Benny Hill was in TV for a long time: The Benny Hill
Show ran from 1969 to 1989. He is credited with defining a mode for
British TV comedy which continues to radiate there and around the world.
It is hard to look back from the second decade of the new millennium
without some prejudice or lack thereof.
For example, an enduringly controversial aspect of the
show is the outright ‘tits and bums’ sexism of the infamous Hill’s
Angels, who were all very physically attractive women on the show. They
could sing, dance and sport skimpy clothing while also holding a stage
smile. With race relations, Hill was no less tactile. There are many
skits and jokes about Chinese, Africans and other groups. These do not
translate so well into our sanitised, politically rectified
entertainment discourse. But there are always risks—and rewards—with
looking at artefacts. Keeping this in mind will not detract from the
viewer’s enjoyment unless they are offended before they even press Play,
What I like most about the show is the mix of slapstick,
physical and language comedy (the graffiti gags are legend) plus
vaudeville and cabaret touches. Hill wrote (or took credit) for all the
skits and original songs, though this is disputed, not without
Hill dominates almost every shot, not merely because he’s
in virtually every scene. His face, timing and delivery are comically
immaculate, with a pervasive sense of irony inescapable. He can do
accents and terrible ballet. He can be a schoolboy or a grandmother
because it is ridiculous, hilarious caricature and anything goes.
There are a few staple male co-performers and the
aforementioned women. Together, they form a band a modern troubadours.
The skits are longer than 30 seconds and often intertwine. This creates
a ‘textural’ feel for each episode that makes it all hang together. I
found myself laughing a lot and recommend it strongly.
There are no special features and the transfer is a bit
sloppy. This affects the sound and image: some of the footage reminds on
(only slightly) of old VHS tapes. Given the low retail price, the
offering can’t be beat, however!