Friday, August 1, 2014

Classic TV (maybe): The Benny Hill Show (1969)

Benny Hill charmed audiences around the world with his self-titled comedy-variety shows between 1955-91, an astonishing 36 seasons. American audiences first met Hill in a pair of films, "The Italian Job", with Michael Caine, and "Chitty Chitty Bang! Bang!" with Dick Van Dyke, in the 60's, and became acquainted with the risque funnyman all over again when Thames' 1969 version of The Benny Hill Show was imported to the US in the late 70's, initially as part of a promotion with stations in New York & Los Angeles that Thames was undertaking. The series subsequently went into general syndication through the 80's, in a compact half-hour format, editing some of the more bawdier skits.

Hill, like his American contemporary, Jackie Gleason, was also a songwriter. However, unlike Gleason, Hill was a singer, rather than just a composer-conductor, and quite good, too. He certainly had a good ear for American music--Boots Randolph's classic "Yakety Sax" was Hill's closing theme song.

Hill further achieved international fame by appearing as one of his best known characters, Fred Scuttle, in a music video for Genesis' "Everything She Does", in the mid-80's. Around that time, Hill returned to Thames for another run, which ended in 1989.

I'm guessing this is from his first Thames series, as we have a skit where Benny parodies the popular game show, $ale of the Century.

The Benny Hill Show, for the majority of its American run in the 70's & 80's, aired in late night syndication, but no one ever considered the prospect of Hill actually coming to the US to promote it. Hmmmmm.

Rating: C.


magicdog said...

Along with The Avengers and Are You Being Served, this show was my introduction to British TV and British humor (or should I say, humour?).

My dad also loved watching the show - I think it's because it was so slapsticky. Something which US TV pretty much abandoned by the time BH arrived on our shores. In fact, thanks to BH, Yakety Sax is often the go to tune to show general wackiness I a video. Many video reviewers use it when they come across something silly that was unnecessarily added to a film or show.

hobbyfan said...

Usually in sports highlights, as I recall.

I wasn't that big on Benny, but my late father was, and so was my bro. Me? I didn't mind the music, but the emphasis on T & A matched the network mentality of the time.