Benny Hill; Completely & Unfairly Maligned
M. Borhi | australia | 04/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was around 12 or 13 years old when I first came upon these shows on tv late at night. They were completely different from anything else that was on at that hour, & at any other hour on tv in north america; that excited anticipation when the Thames logo & music came up. Just to see & hear that today conjures up those memories of watching Benny Hill late at night. Throughout all those years, growing up in high school, my friends & I would quote all kinds of bits of dialogue from the skits, & not necessarily the punchlines to the jokes. Then, all of a sudden it seems, Benny Hill went off the radar; either because his shows weren't on tv as often, or because my interest in my studies & growing up in general took me onto other things.
Going back to them today, some 20 years later, there is a funny mix of sadness & nostalgia as I watch them again. Don't get me wrong; most of the material I still love, & find very funny, I can watch over & over again, like I did back then with my poor quality vhs tapes. His humour can be extremely contagious.There was an infectious energy in his shows that is even more apparent when watching them today. The man was a genius with impersonations & characterizations. His face implied & told you more than any punchline or line of dialogue really could.
Today I watch these shows with the knowledge I didn't have then; of what happened to his reputation in the later years, how he came to be perceived , how he fell into decline.
What really amazes me is the way he is looked at today; you seem to get one of 3 reactions; 1)people who love him & still find him funny 2)those who roll their eyes at the mention of his name & write him off as outdated 3) those who savagely attack him & blame him for all the world's sexism & misogyny.
However, just as there are more sophisticated comedies & types of humour being created today that are extremely popular, I would argue that there are also more sophisticated forms of sexism & misogyny that are out there today, albeit not as obvious but far more calculated, cynical & dangerous. This is to say that there were & are far more deserving targets of the kind of attack that Benny Hill had on him. I don't think his humour or comedy was ever mean-spirited or cynical.
Benny Hill was a scapegoat, & even though his shows declined in the 80's, became cruder & repetitive, this shouldn't take away from the amazing run of shows he had from 1969-79, which are classics. The only thing I think he was really guilty of was not changing with the times. People even forget(or were too young, like me) that he had an extremely popular run with the BBC in the 50's & enjoyed the reputation as being one of the first comedians to be made by tv. This was all before his popular series on Thames that he is known for today. I think that if he would have ended his show at the end of the 70's, he would have enjoyed a less controversial reputation & would have been better regarded today.
These dvd box sets (1969-72, 1972-74) are from Benny Hill's best period.While there are some real time-capsule aspects to the shows(musical numbers especially), when Benny Hill is 'on', he is ON.
Maybe Benny Hill didn't represent the pinnacle of sophisticated humour, but who really cares.There are other comedians who took care of that. What he did in his prime & with his style of comedy he did extremely well. He created comedy out of looking at the adult world with a child-like sensibility. In reality, we all have to move on, 'grow up' & accept responsibility in the adult world, but then that's what's so appealing about Benny Hill; the boy within an adult body. It's no coincidence that on his tombstone reads 'Eternal Boy".
Last thing; It's funny that some people need to exclude or discount one type of comedy in order to validate another. I love Monty Python, & watch their shows repeatedly. What they did still hasn't been surpassed. But I love Benny Hill too. Can't that be possible? They are 2 different types of comedy, but they both give pleasure & laughs for different reasons."
Finally! Shows I Haven't Seen In Years
Heidi Crabtree | Kennesaw, GA United States | 07/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You either like Benny or hate him. Most women can't stand his so-called "sexism" (curiously they love Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, which portray women as nothing but slags). I'm a woman who loved these old shows. The skits and songs that are here aren't the same ones that have been released here on videotape, and they sure beat the tar out of that awful "Golden" set. I remember these from the late 70s. There are also quite a few of his commercial parodies here, which I particularly like. Benny tends to repeat some gags over the years, but who cares. The good older things are here. If you liked the tapes that have been released over the years, you'll love this better, it's even funnier. I'm glad someone at Thames dusted off the older, better shows, and put them out for us."
More Great Footage
John A Lee III | San Antonio, TX | 12/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is not the same Benny Hill program that most Americans will be familiar with. These are the original episodes. The shows broadcast in the US were cut down versions that reduced a full hour variety show into a half hour of comic skits. Both are great but the full thing is best. This is the full thing.
The Benny Hill Show was a variety show with the emphasis on comedy and a slightly lower emphasis on pretty girls. They often pushed the limits of good taste but, in my mind, never crossed over into bad taste and the purely vulgar. It was fun. It still is.
This is a good deal for fans of burlesque style comedy.