Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > British > Sketch > TV > Benny Hill - Set One (A&E)

Benny Hill – Set One: The Naughty Early Years


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B+



As British Television entered its color era, one of the greatest comedians in the history soared to new heights.  Benny Hill was already known as a solid character actor with comedic talents, but The Benny Hill Show made him an international sensation the way motion pictures never did, a fate already familiar to Lucille Ball.  Though a few home video companies have issued some collections of skits from the series, A&E is now on the way to finally issuing the entire TV series.  The first version of the series was launched on the BBC in 1955, around the same time as I Love Lucy.


Set One: The Naughty Years contains the first three seasons of the more well known second version of his series made with Thames Television on three DVDs.  That may sound odd, but Hill’s extremely well thought out, densely written shows were so layered with ideas that he only did four a season.  As joined by many singing artists who mostly went into obscurity, the show still made household names of The Ladybirds (one way or the other) and occasionally had a name to be on the show.  Though none of the episodes have titles, and usually open with one of his funny songs and/or short opening skits performances just the same, highlights to each are as follows:


1)     TV commercial spoofs, The Ladybirds sing Goin’ Out Of My Head, European Song Contest.

2)     The Ladybirds sing Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, more TV commercial spoofs, Is This Your Life? (spoof of This Is Your life!).

3)     Tour Guide, Ballet Company with audience commentary, Making A Commercial story, TV moments gone wrong, Benny’s Ballad: Girls Of The Sousa Bar.

4)     Opening TV ad spoof, The Hitch Hiker (set to a cover of Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’), more TV moments gone wrong; shows and ads, The Ladybirds sing This Girl’s In Love With You, The Sound of Frankenstein.

5)     The Underwater World Of Jacques Custard and more bloopers.

NOTE:  The next three shows were shot in black and white since British TV crews at Thames went on strike for more pay to operate the color equipment, so the next three shows are in their original form and have not been seen in years.

6)     Benny Quickie: Bank Robbery, more TV bloopers, Opportunity’s Knocking – a spoof of TV talent game shows.

7)     Henry & Alice & Bob & Mary (spoof of film Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice more or less), more TV spoofs, Kiki Dee (yes, KIKI DEE!) sings You Made Me So Very Happy and Top Of The Tops (a great spoof of Top Of The Pops).

8)     Undercover Sanitary Inspector (a send-up of Man In The Suitcase and Danger Man among others), and yet more TV spoofs.

9)     French For Starters, The Grass is Greener (star interview spoof), Supermarket Dance, Benny Reveals All… About Television, The Ladybirds sing Close To You, Cinema: The Vintage Years (with the usual jump cuts from the worn-out print), Benny’s International TV Bloopers, The Westminster Funsters (hand puppet show).

10)  Benny’s Bloopers, The Ladybirds sing River Deep, Mountain High, Fun In The Kitchen, The Movie Shakers: Mervyn Cruddy.

11)  The Ladybirds sing I Say A Little Prayer, News At Ten with Reginald Boozenquet, Benny’s International Bloopers.



Needless to say, that does not represent the only good material in each show, but is the most immediately amusing of the bunch.  All skits are well chapterized and make for outstanding access to all the funny moments.  Producer/director John Robins does not get enough credit for his work here, but should because he helped forge a style that is unforgettable and much imitated since.  I always liked Benny Hill and even had one of those previous compilation DVDs, but the quality here is better for picture and sound, especially Warner Bros. with their Dolby 1.0 Mono.  The sound here is a boosted Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which is a great improvement.  That also helps make the music handled by music supervisor Ronnie Aldrich that much clearer, including Hill’s legendary signature theme song, Yakkety Sak.  The full frame 1.33 X 1 image is a bit sharper and cleaner, with a bit more detail from the PAL materials.  You are better off with this first of many planned set releases.  Extras include a funny quiz set up with funny clips, whether you answer correctly or not and a terrific hour-long documentary look at Hill called The World’s Favourite Clown that has been broadcast before on Bravo! Years ago.  It shows how political correctness got his show removed by ignorant executives, then how more honors and recognition came in for Hill afterwards.  It is a rare look at the life of a very private man and is a must-see.  Set One: The Naughty Years gives us the beginning of the peak years of one of the greatest comic talents we have ever seen and it is easy to forget how brilliant Hill’s writing was, teleplays and songs.  Another must-have set from A&E.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com