50th Anniv. of 1st Thames "Benny Hill Show" (11/19/1969) Coming Up

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by W.B., Nov 9, 2019.

  1. W.B.

    W.B. The Collector's Collector Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    Given the recent celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus on October 5, one other anniversary seems to be flying under the radar: the 50th, of the first Benny Hill Show to air on Thames Television in Britain, on Nov. 19, 1969. Unlike with Python whose debut came one month and ten days before both BBC1 and the ITV network were to go colour, Hill was primed to have his first show for his new home air four days after the plunge was taken.

    Compared to his later shows, Hill's budgets on his early editions for Thames seemed, in relation, to be of Python level (his first show reportedly was budgeted at £11,375 which, multiplied by four and then divided by 13, was equivalent to the first series' worth of Python shows of £3,500 per episode; in any way to look at it, a far cry from the king's ransom budgets of the later shows as was the "new norm" when they decided, nearly 20 years later, to pull the plug). But it was no less a laugh riot; the "Ye Olde Wishing Well" opener (with the future Darth Vader of the first three released Star Wars movies), his opening "Anna Marie" song (he added new lyrics to a traditional Russian-Jewish folk song, "Tum Balalaika"), a series of bloopers that would be a frequent mainstay of his first ten years' worth of shows for the company, an interview sketch where Benny, as a former Thames employee, because of a satellite transmission mixup, ended up interviewing the prior question when the interviewer posed the next one; the "Lower Tidmarsh Hospital Service" sketch where little Jackie Wright went in for an operation; Hill as a housewife who was ITV's most loyal viewer; and of course, the European Song Contest (the "Alfred Hall" reference was a double-pun, not only to London's Royal Albert Hall but also his own given first name). And of course, the very first use on the show of Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" which got a bit more play in some sketches than would later be the case. (And in the case of the hospital sketch, the last half had an instrumental version, done almost rhumba-style, of John Mayall's "Room To Move.")

    There is also a common thread to both shows: John Howard Davies. Produced the first four episodes of Python and film director of the fifth; then, nearly 20 years later, as head of Light Entertainment for Thames, cancelled TBHS. (He also helmed early editions of The Goodies and Fawlty Towers, and other programs familiar to Americans.)

    I invite all those lurking about to give their two cents' (or tuppence, or whatever) - especially given some Hill threads of his early and later years on the air having been closed.
     
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  2. GeetarFreek

    GeetarFreek Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montana
    I grew up getting my mind warped by Benny on Channel 9 in TriSate area

    Benny and his brand of humor have been sadly swept under the rug by history. Although I saw a recent poll of young Brits and vast majority thought he was not terribly offensive at all and funny.
     
  3. W.B.

    W.B. The Collector's Collector Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    Not by history - by various special interest groups that for a variety of reasons I shan't get into.
     
  4. antoniod

    antoniod Forum Resident

    I think it's not as big a deal because THE BENNY HILL SHOW was a continuation of the format he'd used on BBC since the 50s, whereas PYTHON, though it's participants had been on TV before, was a unique form for sketch comedy.
     
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  5. W.B.

    W.B. The Collector's Collector Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    Also, I think it has something to do with these selfsame special interests controlling everything - and all, to a person, having an antipathy towards Hill dating back to the '80's. It may not be as much "a big deal" in terms of his origins, but more in terms of its overall worldwide reach - especially penetrating the States starting in 1979.
     
  6. Silver Surfer

    Silver Surfer Forum Resident

    Can't remember the exact year, but at some point in the late '70s, very early '80s, the local Detroit station (ch. 50) that broadcast his shows aired a Benny Hill New Year's Eve "special." It was just several episodes of the series featuring a special insert with Benny dressed in a tuxedo while holding a champagne flute and saying something to the effect of "I'd like to wish all of my new friends in America a very Happy New Year." I recall my folks watching it and having a grand laugh; the show had only just premiered that fall.

    My friends and I loved the show. We were about 12, so the naughty stuff was of special interest to us:righton:. We were all "musical" and really enjoyed the songs, as well.

    I was fortunate a while ago to pick up the A&E Benny Hill DVD mega-set for my Dad. I don't think they will ever again be reissued on physical media. I have LOTS of fond memories and broad smiles thanks to Mr. Hill. It's hard to believe that those shows are 40-50 years old.
     
  7. W.B.

    W.B. The Collector's Collector Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    Part of why the video part looked so good was the EMI 2001 camera, pictures recorded on Ampex VR-2000 hi-band VTR's (I think later in the '70's Thames at Teddington went with AVR-2's).
     
  8. pdenny

    pdenny 17-Year SHTV Participation Trophy Recipient

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. W.B.

    W.B. The Collector's Collector Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    That was from the Australian "Down Under" special he made in 1977, the "Archie's Angels" sketch (I think that was Barry Otto at frame left).

    But his 1969 move was also a very big deal at the time, as Thames at that point was only a year old, having taken over the weekday London franchise in the wake of the massive ITV franchise realignment orchestrated by the ITA (Independent Television Authority), created in a "shotgun wedding" between prior franchisee Rediffusion London (ex Associated-Rediffusion, which owned 49% of the new company) and former weekend Midlands and North broadcaster ABC (Associated British Corporation, which controlled the other 51% - and would in this year be taken over by EMI). His signing did a great deal to establish them as one of the major players in the ITV network.
     
  10. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    My introduction to Benny Hill was the compilation movie The Best of Benny Hill although a while back I found the A&E megaset at a book sale (I paid $10 for it since the cashier went by how many cases).

    I was a little disappointed his show has its light entertainment moments but still I laugh my ass off.
     
  11. W.B.

    W.B. The Collector's Collector Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    TBOBH was edited from nine of the first eleven Hill shows (aired in a span between Nov. 19, 1969 and March 22, 1972) that were helmed by John Robins; it left out shows from "other" producer-directors that, up to that point, included David Bell, Keith Beckett and Peter Frazer-Jones. The "Yakety Sax" rendition heard was from the Dec. 27, 1973 show, the penultimate Robins-helmed Hill show; the way it was edited seemed the template for the initial 1979 U.S. half-hour syndication package.

    I actually dig some of the "variety" moments of his shows, including Los Zafiros' renditions of "Maria Isabel" and "Y Viva Espana"; Petticoat and Vine performing "Welcome To The World Of Love And Laughter"; The Orange Blossom Sound singing "What Am I Doin' Hangin' 'Round"; and The Cotton Mill Boys' reworking of "Orange Blossom Special" (as many have noted, it never travelled between Michigan and Arkansas as Des Wilson insinuated in that version; besides, "going downhill about 95 miles an hour"?! :confused: o_O :yikes: ). The first Los Zafiros number and the one by The Cotton Mill Boys did end up in US syndication. I know I may get flak for this, but I'll take those over the T&A displays in the early years of Hill's Angels.
     
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