Spitting Image script editor Anil Gupta, Goodness Gracious Me (1998-2001) began life as a Radio 4 comedy (1996-1998). The team comprised just four actors: Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, and Nina Wadia. The success of 'Peter Sellers is Dead' (to signify the end of white actors "blacking up"), a one-off show featuring the same cast, was the catalyst for the hit three-series show.

Sending up British and Asian cultures, with catchphrases such as "Kiss my chuddies!" and "Rasmalai!" and stock characters such as Smita Smitten (Showbiz Kitten) and the Bhangramuffins, Goodness Gracious Me exposed stereotypes and tackled serious issues of race, sex, and sexuality through feel-good comedy. It was the first British sketch show to feature an all-Asian cast, but was easily accessible to a predominantly white audience.

"Going for an English" features a group of Bombay youths going to the local Berni Inn, insulting the waiter and daring one another to order the blandest dish on the menu. Playing on the Anglo-coined shorthand for an Indian meal, the sketch satirises the disturbing contemporary British - mostly male - phenomenon of appropriating of one element of Asian culture as British cool (tolerance of spicy food is equated with masculinity or "hardness") while ironically shunning or ridiculing other elements: colour, religion, tradition, accents. (While the Indian food industry is worth almost £2 billion, racist attacks by white customers on Asian restaurant staff on Manchester's "curry mile" have reached an all-time high).

Although exploding Asian stereotypes was a concern of Goodness Gracious Me, much of the material relied on Asians debunking their own customs and double standards. In one episode, when a young gay Indian man brings home his white partner, Simon, to meet his parents, his mother cries, "But Simon? You couldn't have found a nice Indian boy?" In another, a group of Indian tourists visiting England complain about the number of beggars, try to haggle over the price of the Evening Standard, and advise fellow travelers to drink bottled water (one of them feels so at home that he ends up settling in Hounslow).

This unique form of self-parody made the show popular with viewers and critics, but inevitably attracted criticism. Author Yasmin Alibhai-Brown commented, "I hope people aren't laughing at us rather than with us. If you are Asian, you take a completely different set of messages from it."

Shalini Chanda

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Video Clips
1. Indian Broadcasting Corporation (3:24)
2. The Bhangra Muffins (3:23)
3. Dependent sons (2:09)
4. I Want to Live Like Indie People (2:59)
Real McCoy, The (1991-94)
Bhaskar, Sanjeev (1964-)
Ghir, Kulvinder
Syal, Meera (1962-)