The Benny Hill Show, 1969
The Benny Hill Show was one of the longest running comedy shows on British Television.
From it’s early BBC days in the 1950’s, through twenty plus years with Thames it ran for forty years.
By 1969 Benny Hill was a national institution and like Morecambe and Wise who followed some years later he made the jump from ther BBC to Thames.
Sticking to the tried and tested format the show continued to be a success. However in the mid seventies the show introduced a new format in the form of scantily clad women, seaside postcard humour and those famous end title chase sequences. This would become the show’s heyday with audiences at one point of over 21 million in this country alone. However a new era dawned…
During the 1980’s television began to change and political correctness was fast becoming the order of the day. Although by now the show had been toned down and the Hill’s Angels dropped, The Benny Hill Show was accused of being, amongst other things: sexist, as criticism began to mount against the show.
In 1989 without warning Thames dropped The Benny Hill Show. Reasons given were: declining ratings, the cost of production and they felt that Hill himself was looking a little tired. Many people saw this as a cheap publicity stunt on behalf of Thames, particularly as the show continued to make millions all over the world.
Three years after cancellation of the show Central Television invited Hill to make a new series, sadly it was never completed as Hill passed away before it was completed.
The show would feature occasional extravagant musical performances by top artists of the time. Hill would appear in many different costumes portraying a vast array of characters. slapstick, burlesque and double entendre were his trademark. Critics of the show have accused of being sexist, but Hill refuted this claiming that female characters kept their dignity while the men chasing them were portrayed as buffoons.
The early shows continued where the BBC left of with a mixture of visual slapstick style gags, sketches and comedy song routines.
The show followed this format until the mid seventies, when the traditional British ‘Saucy Postcard’ humour was introduced. Hill’s Angels joined the cast (a group of scantily clad dancers that fitted perfectly into the new routines).
Needless to say the ratings soared. For the next decade Hill was one of the biggest names on television, even managing to succeed where many other comedians had failed on American television.
Henry Mc Gee
Jon Jon Keefe
Channel: ITV Thames 1969 – 1992
Written By: Benny Hill
Original Transmission Dates: 19th November 1969 – 1st May 1989