Goodness Gracious Me is a BBC English-language sketch comedy show originally aired on BBC Radio 4 from 1996 to 1998 and later televised on BBC Two from 1998 to 2001. The ensemble cast were four British Indian actors, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Syal and Nina Wadia. The show explored the conflict and integration between traditional Indian culture and modern British life. Some sketches reversed the roles to view the British from an Indian perspective, and others poked fun at Indian stereotypes. In the television series most of the white characters were played by Dave Lamb and Fiona Allen; in the radio series those parts were played by the cast themselves.
The show's title and theme tune is a bhangra rearrangement of a hit comedy song of the same name. The original was performed by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren reprising their characters from the 1960 film The Millionairess. The show's original working title was "Peter Sellers is Dead", but was changed because the cast generally liked Peter Sellers. In her 1996 novel Anita and Me, Syal had referred to British parodies of Asian speech as "a goodness-gracious-me accent".
The cast casually drop Punjabi and Hindi slang phrases into their speech, in the manner of many British Asians living in the UK.
The show won Best Entertainment at the Broadcasting Press Guild Award and the Team Award from the Royal Television Society, UK in 1999.
In March 2014, the BBC announced that the show would return with a special episode as part of celebrations of fifty years of BBC Two. An India special was broadcast on BBC Two on 25 August 2015.
Check, Please - A man who, on serial dinner dates, always says something so tactless or offensive that the woman walks out on him, leaving him asking for the "Check, please!"
The competitive mothers - Two women who constantly argue about the respective accomplishments of their sons, becoming more and more exaggerated as they go along. Their discussions always end with one of them using their catchphrase, "Yes, but how big is his danda?" (slang for penis)
Mr "Everything Comes From India" - A man who insists that just about everything comes from India or was invented by Indians (often to the chagrin of his more knowledgeable son), including William Shakespeare, Cliff Richard (who was actually born in India), Leonardo da Vinci, most English words: (veranda, shampoo, conditioner), the British Royal Family (all except Prince Charles, who he claims to be African, due to the size of his ears), Superman (who is apparently Indian as he has two jobs, a bad haircut and, in a reference to Indian railways, can run faster than a train) and the number zero (which is a widely attributed discovery in Indian culture). In one short sketch, he was found in a bookshop, transferring books from the English and Chinese Literature sections to the Indian Literature section. He even claims that Jesus was Indian as he worked for his father, and managed to feed 5,000 people with very small amounts of food. He also claimed that everyone in the Bible was Indian, except God, as he "created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. What kind of Indian doesn't work Sundays?".
The Coopers (Kapoors) and Robinsons (Rabindranaths) - Two snobbish nouveau riche couples who claim to be entirely English with no Indian blood whatsoever, but often give themselves away by using each other's real names, mispronouncing words or making silly mistakes such as serving guests some Pimm's with sliced courgettes in it. They refuse to acknowledge their real ethnic background under any circumstances, and become very upset whenever anyone refers to them as foreigners.
Skipinder, The Punjabi Kangaroo - Redubbed footage of the old television show about Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, with the kangaroo being "voiced over" so that he can talk. Skippy, who now calls himself Skipinder, is always drunk, speaks in a Punjabi accent and frequently insults the other characters.
The Bhangra Muffins - Two teenage boys who are always trying to be "cool" and attract girls, referring to them as ras malai (Indian sweet) but failing miserably. In their sketches, they seem to be having an intelligent discussion, albeit in their own "street" language, but it is then shown that they are doing something nonsensical or are in the wrong place (for example: in one episode they are waiting in the audience of what they think is a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show, leading to a conversation about the purpose of television and talk shows in society, but then the show starts and they find out they have in fact gone to an opera performance by mistake.) Their catchphrase is "Kiss my chuddies, man!" - chuddies being slang for underwear.
Chunky Lafunga (lafunga means "hooligan") - A Bollywood superstar (probably based on Bollywood actor Chunky Pandey) who is now trying to make his name in Western cinema, but manages to turn every production he appears in, from an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel to an Australian soap opera, into a Bollywood musical.
Mrs "I can make it at home for nothing!" - A mother who, when out in restaurants with her family, repeatedly decries various things as wasteful, saying "I can make it at home for nothing!" For some reason she always seems to need "a small aubergine" to be able to do so - in one episode she even appears on Masterchef, describing a series of complicated dishes she intends to cook, yet has only the ubiquitous aubergine in her ingredients. In later episodes she claims to be able to recreate other, non-food experiences for nothing - even reacting to the news that her husband has a mistress with "mistress I can make at home..." followed by flirtatious behaviour. She was inspired by Nina Wadia's mother.
Meena and Beena, the Minx Twins - Two teenage chav girls who complain about unwanted male attention and shout out rude comments at the men who walk past them, with the camera then pulling back to reveal why the men are there (e.g. in one sketch the girls are shown to have gone to a gay bar, in another they are standing outside a men's public toilet.) During one episode they actually managed to get dates, but insisted on leaving because the men did not offer to buy them a drink. Their catchphrase is: "In your dreams, buddy!" This can be varied, for example, in a Christmas sketch, when acting as Santa's assistants, they say to a little boy, "In your dreams, very small buddy!" Nina Wadia said on the BBC documentary Comedy Connections that Meera Syal was behind the creation of these characters and is one of Nina's favourites on the series. "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys frequently plays in the background of their scenes.
Guru Maharishi Yogi (based on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) - A man who in different sketches is either shown giving completely made up lectures about Hinduism, or going door to door saying silly things to the people who answer. During his symposia, he claims to translate words of wisdom from original Sanskrit, but they are actually random gibberish in English (often containing pop culture references). In one sketch he resorts to handing out flyers for a double-glazing company when a householder doesn't want to hear him talk about religion. He also has two similarly dodgy guru friends, with whom he likes to play board games and football.
Smita Smitten, Showbiz Kitten (from Series 2, her name becomes "Smeeta Smitten") - A reporter who claims to be at a movie premiere or showbiz party, but turns out to be somewhere very ordinary, like queueing outside a video shop or public bathroom. She is then refused entrance, so to distract the viewers, she finishes by saying "Look, there goes Art Malik!" and running out of the picture. She was once in a chip shop, and Art Malik was there, but she didn't recognise him. After making a fool of herself, she tried to get out of the situation by pointing to Art outside the shop, and running after him. Fellow character Chunky Lafunga is the only "celebrity" she has ever managed to interview. In Series 2 she loses her job and resorts to presenting her TV show from different rooms of her mother's house, then in Series 3 produces a variety of pilot shows for a possible new TV series, with disastrous results.
Uncle Fixer - A man who shows up to greet different family members in unexpected places, such as at a funeral or during a kidney transplant operation, and then asks why they didn't come to him for help with the arrangements, because "I could have got it for you much cheaper!". He often says "Don't worry" or "Don't insult me!" when people decline his help. He usually destroys what was the topic of conversation i.e. cash from a cash machine and a kidney.
The Sindi Dolls - Two wealthy young women who act like Valley Girl stereotypes, forever showing off about the number of credit cards they have and how much their fathers have spent on them. They are nearly always seen in an expensive clothes shop, which may or may not be Harvey Nichols and are forever berating and physically assaulting the sales assistants who are attending to them. In series three, they have (reluctantly) got themselves jobs as air stewardesses, and reveal to the flight passengers during the emergency procedure instructions that they only took the jobs because of the glamour factor. In one notable sketch they state their opinion that a friend of theirs should make more effort with her appearance, "leprosy or no leprosy".
Will I, bollocks! (Ironic Granny) - This sketch follows an old woman who is continually causing trouble for her family, then when she is asked to do something to help with the situation, she replies: "Will I, bollocks!" In the last of her sketches, she collapses at home and her son-in-law, Ravi, offers to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation but when his wife asks him if he will really do it, he says, "Will I, bollocks!"
The Delhi Students - These sketches are about four Indian young adults who go to England and describe their experiences. They parody the way westerners act when they visit India (in one sketch, they remark on the number of beggars on the streets; they say that you can't eat meat off the street, in reference to a McDonald's burger; and they say that you must drink water from a bottle, as others could be dangerous).
Bhangraman - A parody of superheroes in general, he always saves the day using his "uncanny bhangra powers", which usually consist of bhangra dance moves. While he speaks entirely in Punjabi, every other character understands him perfectly. His battle cry is "chaakde phaate", meaning "raise the floorboards". His supervillain arch rival is the Morris Dancer.
The Reporter - A reporter constantly tries to do "exposés" on British Asians. He often runs into Mr Ishaq, a Muslim man whom the reporter interviews. The reporter assumes that Mr Ishaq is "up to something", ultimately being disappointed when Mr Ishaq reveals that he is doing something quite ordinary.
The Buddhist Exterminator - A Buddhist monk who is often hired in jobs that will force him to kill living beings, as an exterminator, a mafia murderer and even as a surgeon (where he discovered how to kill cancer cells), which conflicts with his religion and prevents him from doing his job, being surprised that people would want him to kill. As an exterminator, he was determined to make the mice reflect upon their actions until they reach Nirvana. He has an "exterminator" friend who would make the mice reincarnate as pebbles, "which are much easier to catch". His catchline is: "Kill?! No, we mustn't kill".