TV Cream

TV: B is for...

Benny Hill Show, The

"Mammy!" Benny does his bit for international relations - "and believe me, I've had a few!"

MORE FAMOUS than the Queen in the US. Lived in a shitty flat with money under the mattress. Ben Elton hated him. Same script used for entire decades of “specials”: Hill’s Angels; dappy beret-with-protruding-tongue “character”; running at triple speed in single file via a zigzag route through the park; slapping that bald bloke on the head; “humourous graffiti”; more running at triple speed back in the other direction; HENRY MAGEE, BOB TODD, BELLA EMBERG, NICHOLAS PARSONS looking alternately discomfited and petrified; Fred Scuttle; Chinese bloke Chow Mein. Sides split from sea to shining sea.

"Then she told me she couldn't half do with a stiff one" "And a rock cake caught 'im right between the eyes!"
27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. paulus - Bangkok

    July 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    It’s great for 2 reasons
    1. The dialogue was witty and clever. The songs were funny… who could ever deny “Ernie”.
    2. If Ben Elton hated it… it’s OK in my book

    It’s dead-in a pile of your own money-tastic!

  2. Glenn A

    February 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Totally agree, Paulus, and Nina Myskow hated him so that was another reason to like him. Come to think of it there was a lot Nina Myskow hated and there was a lot of people who hated Nina Myskow.

  3. Lee James Turnock

    April 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    If you forget the rather dismal final series, with Benny playing nicely with “cute” toddlers as a sop to the critics who were busy burying the poor bastard alive, and focus on the Todd / McGee / Wright years, this was a genuinely great, surprisingly inventive series.

  4. Malcolm Foster

    June 25, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Loved it! Great innocent British humour.

  5. Paul Norton

    May 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Erm, sorry to disappoint but I don’t think I ever managed to watch an entire episode. Even when I was 8 I kept asking myself, ‘What’s the point?’

  6. wolvesboy84

    May 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    The follow up effort trying to recreate the magic with Freddie Starr was dismal.

    The Benny years were ace.

  7. Palitoy

    May 7, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Only funny part was the slapping of the bald man’s head. The rest was creepy, cheese-dream awfulness. I loathe Ben Elton too – but Enfield’s ‘Benny Elton’ sketch was inspired.

  8. Ste

    May 7, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I can clearly remember a Hills Angels-triggered junior boner in my Hulk pyjamas.

  9. Glenn A

    March 30, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    It’s nearly 25 years since Benny died. Sad thing is a new contract from Central had arrived at his flat the day he died and Benny was talking about doing a comedy version of Midnight Caller. Shame we never got to see it as even though he was a bit tired in his last years on Thames, Benny’s shows were still worth a look.
    Also the comments about his meanness on here are exaggerated. He was never much into spending money on homes and never owned a car, but was generous to his friends, liked to spend money on foreign travel and gave a lot to charity in quiet.

    • David Smith

      March 30, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      Midnight Caller the US DJ-detective thing?! With Benny Hill? Bit random… 😕

  10. Glenn A

    April 1, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Interesting fact, Dennis Kirkland, the show’s producer, came from North Shields, where I was born, and was the school year above my dad. Even at school, Kirkland dreamed of going into television and being a famous actor. He didn’t quite make it, but settled for producing and being the warm up man for Benny Hill.

  11. Droogie

    April 9, 2017 at 3:37 am

    Benny Hill’s TV career ended not because of political correctness, but because he became too tired and old and repetitive even for Thames TV. The Channel 4 documentary years later about him was also a real eye opener – especially about his dodgy seduction techniques on young ladies involving poached eggs on toast at his bachelor flat and strong aftershave applied to the genitals.

  12. Glenn A

    April 9, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Droogie, the papers did rumour about him having affairs with his dancers, but nothing was ever proved and it was well known in showbusiness he was extremely shy around women and seemingly never had a long term relationship. I think scandal wise, compared with some of his contemporaries, there’s very little that would stick on Benny Hill.
    I will agree, though, Benny was getting a bit tired by his last two series and Thames could have asked him to take a rest. Sad thing is, the day he died, Central had offered him a contract and he did have some fresh ideas for a new series.

  13. Tom Ronson

    September 30, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    I recently ploughed through all the Thames episodes – twenty years’ worth of them – courtesy of the Network DVD releases, and the shows can be neatly divided into four distinct eras.
    The early shows were inventive, mischievous and contained a lot of clever spoofs and pastiches of other programmes (many of which are sadly now forgotten, or in the case of the Top of the Pops parody hosted by Hill as Jimmy Savile, would be deemed unsuitable for broadcast). Then around the mid-seventies, Bob Todd was sacked for his drinking (and cleared off to the BBC to become one of Spike Milligan’s stooges in Q8 and Q9) and this left a bit of a hole in the team, which led to some decidedly lacklustre programmes where Hill seemed to be treading water. 1979 saw the beginning of the much-criticised ‘seaside postcard’ era with the introduction of Hill’s Angels and a marked increase in salacious content, but I still found them mostly very funny, with a genuinely demented Goodies / Marty Feldman anarchic edge to some of the sped-up sequences. By 1985, unfortunately, it was all over – as Glenn A noted in his comment from 2017, Hill seemed to have run out of ideas, and he started doing those awfully trite ‘Hill’s Little Angels’ sketches with a gaggle of toddlers. There was still the occasional gem – ‘the Halitosis Kid’ notably causing Michael Buerk to have a fit of the giggles when an extract was shown on the BBC News to mark Hill’s passing – but you had to wade through an awful lot of uninspired corn to get to them.

  14. Glenn Aylett

    October 6, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    I can remember Benny Hill mostly during his last 13 years on the television and he was still great up to 1985. I used to love the send ups he did of popular television shows, the comedy songs, the silent sketches and the chase at the end, which was always Benny being chased by people who had a beef with him like irate husbands and offended women, not the other way round. Yes looking back some of the humour was a bit crass and was falling out of favour by the mid eighties, but 21 million people never seemed to mind.

  15. Richardpd

    October 9, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    I’ve heard Benny spoke French quite well so Pierre da Terre’s film titles & such were his own work.

    I remember catching a late one & didn’t realise Chow Mein was supposed to be Chinese, though him mistaking canopes for canopies did raise a smile.

    I presume because the show had been such a money spinner for both Benny & Thames, not just in the USA but also popular in France & Italy and probably a few other places was the reason the show kept being recommissioned, even when the quality started to slip, though Benny did limit the amount of new shows as he got older.

  16. THX 1139

    October 10, 2020 at 12:08 am

    Things I remember about The Benny Hill Show:

    The striptease act that ended with Benny as a skeleton.

    A female impressionist who impersonated male celebrities. She was really bad.

    The fireworks on the black background signalling the advert breaks.

  17. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 10, 2020 at 9:01 am

    There was a documentary on Benny Hill not long before he died, which showed him pottering about in France, receiving an award (from Charlie Chaplin’s son I think, so perhaps it was in Switzerland), and talking in French. As a child, all I remember was how cheap the Benny Hill Show seemed – incredibly tatty sets, cheapo outdoor shots filmed in parks or by public toilets, those naff firework titles and the most broken down cast of old codgers imaginable – only Henry McGee was halfway presentable.

    • Glenn Aylett

      October 10, 2020 at 4:21 pm

      @ Sidney Balmoral James, the last shows were costing £ 450,000 a show, but I think a lot was swallowed up by the wages bill, as Benny was Thames highest paid star and his co stars would have demanded a fair whack. I think production values were improved for the eighties as the Benny Hill Show was becoming a huge success in America, but it always looked garishly lit, particularly when we bought a new television in the mid eighties.
      As for the chase scene in the park, I think this was made to resemble the comedy chases from silent era films, so was made to look a bit cheap.

      • Sidney Balmoral James

        October 10, 2020 at 4:26 pm

        I presume 90% of the wages bill was for Benny – can’t imagine Bob Todd cost much. Hell’s teeth ‘though, was ever so much money spent on such a tawdry end product (which probably brings us back to Caligula)?

  18. Richardpd

    October 10, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    That’s a lot of money considering Star Trek: The Next Generation started with a budget of $1,000,000 an episode.

    • THX 1139

      October 11, 2020 at 12:31 am

      Especially considering Benny just spent his massive fee on his weekly groceries.

      • Richardpd

        October 11, 2020 at 11:51 am

        I heard he wouldn’t pay for his parents roof to be fixed as it would “cost too much” even when he was making steady money.

  19. Glenn Aylett

    October 11, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Benny was earning £ 1.5 million a year in the mid eighties as he negotiated a big cut on export sales to other countries, but was never tempted to buy a Rolls Royce like other comedians of his era and buy a nice detached house in Weybridge. Instead in his later years, he rented a flat opposite the Thames studios and I think he rented his television and video recorder from Radio Rentals. Yet Benny wasn’t some obsessive miser as he did help out his co stars financially and spent 5 months of the year abroad.

  20. Droogie

    October 12, 2020 at 12:30 am

    I recall Bob Monkhouse talking about Hill after he passed on a documentary and how tight he was with his money even just getting a round of drinks in, and how he could “ squeeze a pound note until the pips squeaked.” Hill would also invite the dancers from his show back to his modest flat to stay the night with the promise of riches for sex, But then just present them next day with cheap perfume or nylon tights he’d previously bought in bulk for services rendered. Strange man.

  21. George White

    October 12, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    RE:the budget, the last special he did were shot in New York, as he had gotten a deal with DL Taffner, the American producer who began as Thames’ American syndicator and made a fortune from both making the uS versions of Thames sitcoms such as Three’s Company-Man About the House or Too Close for Comfort-Keep it in the Family but also distributing Hill to various local and cable stations (and later unsucessfully Frankie Howerd, the Thames Morecambe and Wises and the Doctor series as well as the Man aBout the House televisual universe), The Tomorrow People and Dangermouse to Nickelodeon, and the likes of Rumpole of the Bailey to PBS.
    The special featured a few US actors, notably Lee Meredith, Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson from The Producers.
    It could afford a high budget, a. because they were specials not series, and b. it was probably the most popular British TV show in the world (aside from say the Muppet Show).

    • Glenn Aylett

      October 13, 2020 at 6:46 pm

      The American special didn’t seem to work as it was tailored for American audiences, so wasn’t as funny as a British Benny Hill Show. in the same way a special of Spitting Image aimed at the American audience barely raised a laugh over here. I think the best thing Benny could have done was quit while he was still ahead, like The Two Ronnies, and then wait a few years with some new ideas, which he was discussing with Central just before he died.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

"Brian's Binatone is great for his cassettes!"

To Top